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EdTech News Roundup - 2/7-2/13
Too much pontificating from me in the last few weeks, so I’m sparing you this week. Onto the news!
Funding / M&A / Public Cos
ThriveDX raises (another) $100M: ThriveDX, the result of the merger between HackerU and Cybint, is a cybersecurity training company that partners with universities to deliver bootcamp-style training programs, similar to 2U’s Trilogy arm. I wrote about an apparently separate $100M fundraise by ThriveDX just two weeks ago, led by Prytek, a BOAPaaS that sounds awfully similar to a PE fund. This week’s announcement is headlined by a separate investment partner, NightDragon. If keeping track of all these vaguely exhilarating names leaves you with your EdTech thirst unquenched, know that you are not alone
Modal raises $6.5M: Modal, founded by Udemy veterans Darren Shimkus and Dennis Yang, provides live, cohort-based upskilling programs for corporations. They are committed to building their content in-house, a decided departure from fellow Udemy Veteran Gagan Biyani’s Maven, which raised $25M+ for its own, business-celebrity led cohort-based courses last year.
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) invests in Owl Ventures: SHRM, one of the more well-known convener/advocacy/lobbying organizations in the workforce space, announced their investment in Owl, the largest VC fund specializing in EdTech (and now workforce). Owl doing more in workforce is not entirely surprising; many specialist funds expand the definition of their specialty as they get bigger.1 What is surprising is that they announced SHRM’s investment! A VC fund’s roster of Limited Partners (LPs), the people/organizations who give the fund their money to invest, is usually a zealously-guarded secret
Q4 Earnings Season: Chegg, 2U, and Coursera, among others, announced earnings this week. I don’t love commenting on stock price movements, but 2U had a particularly bad time post-earnings, down 45% this week. This was true pre-earnings too, but finding new revenue in their integration with edX has outsize importance on their short-term financial story. Meanwhile, the Chegg and Coursera machines keep chugging, with both businesses growing their toplines 30-40%
What is the *best* way to measure efficacy in education? Is it learning gains/not gains? Job outcomes? NPS? How is this metric supposed translate between early childhood, K12, and adult learning?
Reach Capital’s Efficacy Framework from mid-2019 remains the most nuanced take on the subject I’ve seen published, though I am intrigued by Learn Platform’s recently announced Evidence-as-a-Service model.
Techcrunch’s Natasha Mascarenhas seems to land in a similar place as I do on the question: it depends.
Natasha asks this question in thinking about coding bootcamp Nucamp’s decision to stop publishing placement rates in their marketing materials.
I am sympathetic to Nucamp’s position - many of their competitors use dubious methodologies to calculate placement rates, making Nucamp’s outcomes look worse in comparison. By not publishing placement rates, Nucamp believes they can compete for students along a different axis. Not an unreasonable strategic hypothesis.
However, it makes me a little sad from an impact perspective. Gautam Tambay, the CEO of (Nucamp competitor) Springboard, captured my thoughts succinctly, saying the solution to questionable reporting “needs to start with more transparency, not less.”
Why is every online university called “University X Global”?: TLDR; universities tend to use this naming convention to signal the difference between their offline product and their online product. “Global” sounds fancy, but, as practiced by many online universities, usually means “worse” or “cash-generating for other programs.” Notably, market leaders SNHU and WGU do not make this distinction.2
Changes to Carnegie Classifications and proposals on accreditation: we can debate the merits of these specific changes, but it is nice to see proposals for change in what often feels like a rigid and outdated regulatory system
Mt. Tamalpais College, the first accredited college within a prison: no weighty thoughts here, just impressed by the team who made this a reality
Thing I’m Thinking About
I wrote about this at the end of last year, but I am still twisting myself into knots trying to predict what is going to happen to the US K12 system. Some days, it feels like most of the increase in students enrolled in alternatives to public schools during COVID will revert to pre-COVID norms. Other days, I think the whole system is months from insolvency.
So, I appreciated the framework author Robert Pondiscio used to start this article:
“Americans have an enduring, though contradictory, fondness for local institutions. On the whole, it can be summed up as “it’s bad out there, but it’s fine where I am.”
I feel this contradiction! It also scares me a little! I support changes and experimentation, but I also worry about change’s potential to leave students behind.
I’m not sure where to end up, but I appreciate y’all thinking about it with me.
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This could be (and probably is, somewhere on the internet) an essay in itself. The TLDR is that the economics of VC funds drive firms to perpetually grow the size of their funds. As each fund gets bigger, it becomes harder to find enough companies in a given industry to deploy 100% of the fund’s capital
Author Ryan Craig’s argument is not perfect - I’m not sure where Liberty and Grand Canyon fit into this equation. They do not have a distinction between online and offline degrees, but both have used income from online operations to make significant investments in their campus products. SNHU has too, though to a lesser extent, and runs its online and on-campus divisions fairly separately