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EdTech Thoughts 8/8 -8/14
Let the kids play
Have you ever wondered how university resourcing will change now that both students and school leaders want to deliver more degree programs in hybrid formats?
What if I told you both of these questions could be answered, at the same time, in Texas?
There is only one way to make it happen. And that is for you to click this link and vote for Ciara, Dustin, Kelvin, and my panel at SXSW next March! Polls are open through August 21st and our panel depends on your vote.
On to the news!
Funding / M&A
CreatorDAO raises $20M: “Creator” is still an ambiguous profession, though we know the top creators make mind-boggling amounts of money. We also know that it is harder than ever to compete for an audience’s attention, even for those who are already-successful. Los Angeles-based CreatorDAO is a community focused on identifying great creators early in their careers and providing both the capital and support for them to grow. I am particularly interested to see if any of the influential investors and individuals now on CreatorDAO’s cap table can help push the income-share agreement (ISA) industry out of policy limbo
FundamentalVR raises $20M: VR is quietly(?) having its best year ever in the EdTech market. London-based FundamentalVR follows Prisms, Transfr VR, Osso VR, and Praxis Labs in raising capital since over the past 10 months. Like Osso VR, Fundamental’s early focus is on providing training software for surgeons
Junto raises $5M: Berlin-based Junto is something of a hybrid between Udemy and Maven, offering a B2B upskilling platform focused on cohort-based, synchronous classes led by industry leaders
Harver acquires Pymetrics: Harver provides hiring and talent management solutions for companies across industries. Pymetrics joins Harver with a portfolio of game-like soft skills assessments that help companies find, attract, and retain latent talent
Prometric acquires FineTune: A big week for assessment-company mergers! Both Prometric and FineTune offer a variety of testing and assessment solutions focused mostly on the traditional education market
Public Private Partnerships
Zovio is actually the least interesting player in the whole mess though. The company realized months ago that they were not viable without their in-house university, which they sold to UA (yes, same one) less than 24 months ago. They've been publicly telegraphing their desire to sell assets ever since.
UA’s decision to purchase Zovio’s OPM team has far more intrigue. The simple answer is that the university felt that either the reputational hit of Zovio folding or business/academic risk of a new partner taking over the business was too great.
The more fun answer is a story of universities re-asserting control of their outsourced functions. Look hard enough and this story starts to emerge everywhere. In addition to UA, UNC, CUNY, UMass, and Arkansas are all building or buying their way into the “Mega University” category without an OPM partner.
It’s not clear that this trend, if it is a trend, is a good thing though. 2U, who we have the best public data on, has spent billions of dollars over more than ten years focused exclusively on building online degree programs. And it’s still a tough business for them. Other than brand, I’m not sure what inherent advantages a university has that would lead me to believe they would be dramatically more successful than an OPM in the same position.
University leaders seem to agree. According to a survey of college university presidents, chancellors, provosts, and CFOs, 71% are increasing their use of outsourced providers.
We are left, in the words of Michael Feldstein, at an “odd moment” in EdTech. Universities (and other, non-Higher Ed institutions) do seem to be re-assessing what their core functions are and making major investments in them. At the same time, these institutions also appear to be more open than ever to the right partners with the right partnership models.
The tricky part is figuring out what those models are.
Let the kids play: new research shows that providing children with “freedom and choice over their actions” leads to, among other things, increases in agency, motivation, curiosity, math, and spatial reasoning. As someone who continues to believe the floor is lava, I could not be more delighted by these findings
Content is dead. Long live content!: One of major publisher Cengage’s most popular authors, John McMurray, is taking his IP rights to OpenStax, an Open Educational Resource (OER) provider. For many, winning McMurray’s rights is an important win for the OER movement, which strives to improve student accessibility to high-quality education content. For me, I’m curious if this is the beginning of a publisher trend away from specific, royalty-bearing IP and towards investments in IP-agnostic platform functionality
Teaching labor force (lest you thought we had it solved): Are we running out of teachers or not? Maybe? I don’t know, but I wish Derek Thompson well in his quest to figure it out. Regardless of the answer, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing that districts across the US are investing in the teaching labor force
Illuminate education hack: Hackers stole the names, birth dates, races or ethnicities, and test scores of 1M+ students from Illuminate, which provides a variety of both administrative and in-classroom software tools to K12 schools. Given the rapid development and implementation of software tools during the pandemic, I’m nervous that Illuminate is just the first of many data breaches that we will read about in the next year or two
Republicans submit student loan plan: Already besieged from the left, this plan potentially deals another blow to the OPM industry, calling for a cap of $25K/year and $100K/program on graduate student loans.1 The optimist in me hopes that this plan is the starting point for a desperately needed update to the student loan program, but it may just be a talking point for mid terms
Thing(s) I’m Thinking About
Over the weekend, I asked Twitter, “What are the canonical EdTech articles from the past ~10 years that you would send to someone trying to build context on the industry?”
The answers kept me up late reading all weekend. I hope to compile them into a post sometime soon, but am still taking suggestions!
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