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

Universities Can’t Solve Our Skills Gap Problems Because They Caused It

What it is: The skills gap really exists in two dimensions; the gap in actual skills obtained by students relative to the job they want, and the gap in a person’s perceived skills relative to their actual skills.

Despite their educational investments, students report finding a job to be a big challenge.Nearly half of all graduating students say college did not prepare them for the working world, and 83 percent do not have a job lined up when they graduate.

Why it is important: Many point to the promising trend away from college degrees as required hurdles for employment. But despite the perception that people without college degrees can still get high-paying jobs, particularly in technology, real hiring data tells a more somber story. Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market data firm, reports in a recent WSJ piece that 92 percent of tech-sector job postings still list a bachelor’s degree as required. This is because hiring managers do not have a better way to gauge people’s skills and expertise.
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If You Want To Improve Education, You Need To Unscale It

What it is: Education reform needs a new strategy that takes advantage of the forces that allow startup companies like Warby Parker or Airbnb to inject new life into old industries. It’s an approach that is, in many ways, the complete opposite of what’s been tried over for decades.

The competitive advantage has shifted to small, nimble players that can take a ground-up approach, creating products and services that meet the specific needs of the individual instead of focusing on the masses. In other words, we are now seeing economies of unscale.

Why it is important: When it comes to education, there are at least two versions of economies of unscale emerging. One approach has new players rejecting the current education system entirely and attempting to build a new model by opening standalone schools – or networks of new schools – in the public, charter, and private realms. In the second approach, organizations are looking creatively at upending the system from the bottom up by bringing the tools and services that have the potential to radically change education.
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A French Billionaire Put Up $100 Million To Create a Tuition-Free ‘College’ in Silicon Valley That’s Endorsed by Jack Dorsey and Evan Speigel 

What it is: A radical French technology school funded by $100 million from billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel is coming to Silicon Valley and has plans to grow to 10,000 students in the next five years. The tuition-free college alternative is primarily focused on teaching coding and entrepreneurial thinking.

Why it is important: Niel, a high-school dropout and one of France’s biggest technology giants, created the first school in Paris in 2013. The goal was to shake up the traditional mold of French education and to churn out students that were innovative problem-solvers (and who employers wanted to hire). That mission will continue in the US. Another huge draw, especially in this new US school, is the lack of tuition, which can work to drastically reduce the cost of learning programming skills
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What Blockchain Means For Higher Education

What it is: The advantages blockchain provides for storing information on a secure, permanent, historical ledger that can be both public and private will change how edtech applications approach student data. In higher ed this means that student data could be shared across many institutions—rather than a single one—and also include data from online learning tools, co-curricular activities, employment history and other learning experiences.

Why it is important: Blockchain is clearly more than just hype. Last fall, MIT Media Lab announced that it is developing software to issue digital certificates on the Bitcoin Blockchain. Holberton School has started delivering its academic credentials in a partnership with Bitproof, a blockchain-based notary system that proves ownership of content. In the Open Badges community, the BadgeChain team has started exploring how badges can be advanced by blockchain. Sony Global Education developed blockchain technology that enables secure sharing of academic records.
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Ed Tech Analysis Finds Disconnect Between Popular Tools, School Improvement

What it is: Digital learning tools that fit well within existing classrooms and do not disrupt the educational status quo tend to be the most widely adopted, despite their limited impact on student learning, an analysis of ed tech products designed for higher education concludes.

“There is a lot of research showing that more comprehensive technology interventions tend to have more positive results,” said Barbara Means, the director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, the nonprofit research center that conducted the new analysis. “To create an education technology tool that can have an impact, but also is adopted in many classrooms, requires thinking about supports for teachers, resources for instruction, and rethinking the way time is used within schools.”

Why it is important: The SRI researchers found some evidence that when it comes to ed tech, effectiveness and scale may actually be inversely related: The more effective the tool, the smaller the scale at which it was adopted, and vice versa.

They also identified three common factors among those products that scaled most rapidly: a promise of cost savings for schools, no requirements for face-to-face training, and an ability to be easily integrated into existing teaching and learning practices. Those traits reflect the dominant Silicon Valley business approach of seeking to quickly gain as many users as possible
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Learning at the Speed of Business

What it is: Corporate universities are entering their second century, just as the businesses that rely on them are transforming themselves for the digital age. When pioneers such as General Motors and General Electric began offering standardized in-house training programs, about 100 years ago, they focused on imparting lower-level, day-to-day skills. Now a new phase is unfolding at these organizations, which must grapple with tools and platforms that facilitate knowledge sharing and employee interactions on an almost limitless scale, challenging—and sometimes appearing to sweep away—the old brick-and-mortar model.

Why it is important: Corporate learning is expected to change significantly within the next three years—both the capabilities imparted and the new agility required to match the faster pace of business. Most also acknowledge that these developments will probably have a material cost: over that period, more than 60 percent of the respondents’ companies plan to increase their learning-and-development spending and 66 percent to increase the number of formal learning hours per employee. What is worrying is the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Only 57 percent of the respondents believe that their academies are “very or fully aligned” with corporate priorities. Even fewer (52 percent) reported that these institutions enable their companies to meet strategic objectives.
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