The Ed Tech Startup Space

My thoughts about companies and emerging trends.

I’m playing catch-up here, so please bear with me.

Having worked in the eLearning sector for more years than I care to remember, most of these Startups are variations on themes that have been discussed in my institution for some time.

The Clever Startup seems to be a technical solutions for back-end systems that has little interest for me.

Most of the other Startups are versions of delivery systems with their own particular take on how eLearning works. ClassDojo markets itself as a classroom management tool and seems to my mind something of an update of the Victorian schools’ monitorial system. CodeAcademy focused on the teaching and learning of coding and if very much and interactive platform. Coursera is one of the new breed of MOOCs, along with Udacity and edX for example, with close affiliations with established universities and with an approach to pedagogy based on hard research. Dreambox and Knewton have unique selling points based on their approach to individual adaptive learning. Similarly, Goalbook’s approach to eLearning is to focus on Individual Learning Plans. Instructure seems to market itself on its ease of use to teachers.

What most interested me though was Degreed. It struck me as and ePortfolio Plus with its tag-line of “Jailbreaking the degree” by validating lifelong learning whether it’s from an accredited institution like a university, or from non-accredited learning. I think its represents an attitude shift that is most definitely needed and will become increasingly necessary.

My idea of a Startup is quite woolly and vague. I hope to have a better idea about how to develop something more substantial by doing this course. However, a quick review of this list of startups has led me to believe that the Degreed approach is the only one that is substantially different and offers the most scope for future growth. The others seem to be, although well intentioned in themselves, normalised thinking and offer little that is new.

What I have in mind is something based on the methods of Free Software that have worked so well for developing and building knowledge in the software world. You’ve almost certainly used Free Software without even knowing. If you’ve used the Internet then you’ve used Free Software, that’s how ubiquitous it is.

What I hadn’t expected was the dearth of new thinking. I don’t mean to be rude about the Startup but there was very little there that I didn’t already know about. I think it’s a case of the research and theory being so far ahead of actual deployment.

It’s similar to the situation I face in my day job. I work in a research university and the research into eLearning that I deal with everyday is in far excess of how the University deploys eLearning on the front-line of teaching and learning.

I guess I was expecting to see something of an attitude shift from the norm of eLearning deployment.

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