Nordic EdTech Network Podcast Interview

On December 12, Michael and I joined Eilif Trondsen for a podcast interview for the Nordic EdTech Network. One of the primary activities for the network is to “help Nordic EdTech companies become better informed about the EdTech industry and landscape not only in the Nordic region but also of the global EdTech market dynamics.” Put another way, Eilif is a great network connector. You can access the podcast interview at this page. We are also sharing the interview below.


Some of the questions:

  • What are a couple of things/developments that you have seen out there in the education industry that you think either have had significant impact on current edtech markets, or that may well have significant impact on these markets in the next 2-3 years or so?
  • What have we seen in European procurements related to edtech and how would that impact smaller startups and non-LMS vendors?
  • Do you see opportunities in learning analytics and adaptive learning vendors [with an interest comment about whether Knewton is going to be a dominant player]?
  • Do you have any recommended Dos and Don’ts for any Nordic edtech vendors considering to target the US market?
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Piazza Makes Three Significant Changes To Deal With Privacy Issues

For those following the Piazza privacy issues, we have a new update where the company has made three significant changes in their response to privacy concerns from several universities. They are now using true opt-in for their Careers product, they have stopped the practice of using university logos without permission, and they are now offering an easier process to enter into no-cost agreements. For those who have not followed, read here here and here for background. And remember that this case of Piazza’s usage of student data can be seen as a case study on third-party learning apps as we move closer to the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment / LMS as Hub concept.

Opt-In vs Opt-Out

In my original post, one of the key issues I called out was that Piazza did not offer with their Q&A platform a true opt-in method for students to choose to allow their personal data to be shared with recruiters through the Careers product.

What does that opt-in look like in practice? Faculty assign usage of the platform, and during setup students see a pre-checked box labeled “Sign me up” for opting into the Careers service. Continue reading

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Digging Deeper Into CCSF Story: $39 million for non-usage of LMS not really about DE

When I wrote my initial post on Tuesday about the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) having to repay the state $39 million for non-usage of LMS, there was one number that kept bugging me.

We’re not talking about an isolated problem with some faculty forgetting or refusing to use the official LMS. 92% of all courses (based on FTES count) did not comply with collegiate policy, and therefore there are no official participation records ensuring students understood the course requirements or that faculty interacted with students.

The original San Francisco Chronicle article described the problem as occurring “in hundreds of online classes from 2011 to 2014”, and the independent audit document describes their charge to “review compliance of contact hours claimed for distance education” by CCSF. But 92% of faculty choosing to not use the campus LMS for an online course goes beyond sloppy processes or faculty resistance. There had to be more to the story. Continue reading

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Pearson Releases a Significant Learning Design Aid

Last week, Pearson announced the release of some resources they have created around science-based learning design. (Full disclosure: Pearson is a client of our consulting company, although we have not consulted with them on the subject of this post.) The resources in the release include the following:

  • 102-page rubric the company has started using for evaulating curricular products based on their effective use of learning design principles—released under a Creative Commons license
  • white paper describing how they are beginning to apply these principles to their own product designs
  • A few links to descriptions of early examples of these principles as they have been applied in released products.
  • A blog post providing some more background and perspective by David Porcaro, Pearson’s Director of Learning Design, whose team is behind this effort.

In the short term, you should think of this publication as the company’s effort to “show their work,” in the classroom sense of that phrase. They want you to know more about the process they go through to incorporate research-backed learning design principles into their products. They hope that doing so will increase your confidence in the value of those products. In the medium term, they also aspire to make the framework they are developing for themselves also a useful tool for the academic community, particularly as the company refines and expands on this early release of the materials.

In my view, the work itself is a significant contribution. It also is a positive indicator about Pearson’s future direction as a participant in and influencer of that community, although how strong an indicator is a much harder question to evaluate. And it gives us another clue about the co-evolution of educational institutions and ed tech vendors that we are likely to see over the next years and decades. In this post, I’m going to evaluate each of these aspects in turn.

Continue reading

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Recommended Reading: A Digital Chief from Publishing Talks Anonymously

A recently published article in Digiday provides an insider view of ongoing tensions that are still playing out in the world of publishing. The interviewee speaks to the challenges of running two parallel businesses, one that’s in decline but still generating cash, another that is growing but requiring significant investment, and the internal conflicts that are inherent to that dichotomy.

“It creates a real clash because of how these competing business models play out on a daily basis. Everything from salary disparities to space or resource allocation. If you’re throwing resources at a problem to make it move faster — that generates huge resentment from people whose resources are being chopped to slow losses. It creates a “them and us” situation which isn’t helpful.”

In the educational publishing sector, most publishers recognized the need to transition to digital several years ago. That recognition, however, doesn’t make it so overnight. It’s a difficult slog, fraught with strategic, operational and human challenges.

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