Technology Research

Spicing Up the EdTech Market: 4 Highlights from ASU GSV 2017

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In the education world, there is no other conference quite like ASU GSV. Whereas other conferences strike a manageable balance of sessions and presentations, ASU GSV seems to aim for pure sensory overload. This year’s event, hosted earlier this month in Salt Lake City, offered the 3,500 education leaders, investors, celebrities, policymakers, and entrepreneurs in attendance a dizzying array of more than 260 sessions and product demonstrations over three days in two adjacent hotels. As if this wasn’t enough, attendees heading to lunch at the hotel’s café found their jaws dropping at the sudden appearance of the Golden State Warriors, who were in town to play their playoff game with the Utah Jazz. This heady nature of the conference, however, did not detract from the seriousness of the educational topics, which ranged from the impact of digital resources on pedagogy, efficacy research, for-profit innovation models, and the changing role of community colleges in preparing students for 21st-century employment. Eduventures attended some of the sessions and spoke with many vendors. For those of you who missed ASU GSV this year, here are two speakers and two products that caught our attention:

Connecting the Dots and the Role of the Entrepreneur

In his opening and often entertaining keynote, Michael Moe, founder of GSV, used the image of a periodic table to describe the event where business, technology, and education come together to create compounds to impact education. He laid out a compelling vision of the role of entrepreneurs as those who are best able to connect the dots across different groups to create innovative educational products and respond to demographic and other shifts in the marketplace. He called on his audience to consider the ways in which social networks investing in education, cultivating talent, and providing work—which he called “NETwork”—might help to improve the conditions of many around the world. Although his visionary speech was well received, it didn’t seem to filter its way into the more tactical floor conversations that we overheard

Defining the Role of the Federal Government in Modern Education

In a session moderated by Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, discussed the challenges facing education today and her vision for the role of the federal government in overcoming them. While nothing in the speech itself was controversial—despite a sound mocking from comedian W. Kamau Bell in his Tuesday evening performance—two things stood out: First, Allen asked DeVos about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. To many wide eyes around the room, DeVos responded by saying that she wondered why the Act wasn’t scrapped and re-written from scratch, which, in her view, might allow for a piece of legislation that reflected the more contemporary challenges and goals of higher education. Additionally, although DeVos talked at length about her plans to review regulations and, where appropriate, eliminate them, she omitted any mention of the government’s role in K-12 or higher education accountability. This omission implied to us that DeVos has either not given consideration to who should hold institutions to task for financial management and student success, or at least that she felt that this was not the proper forum for the topic. In either case, we look forward to hearing more from this administration on the issue of ensuring institutions live up to their promises and commitments.

Addressing Market Challenges through Product Integration

We spoke to Lily Ladd, Vice President of Strategy at Blackboard, about her recent efforts to consolidate and align the company’s different products—an effort underlined in a later presentation by Blackboard CEO, Bill Ballhaus. Our discussion detailed how Blackboard seeks to streamline its products and services to form a singular, yet flexible, platform that covers the entire student lifecycle. While we cannot yet comment on the success of these efforts, we do applaud Blackboard for taking the hard steps to adapt to a changing and increasingly competitive market by first working to ensure that its product line is coherent, consistent, and tells a compelling story to users.

Providing Insight into Students at Risk

We spoke with the team at Nuro Learning, formerly known as Copley Learning, about its case management solution (Nuro Retention). This solution is designed to identify at-risk students and allow advisors to act on this information. While this type of solution is not uncommon in the retention space, its standout feature is the range of data it uses to assess risk. Not only does it pull data from many sources (e.g., learning management systems, student information systems), it also rounds out the picture of a student with satisfaction survey data collected through a partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Although Nuro Learning launched the solution only in 2015, we believe it holds great promise and look forward to learning more about it. We look forward to continuing the discussion at our own upcoming Eduventures Summit June 7-9 in Boston and hope you will join us. Themed Higher Ed Remastered, it will focus on the ways in which higher education institutions and vendors should think through the implementation of innovation. In particular, we will explore the steps all stakeholders should take to ensure greater alignment between their technology and organizational initiatives. Also, we will review the particular case of competency-based education (CBE) and discuss the areas in which technology supports and misses the mark on the different CBE models currently used.  

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