Yesterday we live-streamed our fourth episode of On the Ed, and although we are still in Alpha this work in progress slowly takes shape. It definitely shows that it adds new and interesting layers to the discussion when I do an episode with at least two guests. So regularly having three or more people in the Hangout is one of the objectives for the weeks to come.
This week again brought us many interesting funding stories for education companies, some of which my guest Shiv of Affectively and I discussed in this new episode of On the Ed.
We started this episode with the big non commercial story of the week, SocialEDU bringing free mobile education to students in Rwanda. Although some of the companies involved will undoubtedly have an interest to be present in that market and in the minds of people with their products, all of this shouldn’t take away from the ambition, effort and cost involved to make this project a reality.
Another week, another On the Ed. Though we are still in alpha I think we are slowly but surely getting the hang of it. Google+ Hangouts are still a bit confusing when you invite guests as a page owner but we almost started on time.
Talking about guests, this week Chris and I were joined by my old friend Shiv Rajendran who is currently working on his new startup Affectively. We even got the scoop that he had raised funding which he announces on the show. Also, Affectively are hiring!
Talking about startups, as mentioned in last week’s episode Chris also joined a new edtech startup called TDS Social as Chief Technologist.
Congratulations again to both, and I am sure that we are going to hear more of Shiv and Chris and their respective companies in the coming months.
Naturally, we had to briefly discuss the big tech news of the week: Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion USD, but we quickly jumped on the edtech news of the week which you can find below.
This week’s episode of On the Ed started twice as we had some trouble (as so often) with the Google Hangout on Air. But hey, that’s why we are still in alpha. So this time you don’t get one hour of edtech punditry but a more condensed version with the two Kirsten’s of edtech in Europe, as Kirsten Campbell-Howes put it.
Chris could not join us this week as he is busy with the launch of a new startup. I am sure he will share some updates on that next week. Below you find the stories Kirsten and I talked about in the show plus some extra news items we did not have the time to cover.
When I think which company to talk with next for EDUKWEST, there is always a couple of criteria I apply. My criteria, as you might you after more than four years of interviewing, include to get a startup early on in their life cycle, the impact this startup might make in 6 to 12 months from now, and portraying entrepreneurs to me is definitely about sharing a good story.
The story of OpenClassrooms is definitely one of the most interesting ones I have heard in a long time, and it shows how far a dedicated team can make it with passion and hard work.
As many of you will know, I have extensively written, interviewed and presented on innovation in Higher Education in general and MOOCs in particular.
Over the past months what I’ve become particularly interested in are the initiatives and startups in this space that do not come from the U.S., and Veduca is certainly one of the most interesting startups in the entire space right now.
Being in the midst of securing a second round of funding for the company, I had the chance to interview Carlos Souza, co-founder and CEO of Veduca on what has happened in the past two years since launch, and what sets them apart from other competitors in this increasingly crowded vertical of online education.
Just before the summer break I had the chance for a great conversation with Matthew Burr, co-founder and CEO of Nomadic Learning.
Nomadic describes itself as Next Generation Learning for Next Generation Leaders and they’re focused on the corporate learning space and help organizations connect, engage and prepare leaders for a rapidly changing world.
Nomadic is not the first startup the team has founded, Matthew successfully sold his former education startup in China.
Therefore, there are lots of takeaways, lessons and things to consider for all up and coming startup founders in edtech in this interview. Most notably, we focus on mobile and social learning and how to deliver content that’s engaging for next generation leaders.
After more than three years of edublogging, vlogging and interviewing I’m happy to share that EDUKWEST made it to its 100th episode!
It’s without a doubt an achievement for the site itself as you, the audience, see the value in our work. I will admit that I am also a little proud of myself that I have had the endurance to continue doing the interview series when it’s definitely a challenge to figure out how to make it viable for the team but to keep it ad free and free of charge for our users.
I made it to 99 EDUKWEST interviews and thought it would be fun to have an education investor on the show for this repdigit episode!
No sooner said than done I invited Matthias Ick, Managing Director of Macmillan Digital Education whom I’ve had some rather interesting talks with at different occasions over the past couple of months.
Macmillan might still be best known to many of us working in education as one of the big traditional publishing houses with products like onestopenglish for instance. But as we all know, it’s probably wise to look for other opportunities and extend the spectrum of activities and spread into other verticals.
Notably interesting for my work with EDUKWEST are their investment arms, Digital Education as a startup incubator and Macmillan New Ventures for later stage and bigger investments as the name suggests.
I had the chance to talk with Anant Agarwal, President of edX about the first lessons learnt and how edX contributes to changing higher education in general and its economics in particular.
Similar to other MOOC platforms edX was started under the premise of democratizing higher education and to bring lectures from top professors to students all over the world as well as to allow them to learn at anytime and anywhere. What makes edX distinct however is its nature as a not-for-profit and the pursuit to open-source its platform.
Although we are still early on in seeing MOOCs actually in action and to draw conclusions of whether they are an answer to what the future of higher education online might look like, edX has of course gathered data about how many students take their MOOCs and maybe more interestingly, how many complete the courses.
During our talk Agarwal tells me that some of their most popular courses have been taken by more than 50,000 students from all over the world, and I share his excitement here as it proves that technology is not a hurdle anymore but that one can take a MOOC and thus have access to world-class tuition even if they live in a developing country or remote area. I also agree that lowering the barrier of access to free knowledge and education lets the high-potentials shine, the ones with the brain but not necessarily with the money to afford and MIT or Harvard education. If these or some of these then get accepted by one of the best universities in the world simply based on their successful completion of a MOOC is undoubtedly democratic. However, I’m almost sure that these high-potentials would have also made their way if the circumstances were different. The way would have looked differently but I believe many of them would have found success without MOOCs.
This brings me to what do completion rates look like when we look at MOOCs more in general? The numbers of MOOCs taken solely online are very modest. Agarwal says for edX they are around five percent. Study groups, whether formed online or in the offline world, can help increase completion rates but can’t be seen as the end to the story. edX and the other players have to find ways to make the experience stickier and to help prevent such high dropout rates.
Already today Agarwal sees a significantly higher completion rates when the individual MOOC is part of a blended experience, so part online and part on-campus. The professor of the respective course at San Jose State University saw pass rates increase from 55% to 91%.
The last part of our talk focusses on the impact of many more highly educated people on the job market in the future and related to that the discussion of how much a paid four-year college education will still be worth compared with a MOOC certificate of completion and the ability to prove your skills to an employer.
Quotes to share on Twitter
I can’t imagine a better thing brought to public knowledge than education.