College Scorecard: With victories like these, who needs failures?

Goldie Blumenstyk had a fascinating interview with the Depart of Education’s Ted Mitchell on Friday that is well worth reading and / or watching (they have video of the interview along with full transcript). One of Mitchell’s key points jumped off the page for me.

I think it [College Scorecard] was one of the department and the administration’s greatest victories

Really? I can see the consolidation of student loans, a strong focus on college affordability, shifting of conversation away from just elite schools, and significant push on funding public schools as worthy victories to mention. But the College Scorecard – I don’t buy it.

Blumenstyk pushed back on Mitchell, which led to this interesting exchange [emphasis added].

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: I’m glad you mentioned the College Scorecard. I was thinking about that a little bit. It’s probably one of the places where the department had perhaps its biggest defeat, or maybe you might consider it a retreat. We were originally envisioning the Scorecard as a tool for accountability. Obviously, a lot of colleges and a lot of other people opposed that idea. And it became a complicated process even to create the effective scorecard. What did you learn from that process?

TED MITCHELL: So I guess I would have a slightly different interpretation.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: I would imagine. Continue reading

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Changes at D2L: A second-hand view from users conference

As I have described to several executives at D2L, there is an interesting gap between the progress we have seen with the company’s product improvements and the reaction we hear from many of their customers. With the tighter integration with LeaP and the improved usability, particularly in content authoring, I would have expected to hear more customers react to the changes. But when talking directly to many of the institutions using the Brightspace LMS, staff describe D2L as if the company and product line had not changed in several years. What is not clear is whether this gap is due the company missing the mark (and my judgement of improvements not aligning with what colleges and universities want) or whether there is just a lag where it will take time for most customers to believe in and take advantage the new product designs and features.

2016 has been an eventful year for D2L. COO Cheryl Ainoa, a longtime veteran of Yahoo! and most recently Intuit, joined the company in April. Although this move was not advertised through press releases or even blog posts, I believe this is a significant change to how the company operates. This is not the first time that D2L has reached outside the industry for a top executive, as they employed Dennis Kavelman from RIM / Blackberry as COO from 2012 – 2014 (the period where D2L raised $165 million in two mammoth funding rounds). But I have heard that the addition of Ainoa has already seen results internally. And in the ‘keeping work in perspective’ category, founder and CEO John Baker and his wife had their first child right before the Fusion Users Conference. Continue reading

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TechCrunch: “EdTech – 2017’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity”

David Bainbridge, CEO of UK-based Knowledgemotion, wrote a post on Saturday in TechCrunch titled “Edtech is the next fintech” calling out the huge, untapped potential of EdTech. Thanks to Alan Levine for sharing this one. Spoiler alert:

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunities edtech promises the world’s largest content providers, the biggest educational institutions and any investor looking for a “sure thing” are almost endless. While it might be slightly late to the “digital-first” party, edtech is poised to be the biggest and possibly most profitable digitalized sector yet.

This is exciting! Not only could EdTech be the biggest market sector yet, it is also “also the safest bet for investors”. Oh my goodness, tell me more. Continue reading

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Schoology: The strongest LMS you’ve never seen

LMS evaluations are typically painful ordeals for not just committee members but also for the vendors. They have to provide multiple demos, have lots of Q&A, and write 100+ page proposals based on extensive feature requirements and perhaps even more painful terms and conditions. But there is one case that might be worse – not even getting to compete when your product appears to be an excellent fit. And that is the situation that Schoology finds it in for the majority of higher ed evaluations.

Schoology’s original market was aimed US-based K-12 institutions, and for paying school or district LMS selections Schoology is probably one of the two strongest competitors, along with Canvas. Schoology does have an international presence and over the past year and a half have targeted an expansion into higher ed. Michael wrote a post after the company raised $32 million in new funding last fall, largely to fund this expansion. I described the institution-wide adoption by Wheaton College in Spring 2016, following the Colorado State University Global Campus adoption in early 2015. But what I don’t see is a real acceleration in the higher ed market yet. There are a few significant LMS active evaluations that include Schoology, but the majority of higher ed LMS evaluations over the past two years have not treated Schoology as a real competitor. Based on what I’ve seen, this lack of evaluation is not based on the product itself. Continue reading

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Instructurecon 2016: Why This Company is Still Formidable (and Misunderstood)

When I talk to Instructure competitors or critics, I usually hear two complaints about them:

  1. They “open wash” or are “fauxpen.”
  2. They have no vision.

Having attended Instructurecon 2016 a couple of weeks ago, my answer to the first complaint is that the critics don’t understand what Instructure and their customers mean by “openness.” In some respects, Canvas is the most open ed tech project I know of in ways that strongly differentiate it from its competitors. Full stop. The second complaint is more plausible. But if I were competing against Instructure, I wouldn’t take too much comfort in that.

Continue reading

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