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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 10/25
An education phoenix rises
My goal with this newsletter is that you, dear internet friend, read every single one.
As such, I’d like to keep improving the current content and, perhaps, try a few more things out. But, I am wary of overdoing it. To help gather some data on this problem, I’ve put together a
short survey to gauge your thoughts on the subject. It would mean a lot to me if you filled it out.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Amplify raises $215M: Amplify provides schools with digital tools and curriculum aligned to Common Core standards. The company started its life as Wireless Generation all the way back in 2000. They sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2010 and, with $500M+ in investment, may have flown a little too close to the sun. In 2015, Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective acquired them from News Corp and appears to have nursed the company back to financial health. Suffice to say, I did not have Amplify raising Venture money on my 2021 EdTech bingo card
Teachmint raises $78M: 16-month old, Bengaluru-based Teachmint allows teachers to build their online classrooms, either on their own or via their school. The platform has 10M users compared to segment leader Byju’s 100M, but has also partnered with 4,000+ institutions to help it scale
EAB acquires Rapid Insight: Rapid Insight is a data management and visualization platform that EAB will plug into its platform, Edify. Rapid Insight is at least the second acquisition from EAB since their buyout in May and third of the year
Anthology completes acquisition of Blackboard: the combined entity will offer solutions across the SIS, CRM, Assessment, Student Success, LMS, and Call Center spaces. I wrote about this deal back in September, so won’t spend too much more time on it. In what I’m sure was purely a coincidence, the very next day, Ellucian (an SIS competitor) and D2L (an LMS competitor) announced their own partnership
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the components that make up careers and how they might be changing. I wrote about this last week in describing the war on talent and the war for talent, in which companies seek to shave off as many full-time workers as they can while paying the talent they keep ever-greater amounts. New structures, like Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), are emerging to support this model where a small core team guides the organization and a decentralized community completes most of the individual tasks necessary for the organization to function.
The New York Times (NYT) discussed the human implications of these wars this week in an article cringe-inducingly titled “The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them.”1 Setting aside the age disparity dance we do every ~10 years, when one generation becomes managers and another graduates college, the article highlights younger workers’ desire to work on their own time (9 to 5 be damned!) and willingness to work on a project basis. That sounds well-aligned to the economic structure of DAOs!
The author of the career “portfolio” article, April Rinne, focuses on how this project work manifests into a resume. She argues, and I agree with her, that given this change in how people are employed, workers will need to shift their employment narratives from titles to…WAIT FOR IT…skills.
It makes me smile to think about bringing together competency-based education, workforce development, and crypto friends and knowing there is at least one common interest.
All that said, there is still one element missing from this equation. Frankly, it sounds pretty lonely to live a 40+ year career where I am on my own, constantly hunting for projects and renewing my portfolio.
I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but I believe there is a significant opportunity for a consumer-focused company to emerge that prioritizes the development of individuals and the long-term arc of their career “portfolios”.
A new way to classify universities: from Arizona State University President Michael Crow. While the proposal is still in early stages, Crow’s rationale for blowing up the current system resonates with me - holding every institution to the same ranking system incentivizes homogeneity in how schools operate and which students they serve best
Northwestern Kellogg launches influence marketing exec ed program: One thing I didn’t cover in the career “portfolio” story above is the emergence of new types of earning opportunities focused on the individual. It is not sufficient to be “good at the internet” to succeed financially as an influencer, workers need business skills to go along with their content. Whether traditional institutions are the best fit to teach these skills would be the topic of a fun debate : )
University of Florida (UF) starts “Gator Pathways” employer network: Spurned by Guild over the summer, UF is building its own network of (Florida-based) schools for employers to partner with. I’m not sure if this is the perfect analogy, but this announcement feels a lot like when LSU announced it had hired Sasha Thackaberry from SNHU and would build its own online programs in early 2018. The OPM market now has established players building their own, completely OPM-enabled, and partially OPM-enabled. I’ll be watching to see if the employer-pay education market shapes up similarly and thinking about the strategic approach each option requires
Thing(s) I’m Thinking About
One of the questions I ask myself on a relatively consistent basis is “If I were president of UMass Boston” — (pick any good brand, non-flagship public school that is unlikely to grow into a top 100 university) —what strategies would I use to ensure long-term sustainability?”
The obvious answer here is “online programs”, which is what virtually all schools are currently investing in as a function of COVID, including the UMass system (but not the Boston campus). This isn’t a bad strategy, but it is a crowded one, with dominant players like SNHU, WGU, and ASU soaking up large portions of the market and sub-scale institutions fighting for ever-costlier incremental students.
A less obvious strategy would be to invest in dual enrollment. 1.2M students took AP exams last year, providing a large lower bound for the size of this market. And yet, I have not seen a higher ed institution use dual enrollment as a strategy for scaling.
Are there any out there? Is there a reason this is a bad idea?
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I work hard to stay neutral here, but it’s important to me that you all know my potential biases!
If I roll my eyes at the NYT headline, does that make me a Millennial or a Gen Z? Both? Neither?