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I know that many of you here today were not too happy with your studies – for some bad professors sucked out all the joy in the subject you loved, others just did not get the quality of education they wanted at university, college or school and some just made bad decision on choosing profession.
I personally have a bachelor in science, but I know that this is not my true calling. Or at least not the only one. As many of you today I have a lot of fields of interests – from design, arts to entrepreneurship and science. This made me an everlasting student and I‘m just ecstatic about what is happening with education today. Technology is changing the face of education in a huge way, giving me and YOU a chance to learn in ways unimaginable just few years ago.
So. As this is a startup fare, I’ll try to concentrate more on facts – we‘ll go over some types of educational startups, money invested in them and their monetization forms, influence on traditional ways of education and, surely, at the end we‘ll look at couple of future trends in this field. Please, stay with me, and I’ll try to make it interesting for you. No matter if you are someone in education, a startuper starting out or already a professional entrepreneur, you‘ll find something usefull here.
Let’s start, as many presentations do, with some quotes! So, most of the talks about education today starts with some quote of the wonderful writer Mark Twain. And mostly with this one:
“College is a place where the professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.”
However, although arguably this quote does apply to many cases, today I want to focus on a different tangent and for this purpose Henry Ford has a more suitable line:
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”
First of all, to understand what is this education innovation hype is about, we have to look at the problems of education system and why a reform here is much overdue. These are the three problems, that, in my opinion, allows this field to evolve in such fast pace and makes it one of the most interesting entrepreneurial field today.
First of all – money. The price of college studies in US has inflated by 1210% percent in the last 30 years. Naturally, it’s not because of inflation. Student debt in America now exceeds $1 trillion. It’s just preposterous. Sorry I don’t have statistics for Europe, but I imagine theare are a lot of financial problems for students here too. These huge prices introduce many social problems and the actual effectiveness is questioned every day. In my opinion, one of the great science voices of today – Neil deGrasse Tyson, recently posted a message at twitter saying:
“The best colleges admit only successful students, offering no evidence the college itself forged the students’ later success”.
It’s no secret that the current system is based on very old principles from British colonial times. In those times the system had to produce a lot of workers on the fastest pace possible. Naturally a lot has changed from those times, but somehow the basic principles of productivity, in a bad way, and standardization still exists in education today. I mean damn, thousands of students, both at universities and schools are still thought by standardized way, treating them all like one single medium. That is horrible – such standardization kills both talent and passion – something what should be treated as the greatest treasure from the very young age. This is why it’s so refreshing to see technology used to bring individualization to learning institutions. Learning should be personalized for everyone.
And, naturally, today’s world is all about speed. You have to learn fast and understand fast. Speed is the essential part of good productivity. What I mean by good and bad productivity I mentioned in the previous slide is that currently productivity is based on fast memorization, which may look good for that moment, but this method gives only very short term results. Good productivity is based not on memorization, but on understanding problems and looking for answers, which will pay of greatly in the future.
Traditional system of education is just not capable of preparing students with the knowledge for modern world in the pace and quality needed. When we take in consideration, that iPhone was released in 2007 and that it takes a student 12 years to finish school, 4 more years for bachelor and 2 more for master’s degree, it becomes obvious that the world, that the student started learning in, is not the same as the world he finished his studies. Sadly, fast adaptation is certainly not the property of education institutions.
In this talk I’ll go over several types of innovating education companies. We’ll have a look at massive open online courses, so called MOOCs and we’ll go over some of the big players in education tools market, who are raising huge amount of funding today. There are more categories and many more great companies, but I‘ll focus on perhaps most important ones.
I certainly think so, that every one of you will find something interesting somewhere in this field.
And we begin with…. MOOCs. The term itself was created only in 2008, so this is definitely a very young field. But one have to notice, that the field itself is dominated by companies created by professors and real professionals in their field. For someone who doesn’t know, here you see Sebastian Thrun – professor at Stanford University, Google VP and one of autonomous car creator and also a founder of Udacity – one of the big players in MOOCs today.
The other two MOOC platforms really worth mentioning are edX, created by MIT and Harvard, and Coursera, founded by Daphne Kohler and Andrew Ng – professors at Stanford University. At this moment Coursera already has more than 3 million registered users, of whom 1,7M have registered for a class at least once. It has already collected 22M$ in investments.
