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EdTech Thoughts 7/25 - 7/31
And we’re back! After a delightful summer break, I’m excited to get back to writing on a weekly cadence. If I owe you an email, please forgive me, I’ll be trying to dig myself out this week.
In case you forgot, this newsletter is:
a short ( < 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached
Of note, it is earnings season for the public EdTech companies and the results have been bleak thus far. I’m hoping to have more to say on the topic next week, after having more time to read through the reports and call transcripts
On to the news!
Funding / M&A
ClassDojo raises $125M: ClassDojo began its life as a lesson planning tool for teachers, then quickly grew into a communication platform for teachers and parents to communicate. This round of funding will be used to build a virtual world for student-users to hang out in, similar to Roblox. On the topic, ClassDojo co-founder and president Liam Don said, “We don’t want to turn it into an edutainment thing where we do math games with robots. That’s been done a million times. We want to expand the creative toolset that kids have.” I agree that math games with robots are a bit tired and give the team credit for the thoughtfulness behind their ambition
NAS Academy raises $12M: NAS Academy is a platform for creators to build, sell, and host online courses. While creator-led and cohort-based courses feel like more of a 2021 trend for US audiences, Singapore-based NAS Daily is interesting for both its focus on global markets and its founder, Youtuber Nuseir Yassin.
Pearl raises $4M: Pearl is a platform that helps schools build and run tutoring programs. In addition to its core software capabilities, Pearl differentiates itself with a focus on efficacy. The team collaborated with researchers at Brown University to study (and translate for client schools) “not just how tutoring works but also when it works, for whom, and under what conditions”
At base level, a regulatory organization, even one with strong connections to a governmental body, that is dependent on fees from the entities it regulates is not set up to ensure quality. It will find things to do, but its business model incentives always favor life over death, creation over subtraction.
This worked out OK in US HED for decades. Each of the six major regional accreditors managed their geographically-restricted fiefdoms, the number of accredited universities ballooned, and no universities got hurt.
Unfortunately, releasing accreditors from their geographical restrictions in 2020 seems to have motivated an even stronger inclination for accreditors to loosen their quality standards to win new business (the “race to the bottom”), which ED is now scrambling to clean up by forcing universities to obtain ED approval to switch accreditors.
ED’s approval-needed rule is actually a fairly convincing way to prevent accreditors from participating in the race to the bottom and to insert itself, as an entity not directly dependent on fees from universities, into the accreditation equation. However, this rule change only returns an ineffective status quo, it does not address the core incentives problem of accreditors regulating the same entities that sustain them.
Indian lawmaker calls for investigation into Byju’s unreleased financials: Another progression in a saga that just gets worse and worse
PASSHE gets $500M+ in new funding, aims to grow enrollment 20%: The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) story of the past few years is turning into one of the twistiest roller coasters in public education. When Chancellor Dan Greenstein proposed consolidating the system over the course of 2020 and 2021, it was not well received within the system. However, having cleared these hurdles and receiving approval to consolidate, PA lawmakers are rewarding Greenstein with over $500M in new funding. Not one to rest on his laurels, Greenstein also set a significant enrollment growth target for the system, claiming that new adult learner enrollments will (far) surpass a statewide decline in high school graduates
Intern Szn: What is August without a story on interns? This year’s focus are the the apps where interns can rate their bosses and companies, where reviews are definitely probably anonymous, unless they say something negative
Are you NPSing correctly?: We are now six tenths of the way into NPS’ shelf life as a useful business tool, where every time I buy laundry detergent (from a cool, hip, limited-edition-aroma DTC brand) online, I am asked “how likely are you to recommend this laundry detergent to a friend?” Realizing how much opportunity they have been leaving on the table, inventor of the NPS Bain & Company will now certify that you are asking this question properly
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