EdTech News Roundup - Week of 3/15
No more "weed outs" and Faculty Agency
After thinking about it this week, there are two things I’d like to come out of these posts - 1 for you and 1 for me.
For you: Synopses of the top ~5 pieces of news from the week, building on our group’s Friday afternoon Clubhouse discussions (3pm ET!). This will have some bias(!), but hopefully that also makes them more fun to read.
For me: Talking through a concept I am wrestling with and soliciting feedback from you on it. Not everything here will be fully baked - I hope you’ll call me on my BS and encourage me when I stumble into something interesting.
To be continued, but at least I’ve now put a goal out there : ). On to the news!
Dan and several of his leadership team from Trilogy have started a new company, Edge pathways, that focuses on a First Year Experience for aspiring STEM students. They are focused on replacing the “weed out” classes often found in first-year engineering programs so that students stick with their degree tracks.
At base level, this looks like the inverse of Trilogy - instead of rounding out the end of an educational experience (most bootcamp students already have BAs or higher), they are meeting the student at the outset.
There are a lot rabbit holes you could go down on this, here are a couple of threads I’m following:
Success as a business model: It blows my mind that we still have college courses designed for students to fail, at least at selective institutions. I’m excited to see this team challenge that status quo and hope it has a positive ripple effect on the ecosystem.
Bigger TAM than trilogy: Given Trilogy sold for $750M, it feels funny to say Edge’s market potential is bigger. However, there were ~30K bootcamp students last year and ~20M college students. Even conservatively saying only 2M of that 20M are first-year-or-equivalents, that is several orders of magnitude larger. However, there is a more available substitute for Edge - going to college - than there is for attending a bootcamp.
Who owns the customer? It looks like this team is taking on more ownership of the student than Trilogy did - the article says the students are “Edge” students, who then pathway into university partners. I hesitate to go too deep here without more information, but this would be a massive difference in terms of their growth levers. Trilogy benefited from leveraging their partner brands in recruitment, but this also left them beholden to those same partners on a couple of levels. Owning the consumer relationship, as Coursera does, can be very powerful (CAC index!).
Guild has been on a partnership roll since they acquired Entangled. Testing out new business models in Unemployment (non-profit), elite university partnerships, and now with Google. There are probably others I’ve forgotten too.
What’s important here is how student-centric this offering is, even at a potential cost to Guild.
Normally, Guild helps employers guide their employees into degree programs with their affiliated universities. Guild takes a percentage of the tuition revenue paid to these universities, which can often mean several years of revenue per student (I’m not sure what a Guild student’s average length of study is, but hope it will be in their S1).
The *total* revenue from one of these Google certs is $240. AND that has to be split in some way between Guild, Coursera, and Google. No matter what the split is (Google may not care), that is a lot less potential revenue!
I give Guild a lot of credit for this. There are a lot of folks for whom a university degree program just isn’t the right option at a given moment in time, but don’t have many other options for upskilling into higher wages without their tuition benefit. This is a good way to rectify that. In addition, I would bet that a student who successfully completes a cert program is significantly more likely to complete a degree program afterwards.
A lot has been written, is being written, and will be written about what “Campus” looks like post-COVID. I’m not going to belabor it here (that’s the point of Clubhouse!), but would like to hear your thoughts.
In particular, I’d like to introduce a concept I’ll call Faculty Agency. In question form, what _should_ we expect from faculty post-COVID?
This was a space already under pressure pre-pandemic, with research pressure and increasing usage of adjuncts. How do things change now? “Technology” is the easy answer, but how do we reconcile with the autonomy faculty have traditionally been given in this space?
It’s easy to look at this headline and say “dang, it sucks to lose an institution with 169 years of history.” It’s also easy to say, “Ha! I knew COVID was going to shut down a bunch of institutions.”
Both of those positions would be fair! But there is more nuance here - before COVID, it appears Mills was losing students to Bay Area public schools. Winning in head-to-head competitions seems like a long-term good thing for our public institutions?
On the other hand, this is ominous for regional private institutions. Despite its history, I hadn’t heard of Mills College before reading this news. Maybe that is on me, but it looks like an uphill climb if COVID forces an exchange from geographic boundaries (67% of online students were < 50 miles from campus in 2019) for national brands. The data here seems messier than the headlines suggest, but the narrative is consistent with other industries transitioning online.
An 8 week, $1000 business bootcamp. Consistent with Morning Brew’s writing style, they poke fun at a traditional credential while using celebrities (well, fancy business names) to convince you to try a new one.
There are a couple open questions/themes related to this that I’m still working through my position on:
Can bootcamps work outside of coding? —> Most education folks default to “Yes” here, but are there any scaled examples? Sales appears to be the most likely candidate for a breakout success and Brady put together a helpful chart on the way the market is evolving, but there are still unanswered questions here
Rise of cohort-driven courses —> These have been getting a lot of love on Twitter since Gagan Biryani (Udemy founder) announced his latest company. It looks like they are sponsoring this bootcamp in some way - Wes Cao, Gagan’s co-founder, is one of the headlining speakers.
Intersection of education and media —> Century-plus old, high cashflow businesses, with outsize impact on society, and often led by a singular leader for decades. Possibly cherry-picked to make a point, but describes many well-known education and media companies! It is funny to see these industries crossing over so often (how many of your other tabs are HBR or MIT Review? Maybe that’s just me…). There is and will continue to be a lot of business model experimentation, both failures and success, between them.