For a long time monetization has been a big problem for both Coursera and Udacity. Not so much for edX as it is funded by University itself – MIT and Harvard are investing 60M$ in to developing this system. For players like Coursera and Udacity the main way of monetization has been job connections between students and employers and sometimes diploma certification. At the beginning of this year everything has changed – both Coursera and Udacity began working with Universities on giving paid courses for real credit. These courses aren’t high level ones, mostly basic ones – like algebra and etc., where classes are huge and students do not have direct student/teacher communication. This makes a lot of sense – it is way more effective to pay one great teacher to prepare a course for 10000 students, than to pay 200 teachers to teach that same course for huge classes and mostly not in the best quality possible.
A huge myth often associated with MOOCs is that the courses online are much easier that the ones at real university. This cannot be more false. Everyone who have tried them knows – they are hard. One just can’t do more than several MOOCs at one time, because there is just that many assignments, reading, watching and tests, prototyping. You have to work hard. It is told that the curse of MOOCs nowadays is that only realy self-motivated people can finish them. On average only up to 10 percent of entered finish the course. In my opinion, it’s actually nothing to worry about. The world is changed exactly by self-motivated people and these are the people we should be investing.
The biggest question today is – can MOOCs replace Universities in the future?
At least my answer is no. On paper it may seem so. And they can definitely improve them – change the unprofessional instructors, make studies more affordable, more professional and so on. But, there is a big BUT…
What’s the best school ever? Stanford? Harvard? MIT? No. He, you have to think geek.
It’s Hogvarts. For those, who are out of this world, it’s the legendary school of wizards from Harry Potter. Why is it the best school ever? Because it’s freakin awesome. They do not need no iPads, nor iPhones to be awesome. And actually every school has the possibility to be as awesome as Hogvarts. Naturally, because of Magic. And I’m actually not talking about the magic of Harry Potter. I’m talking about the magic…
…that happens when passionate people get together to learn from each other. No MOOC will ever replace that.
Oh, but if you could think how to bring that awesomeness to internet – you could be the big winner ;]
And talking about people getting together to learn from each other. Here is another category for you – let‘s call it skill sharing. Talking from virtual point of view, the clear leader here is Youtube, but let‘s talk about the real world – and here the innovator is Skillshare.
Education does not consist only of traditional subjects like math, economics, sciences, design and etc. One should not think about it in such constrains. There are huge amount of real world skills that are not taught in schools and universities. Skillshare is filling this gap by creating a marketplace to learn anything from anyone. As I said, these subjects include awesome skills taught by people passionate about their thing.
You want to learn to fix a bike? There is a class for that. You want to learn how to cook meatballs, or design sneakers? There are classes for that. And the monetization side is strong at Skillshare because it allows teachers to really earn good money. Just recently, Skillshare Teacher on Ruby development, earned $100K a Year by just doing Skillshare classes.
The lesson here is that the world is full not only of students, but also of teachers.
They just need their chance to shine and you could be the person who gives them that.
Talking about teachers – the one teacher that made the biggest difference in recent years is Salman Khan. And here we jump in to another category – basic education. There is a huge amount of startups in basic education field, but Khan Academy perhaps is the most important one.
It began by Salman Khan just putting couple of lectures on YouTube for his cousins and now grew to an amazing platform with huge amount of subjects, which integrates game mechanics, gives out classroom data for teachers and helps kids in a great way.
It’s worth mentioning that Khan academy is a great agitator for flipping classroom – this means using technology to leverageto give lectures, so a teacher can spend more time on interaction with students instead of lecturing.
This principal is a great field for innovation with huge amount of opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
Now let’s jump in to the field I like to call – Startup Schools. These are institutions, unlike any I mentioned before, with real world campuses and classes, teaching the things young entrepreneurs need today. And they are doing that in fast and effective way, with workshops, weekend seminars or full-out 3 month courses.
The most awesome thing about them is people – there you are always surrounded by other students with big ideas and motivation to learn and we all know that it is that much easier to learn something, when you are surrounded by others with the same intentions and passion.
Today one can find such schools in many of the biggest startup center cities in the world. Let’s jump to some examples.
General Assembly is already situated in eight cities in the world. By now they have accumulated more than 14M$ in series A and B rounds and taking world by storm. They main campus and headquarters are situated at NY, right in the center of the city – Broadway street. I mean, damn it must be awesome to learn in a place like that.
The other player here is Starters League. Unlike General Assembly they are not trying to come to your city, but instead calling you to come to them. Situated in the center of Chicago, they have 5 main courses for entrepreneurs, where one can learn essential things needed for developers or designers. Most of the programs take about 3 months and you finish the program with skillset needed to really pursue your dreams in entrepreneurship.
