EdTech News Roundup - Week of 5/17
Cohort-based courses, so hot right now
I’m experimenting with some different sections this week, please send feedback! My goal remains to write a short, opinionated email about the top EdTech stories of the week.
On to the news!
Maven raises $20M: See Stories below for thoughts
Emeritus buys IDTech for $200M: I often find myself falling into the trap of a US-centric view on the EdTech market. Emeritus and SEEK (which led Coursera and FutureLearn’s last private rounds) have a great way of shaking me out of this
Mentor Collective raises $500K: It is usually a positive signal when a customer double-down on investing in your business (this is the second time Indiana University has invested). Bonus points when it’s a traditionally bureaucratic public institution!
Maven's fundraise (same link as above)
Maven raised an additional $20M, bringing their total fundraising to ~$25M in the ~12 months of the company’s existence.
There is a rationale for this - cofounders Wes Kao (altMBA) and Gagan Biryani (Udemy) have successful histories in this space. The company grew to $1M+ in top-line revenue in under 1 year.1 Andrew Chen, the A16Z partner who led this round, has a specific thesis around the creator economy.2
It’s too early to call Maven a future unicorn or car crash, but I do want to call attention to an intersection of EdTech/Future of Work trends that they sit squarely in the middle of:
Creators monetizing over institutions: Creators monetizing via courses isn’t a new phenomenon, but the scalability of Maven’s platform is. For Maven to be successful, they will need to normalize skill acquisition through individual brands (like Product Management from Lenny Rachitsky) rather than institutions (like Harvard).3
Digital-first pedagogy: Maven’s platform will push a lot of creators to reconsider their curriculum/pedagogy for an audience that assumes a (mostly?) digital experience. This is about more than sync vs. asynch - how can we learn better assuming a digital-first experience rather than one in the classroom?
Over the course of this spring, the President of West Texas A&M (WT), Walter Wendler, recorded himself individually congratulating all 3,000 of WT’s accepted students.
What I like about this story is that Wendler, who is about 70, thought creatively about what would be meaningful to an 18 year-old. Yes, there is a cross-generational coolness to getting a thick “accepted” envelope, but, if you are in a competitive market for students (as WT is), you have to be more creative.
If anything, I would have loved to see him lean even harder in to this - DM the offer via Snapchat, offer to do a TikTok for the student if they come. Something! Yes, there are logistics/privacy considerations to figure out, but I love the concept of meeting students where they are. If the president isn’t comfortable doing it, hire Flava Flav to run your accepted students Twitch feed!
Arizona’s governor signed a new law allowing community colleges (CCs) to start offering Bachelor’s degree programs in 2023. This will be limited to 10% (5% to start) of all programs offered and Maricopa/Pima county CCs must prove any BAs they offer are not competitive with ASU/UA.
There is some fun chicanery here, most notably how obviously competitive the system appears to be over who gets which students. Heaven forbid students decide where to pursue a BA for themselves rather than being horse-traded!
But there is also an important meta-question buried in this: what is a community college? Is it strictly 2-year school offering Associate’s degrees? Is it an adult-serving institution? Is it a job/skills engine for the local economy?
How does your answer to any/all of the above affect whether or not a CC can offer a BA?
Things I’d like to learn more about
I read about these topics regularly, but I don’t have a deep enough grasp on the data to form a stance. If you have good resources on one/both topics, please share!
Impact on equity of using/not using the SAT/ACT in HED admissions
Impact on equity of “Gifted” learner programs in K12 public schools
Note that Maven only collects 10-30% of this revenue, depending on the services used by the course creator. This suggests that the cashflow usable for company operations is more like $100-200K
Chen’s thesis goes FAR deeper than this post, but it feels like a good primer for folks unfamiliar with him. He is a great Twitter follow - informative and helpful across the spectrum of this creator economy stuff.
If you clicked on the links, I hope you appreciate the difference in UX. Whoever built Harvard’s course website should take Lenny’s course