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EdTech Thoughts 11/7 - 11/13
It's time to buidl
I’ll be around downtown DC Wednesday/Thursday this week and am inviting folks in the area to come together for drinks Wednesday evening. Please ping me if you’ll be around!
Additionally, I am hoping to end the year strong with 2022 reflections and 2023 predictions after Thanksgiving. If you have any thoughts on either, I’d love to chat over the next couple of weeks. Just hit reply to this email to land in my inbox.
On to the news.
Funding / M&A
A surprisingly quiet week of funding this week. Things do usually slow down around the holiday season, but it is a bit early for that. One week of slowness does not make a trend, but I would not be surprised to see private funding slow down as the public markets remain bearish
Buildspace raises $10M: New York-based Buildspace is a platform that hosts sponsored learning onramps into different segments of the Web3 industry. This round of funding will be used to expand Buildspace’s content library to a host of additional categories outside of Web3. For those unfamiliar with Buildspace, the funding announcement’s language may throw you off, but I encourage you to take it seriously. Rather than trying to meet arduous certification/accreditation requirements, the company grew to 125K users by building learning paths so closely tied to workforce needs that employers *paid Buildspace* to build them. The result is a profitable company that controls its own destiny and seeded “a majority” of the software talent in a major industry1
5Mins raises $5.7M: London-based 5Mins provides a platform for short-term professional development content. I remain skeptical of Microlearning as a core construct of learning, but 5Mins’ founder, Saurav Chopra, previously raised ~$30M for another company in the Enterprise HR space where he is still executive chairman
BuildWithin raises $2.4M: DC-based BuildWithin is a platform for employers to manage apprenticeship programs. Led by Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of DC Public Schools, the company secured a Department of Labor grant worth up to $7.9M alongside this equity funding round. Having grown to $1M+ in ARR this year, the startup wants to raise an additional $2.5-5M in the next nine months
WorkTorch raises $2.2M: Wichita-based WorkTorch helps companies recruit and develop service workers. The funding will be used to help the company build out a suite of retention tools
One Interesting Job
Kaipod Learning offers software and services for learning pods across the US. The company raised $1.5M last year and spent much of the last twelve months refining their product so that each pod runs with quality - I visited their Newton, MA campus and loved it.
Now, the company needs someone both tactical and strategic to show the magic of their learning pods to a larger audience, including via their new learning pod accelerator program. This is a great role for marketer looking for autonomy and the ability to build a marketing department from scratch at a startup primed to grow quickly over the next few years.
Want a job featured here? reply to this email for more details. Today’s feature is not paid and not an endorsement of this newsletter by Kaipod Learning, but this section may be sponsored in the future
I am looking for summaries of education-related takeaways from midterms that are either politically neutral or collate how both sides of the political spectrum are viewing the results - please send your favorites!
Low usage of on-demand tutoring services: There are going to be books written about how COVID/ESSER dollars were spent. One question to keep in mind whenever you approach the topic: What was the tool/strategy in question intended to be used for? In this case, the line is blurry. Pandemic-darling Paper offers an on-demand tutoring service. The incentives around all-you-can-eat models like Paper’s support low utilization. And that is OK! They are great stopgap measures in times of need. However, Hechinger points out that Paper equates their product with high-dosage tutoring - an effective but time and cost-intensive tool that does not align with Paper’s business model. Further, Paper does not have an independent efficacy study to back up this claim. The company is now working on an efficacy study with Learn Platform, but I can’t help but feel that Paper is trying to deploy a tool outside of its intended use case here
Alternative teacher training and retention: The 74Million uncovers a host of emerging strategies to mitigate regional teacher shortages, including residencies (similar to medical training), paid fellowship programs, and foreign language teacher exchanges. Additionally, the Hechinger Report covers an Arizona school district that manages large classrooms with teams of teachers that pairs veteran teachers with those newer to the profession
An offering to the college pricing gods: Almost every college in the US is considering its enrollment strategies in the face of a demographic cliff and COVID-influenced changes in enrollment preferences. Many schools are choosing to compete in the large, but highly competitive adult learner market. I’m interested in the schools looking for new points of differentiation instead. After not a single student paid full tuition last year, Colby Sawyer is choosing to differentiate by slashing their tuition price from their previous “sticker price” of $46K to the $18K that most student were actually paying. It is too early to know whether this strategy will be a success, but I’m on the lookout for more differentiation experiments like this
D2L Creator+ platform launch: I remain intrigued at the thought of an LMS leveraging its platform and army of affiliated instructional designers to enter the Creator course market, but am confused because I thought this launched in May?
Wikipedia, once shunned, now embraced in the university classrooms: I am both old enough and young enough to remember being told Wikipedia was absolutely unacceptable as a citation reference in a research paper. This article makes clear that while this remains true, Wikipedia has come a long way as a relatively trustworthy starting point for research. This is due, in part, to a small army of university students - including UCSF medical students - who edit Wikipedia pages as part of their programs of study
The technophiles shake their heads in exhaustion: A box of completed-but-not-scored SAT tests flew off the back of a UPS truck in Texas last week. Many were recovered, but fifty-five blew into a puddle. Or something.2 Anyways, the College Board, maker of the SAT, took the opportunity to announce that 1.7M members of the high school class of 2022 took the SAT at least once and graciously offered to pay for all fifty-five students in Texas to take the ACT
Question of the Week
Results of last week’s poll: I mentioned last week that I thought Screen Time would turn into a Big Topic as ESSER funding depletes and we implement strategies to mitigate COVID-related learning loss. The admittedly non-scientific results of this poll suggest that there is a lot of discussion to be had on the issue.
Ed Tech Thoughts is a short ( ~ 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached. If you enjoyed this edition, I hope you will subscribe and/or forward to your friends!
If I missed something, or there is a topic you’d like to learn more about, I encourage you to submit a story! Submissions can be named or anonymous
This week in the Web3/Crypto industry was…chaotic. I’m sticking to my guns that it is and will remain a major industry, but will gladly entertain arguments that I am wrong
Very few puddles in Texas these days, but it is almost weirder that some of the tests were recovered. Were they being shipped in a loose-leaf folder?