Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet, pitch, get rejected, and accepted by lots of investors. After building two companies that were venture and angel backed in aggregate of millions of dollars and then being a part of another that raised tens of millions in additional capital, I learned a lot about the world of venture capitalists. My latest position as head of B.D. at Alma has me reaching out to even more VC’s, many who I know, and others who I’ve never met before as we, like all companies, evaluate our funding options.
Big data has been the story of the past year. Nearly every industry sector has been hit by the urge to quantify, measure, and analyze, and they are using that information to improve their products and services, which in turn is improving our lives on both the micro and macro scales. (Can you even remember what shopping was like before personalized product recommendations?)
You don’t know what you think you know.
Planned obsolescence is often cited as the way tech companies (Apple) can guarantee sales: after a few years, their devices and software would either break down or otherwise cease proper functioning, requiring users to pay for upgrades to shinier, faster, newer models.
Higher education has fallen into a similar model—though instead of planned, it seems to have happened by default.
We know that radical innovation and massive disruption is under way in higher education. Everything in the sector seems extreme. Whether it is new products, regulation, the rates of closure by traditional and some proprietary schools, or the rates of growth at others like Liberty and Southern New Hampshire, each week seemingly brings a new trend and meaningful change. Nationally speaking, demand is flat while capacity is skyrocketing and with every turn we have more technology and increased costs. Everything is in flux like never before.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses offered through outfits like Coursera, Udacity, and EdX) have raised the profile of online education and sparked important conversations about educational access and the meaning of academic credentials. But MOOCs have also done a disservice to online teaching in several key respects.
Massive Open Online Courses have been around now for just over 3 years. Since then they have become more popular and are more known. Nevertheless, completion rates of MOOCs remain low (on average, completion rates are below 13%). This is often seen as something that shows MOOCs will not revolutionize education as, in order to be successful, completion rates would need to increase.
However, I do not believe this is as big of problem because of the following 3 reasons:
Every so often, a new way emerges. A way for society to perform critical tasks in ways completely discontinuous from the trends and ways of doing things that came before. There was a time when schooling itself was an amazing innovation. Now, it is expected, and granted as a right. The new way needed is one that helps us use technology in a way that scales amazing teaching and learning experiences. Experiences that heighten learning and enrich lives, and are delivered in efficient and cost effective ways.
Lately, I have been looking at a lot of job postings. I often get excited about a possible opportunity and look at the company and become fascinated with who they are and what they represent.
“My, what I would love to bring to an organization like that, I appreciate their message, their mission. I have experience in what they are asking for and needing.
Oh, they require a college degree. Next…”
My friend has a son who is an exceptional musician, and was recently accepted to one of the most prestigious college music programs in the country. The other weekend my friend went to visit his son, who took him to the music lab to show his dad what he was learning about the science of harmonization, and how music that sounds spontaneous is actually the result of complex scientific principles.
In January 2014 I started my first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) after reading a blogpost on Poets & Quants. I did not know back then this would be the start of the many MOOCs I would complete in the next 10 months. Over the course of these 10 months I learned 3 important things about this new way to gain knowledge: