We’ve noticed and had several people ask us about corporate changes at Schoology, the LMS vendor. More specifically, the questions have been based on whether they are laying off staff, and what that means for the higher ed LMS market. Short answers – yes to the layoffs, and the company will be more selective on which higher ed opportunities to pursue.
Through phone and email interviews, I asked CEO Jeremy Friedman to respond to these questions.
As you and I have talked about, operational efficiency is a strategic objective for Schoology in 2017. As we built our plan for the year we saw opportunities to focus our efforts and operate at a higher level. This meant that we decided to reduce our headcount by a little over 10%, primarily across sales and marketing. To be clear, we reduced how much we are going to spend in Sales and Marketing, and we increased how much we are going to spend in Research & Development and Customer Success. The net impact is a more efficient company that can invest more in product innovation and our customers.
Last month we presented two explainer videos on the growing usage of course exchanges, where multiple institutions pool resources in creating or extending online courses. If online courses or programs breaks down the barriers of campus walls and enables anytime, anywhere education, then why not explore how collaboration can open up access and improve quality. While we tend to not write e-Literate about our consulting work through MindWires, in this case we have heard a general interest from other systems to learn more about what the California Online Education Initiative (OEI) at the community college system is doing.
The first two videos explored the concept of course exchanges in general and the required infrastructure needed to create them. In our third explainer video from this series we go back to the OEI to look at how their investment in academic infrastructure should provide benefits that go well beyond the courses and students participating in the course exchange. This extension of benefits, however, was not a surprise to those creating OEI; rather, these broader benefits represent the intended consequences of their approach to collaborative online education.
(Video source: https://youtu.be/1DdlaIZYiDI)
Phil and I were recently interviewed by KQED’s Sarah Tan for a story about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Summit platform. As often happens when our comments are just one bit of a larger story—particularly when we are asked to provide a more critical external perspective as a check on the enthusiastic reports of a project’s participants—some interesting parts of the interview conversation inevitably ended up on the cutting room floor. Ms. Tan was kind enough to grant us permission to repurpose some of the source material from the interview for this blog post.
To be clear, Phil and I have no direct experience with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and have only seen the publicly available information on the Summit platform that it has released (although we both took some time to review that information carefully in advance of the interview). The value of the conversation snippet we provide here is in answering the questions, “Even if you think an ed tech platform seems well designed and the creators seem well intentioned, why might it fail anyway? And while we’re at it, how should we even define success?” These are questions that rarely get asked and answered clearly in discussions about ed tech, including in much ed tech research.
Keith Devlin is a professor of mathematics at Stanford who has taken a keen interest in mathematics education. He is particularly interested in how people learn and what constitutes effective teaching. As a side note, e-Literate interviewed Keith as part of the MOOC Research Initiative in 2013. In his response to a question posed by the Edge last year, “2016: What do you consider the most interesting (recent) scientific news? What makes it important?”, Devlin argues that learning researchers are in the early, but momentous, stages of establishing a genuine science of learning. What has made this possible now is the application new research techniques enabled by the internet and online learning technologies:
“The problem that has traditionally beset learning research has been its essential dependence on the individual teacher, which makes it near impossible to run the kinds of large scale, control group, intervention studies that are par-for-the-course in medicine. Classroom studies invariably end up as studies of the teacher as much as of the students, and often measure the effect of the students’ home environment rather than what goes on in the classroom.”