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

The Education Institution of the Future is Here – It’s Up to Leaders to Seize It

What it is: Amazon’s recent announcement that they will launch a free platform for schools and educators to upload, manage and share educational materials is just one example of the significant evolutions taking place within the higher education space. A growing emphasis on and availability of Open Educational Resources (OERs) necessitates that universities shift the lens through which they view digital technology.

Why it is important: In order to leverage these new tools to better drive student engagement and student success, educational leaders need to understand that technology alone is not the “silver bullet.” A shift in innovation culture and mindset within higher education needs to move towards embracing current trends to better serve students.

The following shifts need to be made: 1) embracing personalized needs, 2) shifting the culture around knowledge, and 3) the human side of technology.
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The Higher Education Technology Paradox 

What it is: The number one paradox in higher education is that technology is both transforming and disrupting universities around the world. Institutions that adapt to disruptive technologies and become content producers will survive and flourish; those confined to being content consumers will struggle to stay in business.

Why it is important: Many colleges and universities are in financial difficulty today: According to The New York Times, Moody’s Investors Service estimates that the number of four-year nonprofit colleges going out of business could triple (from five to 15 per year) over the next few years, and the merger rate will more than double from two or three today. The inability to keep up with technology-enhanced teaching and learning will only exacerbate the problems of financially challenged colleges.

Flipped, blended, and online classes, and MOOCs have the potential to influence both positive and negative outcomes for such colleges and universities. Obviously, it requires money for a university to develop these kinds of materials, but more than the money it needs a motivated and committed faculty.
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Understanding the differences in what credentials are being stacked and why

What it is: Lumina Foundation launched the Connecting Credentials initiative to help shape the vision and align the work of some 80 co-sponsoring education, labor, and business organizations (including Parchment, where one of us serves as CEO). Credential innovation is a new concept for many people in academe, with an emerging vocabulary that includes both familiar and unfamiliar terminology. Of those terms, “stackable credentials” is the most important concept in the broader discussion.

The most common description of stackable credentials goes something like this: over a lifetime of learning, individuals can assemble, or stack, a series of traditional degree-based and/or nontraditional credentials – certificates, certifications, licenses, badges, apprenticeships and more – that recognize achievements and provide an accurate assessment of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The more credentials learners accumulate and stack, the more they increase their currency in our knowledge economy, creating more direct pathways to better jobs and higher wages.

Why it is important: While that narrative captures a number of key ideas, it glosses over important differences in what credentials are being stacked and why. Credentials can be stacked in many ways – vertical, horizontal, and value added. Defining the differences in stackable credentials are important because Americans are increasingly earning various types of credentials to improve their position in the labor market.

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 46.3 million adults (aged 18 and over) held a professional certification or license, and 19.1 million held an educational certificate. So while a degree still matters, as research by the Georgetown Center for Workforce Development demonstrates, nondegree credentials can also have a significant impact on earnings. As well as impact student retention and interest in four-year universities and colleges.
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What Happens When Universities and Bootcamps Join Forces?

What it is: Skills bootcamps may be relatively new, but they are growing fast. The number of bootcamp graduates was more than 16,000 in 2015, up from 6,740 in 2014—that’s compared to 48,700 total U.S. undergraduate computer science graduates in 2014. With partnerships on the rise, some administrators are asking: In what ways might bootcamps be relevant to the future of higher-ed institutions, and how might those institutions tap into the successes for students realized by some early bootcamps?

Why it is important: Partnerships between higher-ed institutions and bootcamps are, at this point, few and far between. But that is soon likely to change, thanks in part to the federal government’s EQUIP experiment that has loosened prior constraints around access to financial aid.

Some partnership models are more likely than others to gain traction. Partnerships between community colleges and skills bootcamps, for example, remain a tough sell due to the high cost of attendance of most bootcamps, even with the financial aid assistance. Continuing education programs at four-year institutions, on the other hand, may find bootcamp partnerships to be attractive new sources of revenue.
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Education technology market to hit $252bn by 2020

What it is: Education technology is set to become a global phenomenon, growing 17

Why it is important: The market is already huge – it’s more than $5 trillion worth, eight times bigger than the software market, and three times bigger than the media and entertainment industry. Yet, it’s only two percent digitized, and the problem apparently lies in too many ‘gatekeepers’.

Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquette, Co-Founder, EdTechXGlobal, explained, “We estimate that the speed of digitization in education will be up to five times slower than has been seen in other sectors, due primarily to the increased number of gatekeepers involved in digital transition decisions, teachers, institutions, governing bodies, districts and policy makers amongst a few”.
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