Technology Research

How to Answer the Value Question: Five EdTech Vendors to Watch

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In higher education, the answer to the “value question” remains elusive. Despite their efforts, many colleges and universities struggle to demonstrate the value they provide to students, families, and society. Some of these efforts have arisen out of the need to satisfy accreditation, meet accountability demands, or improve institutional performance. Complicating them, however, is a persistent lack of clarity around what "value" really means in higher education. It is about completion, student achievement, career advancement, or addressing income inequality? Or is demonstrating value more about focusing on inputs like competencies, faculty activity, course evaluation, or graduation rates? As a result, many institutions have turned to technology solutions, not because they see them as a silver bullet, but in the hope that these solutions will help. The marketplace for such solutions, however, adds to the messiness. Like institutions, solutions approach the value question in different ways—enabling stakeholders to establish an overall framework, or to focus on particular curriculum and assessment, or to serve as a central system to store and track critical data and content inputs. Today’s Wake-Up Call is dedicated to helping institutions sort through the marketplace for these solutions. We highlight a handful of companies we believe are the strongest performers in their particular approaches:

Establishing a Framework

Assessment, Evaluation, Feedback & Intervention System (AEFIS)
Of the vendors that take this approach to the value question, AEFIS excels because it starts from the position that resolving the value question requires an awareness of its underlying messiness and then taking steps to achieve clarity. Founded in 2012, AEFIS works closely with its partners to establish an overall framework within which they can baseline their current state and implement building blocks—including quality of instruction, course feedback, outcomes assessment, curriculum mapping and others—to help define and measure that value.    
Kaufman Hall (Axios)
Starting in the healthcare business in 1985, Kaufman Hall takes a performance management approach to demonstrating value that appears more commonly in fields outside of higher education. Like AEFIS, Kaufman Hall’s strength is working with institutions to establish an overall planning approach, identify the right data inputs, and then enable stakeholders—via its Axios solution—to view, define, model, and take action on patterns and insights gathered from diverse sources.

Focusing on Curriculum and Assessment

Founded in 2003, eLumen describes itself as a curriculum and assessment management system that primarily supports institutional improvement. In reality, it is much more that that, which is why it excels at this approach. In essence, eLumen is the glue that integrates areas often left in silos with student outcomes by providing a 360-degree view of how curriculum, assessment, student learning, course outcomes, and program outcomes come together. This view can reveal areas in which institutions can improve the learning value for students.    
TK20/Taskstream (Taskstream)
Taskstream (www.watermarkinsights.com) began as an assessment and eportfolio solution. In 2017, it acquired Tk20 and LiveText, and recently adopted the new name of Watermark. It ties together different institutional assessments, allows stakeholders to map curriculum to assessment, and examines student performance to determine institutional and program effectiveness. By using Watermark’s educational intelligence, administrators, educators, and learners everywhere have better data that empowers them to connect information and gain insights into learning that will drive meaningful improvements.

Serving as a Central System

Creatrix Campus
Creatrix, founded in 2006, is primarily an enterprise resource planning solution (ERP) focused on accreditation management. As with any ERP, it positions itself as the central technological hub for all enterprise-wide data. It excels in this approach because of the range of data it collects and stores—including assessments, student outcomes, curriculum maps, rubrics, and course evaluations, etc. Using this solution, an institution can store, collect, review, and analyze accreditation-related data, while keeping itself on track to submit any compliance reports and documents, where required.  

The Bottom Line

No matter what technology solution you choose, selecting a solution to help demonstrate value is about much more than features and functionality. First and foremost, it requires that institutions decide on the goal of their efforts—for example, is it to improve performance, or for accreditation purposes?—and then focus on this definition of value and its inputs. Searching for a technology solution without taking this initial step can prevent institutions from answering the value question for themselves. Many institutions are struggling to grow enrollment in today’s competitive marketplace. To adapt, one strategy is to search for new academic programs to fill a marketplace need. This process, however, is also often highly competitive. Even the best thought out programs can fall flat if not introduced effectively. Once you have gathered enough evidence of student and employer demand and are sure you have an understanding of your institution’s capacity to build a new program, the next steps include ensuring all of the appropriate departments on campus are aligned. This includes program directors, enrollment officers, and the marketing department. How do you work successfully with all of the appropriate departments on campus to ensure a smooth launch? Kim Reid and The Ohio State University will share keen insights and best practices for effective and efficient program innovation. Discussion topics to include:
  • The Due Diligence of Market Research
  • Strategies for Managing a Successful Launch
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