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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 4/12
Degreed gets a new CEO & Amazon endorses bootcamps
In a pandemic, every day can feel like groundhog day and it is hard to remember the most important hour of the week - Fridays at 3pm ET. To make your lives easier, these links (Gmail) (Outlook Web App) will auto-magically add next week’s event to your calendar. You’re welcome!
In all seriousness, talking through these topics with Tess, Brady, Clayton, and Lee on Fridays is what gives me the confidence to write about them on Sundays. I hope you’ll join us when you can.
On to the news!
Hark, a unicorn! Degreed installed a new CEO and raised a big round to lean into talent management data on top of workplace learning.
The new CEO, Dan Levin, is an enterprise SAAS veteran with notable success helping Intuit and Box scale. From the outside, this looks similar to the transition from David Blake to Chris McCarthy in 2018, allowing Chris to move on to other projects after 8 years at Degreed.
The announcement was…expansive…in outlining how the funds will be used: “accelerate product development, enhance data infrastructure, fuel global expansion, and pursue strategic acquisitions.”
More helpfully, they also talk about the disruption in talent management caused by COVID and how they hope to be a platform employers will use to understand the skills their employees have and whether/how they will need to be re-deployed according to business priorities.
For example, identifying high-potential frontline workers and training them on software development!
Amazon endorses bootcamps
The releases are worth reading because of both what they did and did not say. Here is what these partnerships are:
Endorsement of bootcamps as a modality: While Lambda/Kenzie made the releases, Amazon put their marks on both deals, sending a strong signal that they believe in the curriculum and outcomes associated with them. I imagine this will provide a positive halo for the bootcamp market and, if I were a bootcamp leader, I’d be racing to other Big Tech companies to try and replicate it.
Endorsement of Income-share agreements (ISAs): Similar to my point above, both Lambda and Kenzie use ISAs and Amazon has now, effectively, endorsed them. What’s curious to me is that there is no mention of tuition assistance dollars being used here, even as the Amazon employee quote references their program to upskill 100K employees, all whom should be TAAP-eligible, by 2025.
Endorsement of Lambda and Kenzie: I don’t know if Amazon offered this deal to other bootcamps. However, I’m comfortable assuming the Amazon team in charge of this deal vetted and believe in Lambda/Kenzie as partners. Regardless, Lambda and Kenzie have a great opportunity to gobble up the SEO around “Amazon bootcamp partners”.
Here is what these partnerships are not:
An explicit agreement to hire Lambda or Kenzie students: It is possible Amazon agreed to source X number of engineers per year from these programs, but both announcements pretty carefully avoid saying it.
Amazon “entering the education space”: Arguably, this is Amazon punting on carving out a bigger chunk of the education space.1 Both Lambda and Kenzie acknowledge that the core content of their programs is derived from curriculum Amazon developed internally. With AWS and Fulfillment-by-Amazon, developing an internal competency was the precursor to opening it to third-parties and launching a new business unit. Here, Amazon chose outside partners to launch the business instead of themselves.2
2U is making career services available to any student who has taken a program with them, no matter which school their degree is from (~300K students).
There are so many reasons this makes sense for 2U. It takes advantage of an existing strength (from both the bootcamps and their normal degree programs)3 and adds a network to it. The press release doesn’t talk about business model, but monetizing this would allow them to start earning non-tuition revenue in a high-value market (placements for folks w/ grad degrees).
It is also feels like 2U putting their toes in the B2C waters? GetSmarter, acquired in 2017, is a consumer product, but 2U and Trilogy have always taken more of a back seat to their university partner brands. This announcement happened too quickly after the Coursera IPO for that to have been a driver, but I imagine it is a nice comp for how investors will look at it.
University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus announced they will no longer pay for remote proctoring services, putting funds previously spent on this into faculty development.
This was timely given my take on CourseVillain last week (tldr; fighting a perceived negative, Course Hero, with a negative of your own seems like poor use of resources). I applaud UM’s decision here, but am not ready to make a grand prediction about other universities following suit. This same article cites Educause’s April 2020 survey where 77% of institutions were using (54%) or considering (23%) remote proctoring. We’ll see if Educause repeats their survey this year, I suspect that number has gone up as we’ve gone deeper into the pandemic.
I dislike the “FAAMG’s entering the education space” topic because 1) it assumes they are not already players in the space (each spends $100s of millions on education already) and 2) usually devolves into broad generalizations. Give me nuance or give me another newsletter!
This is still valuable to Amazon! From what I can tell, the curriculum will heavily feature Amazon/AWS tools, making these the default for a generation of engineers to bring to their companies.
I’m pretty sure they do this for normal degrees, but please fact check me on this