A weekly wrap-up from Silicon Valley on what’s making the news in higher education, EdTech, and disruptive trends

Here’s How Artificial Intelligence Could Solve the Biggest Problem in Education

What it is: Online education has a problem: Of the hordes of students that sign up for massive open online classes (MOOCs), an average of less than 7% finish. AI researcher at Georgia Tech, Ashok Goel thinks artificial intelligence can change that. Goel told Tech Insider one of the reasons students do not finish is because MOOcs do not provide teaching assistants. If students have simple questions like ‘How do I download this material?”, there is no one to answer. So they become frustrated and drop courses.

Goel thinks AIs could pick up that slack: “If automated, artificially intelligent teaching assistants could just address the basics it could raise the retention rate from say 7% to 15%,” he said.

Why it is important: On the scale at which MOOCs operate, even a retention bump of a few percentage points would impact thousands of students.Goel has taken a big first step down this path. In January 2016 he secretly introduced “Jill Watson,” a digitally intelligent teaching assistant, into an online course for masters students in computer science.

The AI answered questions in the class discussion forum, with her inhuman status going largely unnoticed.The 300 grad students in the class made up a smaller sandbox for Jill to learn in because the eight other human TAs and Goel could moderate her responses. But Goel expects he can scale up the technology — and find other applications for AI in online classrooms.
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Edtech Startups are Raising Billions in Venture Capital to Disrupt Business Schools

What it is: Edtech company Udemy has raised $60 million in venture capital, as it ramps up its aggressive expansion into the business education market. The Silicon Valley start-up is one of a slew of online learning providers to raise multi-million dollar funding rounds, to “disrupt the future of education”. Total VC investment in edtech reached $2.8 billion in 2015, up from $800 million in 2011, according to data provider PitchBook.

Why it is important: Udemy’s announcement marks the latest thrust into business education. Schools are under increasing threat from the pioneers of MOOCs — massive, open online courses — such as Coursera and edX, which offer low-cost courses in areas such as management and entrepreneurship. James Henderson, head of innovation at Swiss business school IMD, said: “Business schools that don’t continue to develop their digital offering can be supplanted by these new players.”
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8 Cybersecurity Challenges Facing Higher Education

What it is: Chief information security officers are grappling with a variety of issues as they try to keep their campuses safe from cybercriminals. They’re not alone. In fact, the No. 1 issue for higher ed IT leaders this year is information security, according to EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association of IT leaders in higher ed. Information security regularly shows up on the EDUCAUSE Top 10 list, though it earned the first spot this year.

Universities find themselves locked into an expensive arms race as they try to buy new tools and change their tactics to counter the latest enemy attack, said Kim Milford, executive director of the Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

Why it is important: The race will be expensive for universities, Milford said. If they lose a fight, they will get hit with financial losses. If they win a fight, that means they probably invested plenty of money in a good security program.

In surveys and interviews, CISOs cited the following as their eight major challenges: 1) phishing, 2) user education, 3) cloud security, 4) high-profile information security strategy, 5) next-generation security technology planning, 6) identity and access management, 7) governance over data security, and 8) unsecure personal devices.
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When an Edtech Company Folds

What it is:  Curriculet, which over the past four years built a platform where students can read digital books, articles and take quizzes, will be closing its doors this summer.

Founded in 2012 (then known as Gobstopper), Curriculet offered educators a library of digital texts—from books available in the public domain to licensed materials with publishers including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and HarperCollins—along with current events articles from USA Today. The materials also came with “curriculets,” the company’s eponymous term for embedded quizzes, videos and other multimedia elements designed to offer students a richer reading experience and to give teachers data into how their pupils were progressing.

Why it is important: Curriculet may be a classic example of technology that is ahead of practice. For users, consciously changing a practice means having the humility to recognize that your existing practices are not doing what you want them to do—and then having the energy to try something very different, even when there may be only a glimmer of promised results.

Despite falling short, the founder and his team have inspired many teachers and entrepreneurs—to learn from one another, to work together and to seek constructive ways for technology to support reading and learning.

Curriculet was able to make reading more accessible for students, but it failed to successfully penetrate the market at scale. The question remains: how many disruptive technologies within higher education will truly be able to find success? For now, only time will tell.
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Triseum Gets $1.4 Million to Make Education Games on Art and Calculus

What it is: Triseum has raised $1.43 million to create better game-based learning systems for students. And June 1st marked the launch of its first educational game, ARTé: Mecenas, which teaches students how to appreciate art and the business of art during the Renaissance. After that, Triseum will launch a calculus game for math students.

The Texas-based company is the latest among many game companies and education firms to try their hand at creating “edutainment,” or educational games that are good for learning.

Why it is important: André Thomas, CEO of Triseum, likes to think of his startup as creating game-based learning for higher education. What makes this technology learning product different from the rest is it encourages anywhere from 2-3 to 4-6 hours of engaged learning – with no other similar ‘homework’ available on the market. If it works, the opportunity could be big as one study back in 2013 estimated that the market could grow from $1.8 billion worldwide in 2013 to more than $2.4 billion by 2018.
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