But I think the greatest thing about these institutions is this.
At the South by Southwest conference just a month ago, one of the greatest entrepreneur today, or maybe the greatest – Elon Musk from Pay Pal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX and so on was asked:
„What has been your biggest mistake? “
„So, the biggest in General I’ve made and am trying to correct, is that I put too much weight on talent and not personality. It actually matters whether someone has a good heart. “
The thing is, that these, so called startup schools and other tools here, now give young companies an opportunity to base their hiring decision not on someone with great skills, but on someone who is just a great person. Teaching the staff was a thing reserved only for big companies and corporations and now, when it can be done fast and financially effective, it is available for startups too.
And this is awesome, because great products are built first by great people and only second by great specialists.
Let’s continue with something more classical – a wide category of online courses. Actually there is nothing classical about the innovation happening in this field today. There is growing awareness, that coding is an essential skill in a world of today and a world of tomorrow.
One of the leaders in teaching code online is Code Academy which uses a lot of gamification methods for student motivation. Although you still need a lot of self-motivating and it’s still quite hard for people without “engineering” thinking, when after some exercises you get a cool badge with a cool robot on it, telling you, that you are “a master of CSS”, you really want to keep on learning.
While Code Academy is free, one have to pay for “treehouse” lessons. Most of the time – it’s worth the money. With ever expanding market of online courses you can really see the growing quality of lessons, better lecturers and more interactive stuff. With 12,4$M in investments “treehouse” is really on the role here and it already signed up a lot of big corporate organizations, which opens up a whole new market for them. This is worth noticing, that not only people, but also organizations are waiting for a change in educational techniques – another business opportunity.
One of the companies really bringing the change to the industry is Voxy. Language learning has been quite standardized industry, but this company is using it‘s mobile & web education platform to help you learn English within the context of your life. Its technology transforms content from your life (photos, websites, movies, songs, even conversations) into educational content. Voxy makes language learning seamless by making it a byproduct of your life.
Another player – Udemy is a big player in online courses today. Like Skillshare, it’s a platform to share your knowledge in courses, but this time – on the internet. With huge amount of investments, they are showing great results and this shows up in statistics – their top 10 instructors did 1.6M$ in sales in about a year.
But the biggest money both in investments and in generation is in educational tools market. These young companies may not be doing something awesome like MOOC’s, may not be helping third world countries with education and may be missed by all the hype. They are actually doing the dirty work – the work sometimes is missed by others.
An example for that is 2U. They partner with universities to build, administer, and market online degree programs. A work that may not have any buzz words, but has a lot of financial prospects. This is why they already collected 90.8M$ in funding and continues to go strong.
Knewton is a tool, but it actually does something really cool. This tool customizes standardized educational content to meet the unique needs of each student. That means right order of mathematical problems, the best time of the day to learn for you and etc. It’s individualized learning in a big way.
Edmodo works on connecting teachers and students in class – it’s a kind a social network that makes classroom experience better, makes teachers happier and student more involved in classroom activities by using technologies. Both Knewton and Edmodo are doing great, because their are building essential tools for schools and universities, for teachers and students, raising 54M$ and 40M$ respectively.
As promised – a couple of ideas of that‘s coming next.
Nobody expects that integration of these tools to educational institutions will go over smoothly. There will be a lot of both political and academic discussions. This also means that there is a lot possibilities for solving this problem and making these new ways of learning an integral part of everyday education.
Mobile still needs better integration with education. There are just a couple of examples of products using mobile technologies not for the sake of being just modern and hip, but because of the effectiveness of learning.
Surely augmented reality can be used extensively in education – both for young kinds and studying professionals. I can‘t wait to see the first example of a lecture done using Google glasses, because wow, there is a lot of possibilities for creativity there.
It will be very interesting to see, how a new generation of students will evolve using these technologies of education from the moment they were born.
I want to finish my presentation with a question. And the question often asked is:
Is this an evolution or revolution of education?
Let me try to answer that.
The thing is – today we are still building most of the tools based on this structure:
We take new technologies and apply them to old system we have. Process like this is called and evolution.
But maybe, just maybe, we could do something like this – use these amazing technologies, to create completely new conception of education because we really need one. This would be a revolution.
And by that I just want to say, that although there are so many great things done today in this field, but it is still full of possibilities, business opportunities and chances FOR any one of YOU to change the game.
Thank you for your attention.
You can find my contacts, companies used in this presentation and links to reference resources here.