By Angelo Biasi
Like most other EdTech founders/CEOs/leaders/entrepreneurs, I thrive on disruption, innovation, and the speed of change that drives scalable transformation. Solving for ‘big enough’ problems and executing at scale are a few things that get me excited, professionally. As the world continues to become increasingly digital, the education technology industry has experienced an unprecedented surge of innovation and disruption. This has forced K – career educators, trainers, and administrators, to rethink the way they approach teaching and learning, and has created new opportunities for companies of all sizes to provide cutting-edge solutions that improve educational processes and outcomes for students.
To get a better sense of the significant problems being solved for currently in the EdTech space, I had the unique opportunity to speak with a handful of leaders and change makers at this year’s ASU GSV conference. The ASU GSV conference is a leading EdTech industry event that brings together global speakers, exhibitors, and stakeholders to share, instruct, facilitate, advocate, and influence. Where the following is by far not an exhaustive list or a true ‘state of the union report,’ the intentional slice of transformative vision among startups, scaleups, public, non-profit, international, and talent management / HR companies whom I met with, provides for an interesting, comprehensive reel to share. Following are six snapshot problems and some of the companies and leaders that are solving for them:
What will the future of engaging, high outcome classroom learning experiences look like?
I met with Sara Yan Gu, the COO / Co-Founder of ClassIn, a Chinese company that is making significant in-roads in the US market with a unique, integrated digital plus brick-and-mortar learning management, content support, and delivery solution. Their integrated platform includes an impressively designed online experience as well as hardware retrofits (i.e. microphones, screens, design) for offline classrooms. This integrated differentiator of a totally inclusive learning experience is designed to deliver increased overall learner engagement and outcomes as well as more seamless support of whole-school implementation. I found it interesting where most EdTech companies remain focused on online or traditional tools, systems and/or platforms only, how ClassIn is taking a holistic, “high-tech hybrid” approach to the future classroom experience. I expect to see more of this in the near future from LMS and other solutions providers.
With a massive workforce development crisis and job uncertainty on the rise, how can we combat the growing urgency to improve career exploration opportunities for middle and high school students?
Fluid, ever-changing demands and uncertainty for specific workforce competencies and life skills, state policy incongruity and fragmentation, and inequitable access to career opportunities are a few drivers that have led American Student Assistance (ASA) to develop and release EvolveMe. EvolveMe is a skills-first, full-service career exploration platform. In speaking with CEO, Jean Eddy, I was impressed with her vision and foresight to not just develop and release a comprehensive platform but rather build it such that allows for other partners to seamlessly integrate with it, in a hub and spoke-like fashion. EvolveMe has fifteen original partners and an inclusive audience of 12M learners. Time-starved EdTech buyers have always been critical of adopting (and learning) several independent platforms. ASA’s integrated model and value-driven vision is one way to solve for that. I look forward to seeing how this value continues to ‘evolve.’
What role will integrated and data-driven skills-first solutions have on economic mobility for today’s learners?
Strada is a company making great progress towards supporting improved post-secondary student attainment with solutions that include quality coaching, work integrated learning internships, affordability, employer-participation, and clear outcomes. Skillful.ly is another company that is using aggregated data and analytics within regional ecosystems of employers, learning partners, and qualified talent, that provide access to a larger, more qualified talent pool. Seeing the support of true pathways to increased employability and connecting the dots between education and workforce, essentially solving for the global workforce development crisis, is not only needed but will be a necessity, especially considering specific industry segments at greatest risk.
Which EdTech solutions will alleviate an eminent teacher shortage, and support alternative, more efficient models of teaching and learning?
I sat down with Mike Cohen of Cignition, a company that has been executing on one-to-many, or cohort-based, and collaborative tutoring for several years. Mike is no stranger to AI and the use of data as a neuro cognition and speech recognition pioneer. By utilizing data, curating and creating tailored content, and analyzing learning interactions specifically for high-stakes subjects, Math and ELA, Cignition has built a significant knowledge-base over the years. They are uniquely poised to leverage new tech and support solutions that drive improved learning outcomes at scale. There’s no doubt that AI has changed the game. Starting with outcomes and working our way backwards to engaging activities, data, metrics of success, as well as human data-driven expertise – like I am seeing with Cignition and several other companies – has me encouraged about the future of AI-infused teaching and learning.
The education technology industry is undergoing a period of unprecedented disruption and transformation, driven by increasing workforce development needs and innovations in technology.
Who will be leading this future-forward transformation for competitive EdTech companies?
Excellent companies become excellent because of A Player leadership and teams that can clearly set a vision and execute efficiently on a strategy. Lisa Sacchetti, Founder and CEO of the Renaissance Network, an executive talent recruitment agency serving the EdTech community, shared a growing recruitment trend and necessity for ‘transformative leaders.’ It is understood that, as quickly as the industry is being disrupted, those who have proven results transforming companies, and who can consistently remain a few steps ahead, will have the greatest opportunity to lead the most competitive EdTech companies of the future. I am highly encouraged by the fact that confident, risk-taking, disruptive strategies, and results-driven accountability and execution, are becoming the norm for EdTech leaders. I also believe this is a sign of even more disruptive, fast-paced, innovative things to come.
Which innovative learning experiences stand the best chance for measurable learning outcomes and transferable skill development at scale?
There’s no doubt that experiential learning, albeit problem / project-based, will play a significant role in how we teach and learn. With the evolution of XRTech and AI as an accelerant, learning experiences can deliver near real-time, real-world based simulations, projects, and growth-mindset-developing processes. Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences is a “remote-first” German company that is using immersive technologies to support 21st Century competency development, continuous learning, practical problem-solving application, and collaboration. Tomorrow U is recognized by the Hesse Ministry of Higher Education. Having pioneered collaborative, creative problem solving that drives 21st Century workforce readiness for several years, I clearly see its place in the future of developing a more defendable, qualified workforce, more efficiently, and on students’ terms.
The education technology industry is undergoing a period of unprecedented disruption and transformation, driven by increasing workforce development needs and innovations in technology. As Jean Hammond, Co-Founder of the LearnLaunch Fund and Accelerator, who works with growing companies, shared during our lunch, “EdTech is currently an ‘opportunity space,’ with clear movement from supply (education) and demand (employer) side ecosystem players. We’re just starting to see significant success happen across that spectrum with new pathways and upskilling models, insights into changing roles and requirements from employers, and the leaders who have the courage to make change happen.”
As the industry continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more exciting solutions to big enough problems that will revolutionize the way we teach and learn. Are you up for the challenge? Feel free to reach me at email@example.com to share your transformative ideas and implementations for the future of EdTech.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is a recently exited and serial EdTech entrepreneur-turned-coach. He is passionate about helping business leaders, committed to change, scale their businesses efficiently while reaching their personal and professional potential. Learn more at www.angelobiasi.com