Technology is changing the landscape of education, and entrepreneurs here in the Hub are taking full advantage. While everyone else is complaining about some meltdown, writing the education bubble is about to burst, others are out there embracing opportunity and innovating on top of it. Especially Pano Anthos, founder of GatherEducation; Jill Frankfort, co-founder of Persistence Plus; Stephen Marcus, founder of Matchbox; and Adam Miller, co-founder and CEO of Abroad 101, who all spoke at last night’s EdTechup.
The evening’s panel, moderated by Harvard’s Digital Content Strategist Mike Petroff, covered how technology is shaping the way students learn, although in today’s world, its students who are driving technology changes, according to Marcus. And what Marcus echoed is a sentiment other education entrepreneurs have stated before him: The schools who refuse to adopt are the schools who will be lagging behind.
“Second-tier schools are arming themselves with the best people, and the best technology,” Marcus said. “They’re using technology to win.”
Anthos agreed, claiming “the middle market is in deep trouble.” As tuition continues to rise nationwide, the lower cost of attending community college will start to appeal to more people. On the flip side, the Ivy League brand will forever stay intact, leaving the state schools who stay stagnant in trouble.
“Maybe the institutions can’t transform themselves fast enough,” Anthos said, admitting that while he’d love to see them innovate from within, disruption might be what it takes to make a change.
When asked about the changing, disruptive face of online education, Marcus claimed “the storm is here.” Yet, right now, everything is still, as Anthos described it, “one big experiment.” Frankfort also said the credential point will soon start to evolve, as more employes start taking online education more seriously.
For those looking to enter the market, however, what each entrepreneur could agree on was this: you need to find a way to make your product go viral. “There’s a follower effect in higher education,” Frankfort said.
Marcus suggested tackling the bigger schools, claiming they do have more influence. You only need a few people to like the product, he admitted — you just need to make sure the product is good. “If students don’t like the product, you’ll know right away,” Marcus said.
Miller’s been able to grow Abroad 101, because the company’s focused on students’ needs. “Students wanted reviews,” he said. “So, we found something students wanted, and we gave it to them.”
The bigger problem to tackle appears to be K-12 education. Frankfort admitted the space is still full of skeptics who are still very much in this “put your cell phone away” mentality.
“Building a startup in K-12 is even harder than higher ed,” Anthos said.
And Marcus agreed, claiming the budgets are smaller, so it’s not as easy to make money. Yet, there is a need and so much opportunity. The even brighter side is, being here in Boston is the best place to start if you’re looking to get involved in ed tech, no matter the age range.
“The momentum is building here,” Marcus said. And we’re excited to see what happens as a result.