Ed-tech

Last month (March ’13) marked the one year anniversary (give/take) of the MOOC providers in the edu-tech space (i.e. Coursera, Udacity, edX). Their single minded goal was/is to provide zero marginal cost education. I too believe technology can enable better education. What is interesting about this new trend to me is that online education is not trying to uproot the traditional model; rather it is an able supplement. And I think depending on an individual’s motivation, time availability, and financial appetite students will self-select into the traditional versus open model.

The MOOC proponents couldn’t have timed it better[1],[2]. This uptrend in edu-tech is creating opportunities for secondary/tertiary markets to germinate. Proliferation in the number of universities that are signing-up, subjects being offered, and the demographics of students is creating a need for credentialing and aggregating these various models of learning. Add to this the problems that beset the local job market (supply/demand) and you have the perfect springboard to start a firm that helps remove the noise and eke out the signals from user engagement data.

This sets the stage to build companies that can piggy-back off the MOOC effect and start tackling these challenges. Services that help create a edu-folder of all my accomplishments (traditional and non-traditional), connect me to employers who are looking for customized skill-sets, and/or solve the issue of credentialing will be poised for big growth. The network effects will generate data on user learning patterns, age based interests, stage of career, ability to rate/grade peers, participatory skills etc.

Edu-tech is disruptive and a firm I’d invest in that is accelerating change is “Degreed” [3]. The service will score and validate your lifelong education from both accredited and non-accredited sources. Although every person is unique, the current system tends to measure potential based on standardized test scores which may not call out our strengths/interests. As employers start looking for specialized skills in employees and for ways to measure these, Degreed will be in pole position. Learning has been/will be a continuous process and Degreed has a solution to reflect this.

I imagine a future where students/professionals list a FICO type edu-score calculated by Degreed on their LinkedIn profiles (the new resume). These scores would be holistic and recruiters will be better able to gauge a candidate’s competitiveness and vice-versa. Profile matching will be an add-on feature and would aid in forming well balanced official teams. Advertising can be fine tuned to match the target better. Traditional universities could use the service to recruit professors with specific expertise for short-term courses. Start-ups could find mentors with specific backgrounds. The possibilities in this space are exciting and we are just beginning to scratch the surface.

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