Successful educational strategies to engage all members of our communities have the power to transform the social, economic and cultural productivity of a nation. With education being a key strategic target for improving the employability of a future worker, this now represents a key target for private investors who are keen to profit from public and commercial needs. What can we learn about global education developments from the investment trends by these financiers and the products they are supporting?
Private investment in education companies
A recent report from the World Economic Form ‘New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology’, analysed how private companies where investing in educational software companies. The results, depicted below, illustrate both the scale of investment and the wide variety of companies. I have to admit, despite having worked in this sector for nearly 20 years, many of these companies are unknown to me, but others, such as Qualtrics, Desire2Learn, Knewton, Kaltura and Instructure have successfully penetrated into the tertiary learning market in the UK.
World Economic Forum Report: ‘New Vision for Education‘. Source: Data based on companies’ information from Capital IQ and company websites, from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2015.
With enormous levels of investment, these companies can deliver a quality learning experiences to a broad range of users, but may also have the potential to seriously disrupt how education will be managed, produced and delivered across the sector. They have a potential reach to influence all students and workers as we move into a digitally-empowered society in which the flexibility of learning will be embedded into a culture encouraging self-directed learning and personal development.
About the companies in the list
What can we learn from the companies receiving the highest levels of investment? What are they products they provide, who are they designed to serve, and what can these tell us about how education is being transformed across education providers and learning development teams? Here are a sample from the top 15 companies.
Qualitrics provide business intelligence data to ‘over 8000 of the world’s learning brands and 99 of the top 100 business schools’. They offer a variety of software solutions to help surface customer and employee interactions, responses and actions. Their products are used across the automotive, airline, financial, media and tourism sectors, along with government and school/HE education.
Desire2Learn provide a learning management system, called BrightSpace, for the school, tertiary and corporate learning markets. BrightSpace is considered one of the leading tertiary level LMS’s across the world, alongside Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle. It includes content delivery tools, media capture and analytics reporting.
Education Services Pvt. Ltd (Formerly TutorVista Global Private Limited) is part of the global Pearson brand. They offer the full range of Pearson Products (publications, eBooks, eLearning, Exams and tutoring) across the Indian subcontinent, reaching the school, university and corporate learning market.
Fiitjee Limited is another learning company focusing on the Indian market. They provide a wide range of online training courses, with a chain of examination centres across India to facilitate formal examination and professional accreditation.
Knewton Inc are a well establish pioneer of personalised learning solutions, using adaptive algorithms to tailor the content and assessment of individuals according to their prior learning habits and performance. Their approach is becoming more mainstream in LMS/VLE tools through the integration of native and external learning analytic data.
Kaltura provide a leading video capture/streaming service across education, industry and government. The product range include a OTT TV service, a video management console, a native mobile app and various integration packages for LMS’s.
Civitas Learning offers several learning analytics products which can offer real-time progress tracking information on students for teachers and administrators. The information produced is highly personalisable, and adaptive to individual needs and abilities.
Instructure produce the popular LMS, Canvas, for the school, tertiary, corporate and MOOC markets. It boasts an open learning platform which offers open data, open content and an open API to customers. It is now used globally in more than 2000 universities, schools and institutions.
Edmodo is a collaborative learning platform, offering all the rich features of a traditional LMS/VLE, but will a greater emphasis on connecting learners, tutors and parents.
Weebly is a website design solution which allows anybody to create and publish their own site within minutes. The product doesn’t strictly fit into the education sector, although the production of online content in bold and attractive formats is a real advantage for personal portfolios and content packages.
What can we learn from this list?
Most of these companies have only existed in the last decade. They are young, fearless and ambitious. This youthfulness gives them less legacy constraints with previous supported products, and they will typically attract a younger workforce who are recent graduates and better understand the requirements from digital learning.
Strong communication is at the heart of each of these platforms. Content is made available through learning packages, video material and progress analytics, with an emphasis on encouraging a dialogue between learners and their tutors. The platforms encourage a pedagogical approach called connectivism.
It may be an obvious trait, but web-based learning technologies have advanced considerably in the past decade. Digital learners have short attention spans. Web-based marketing, accessibility requirements, mobile techologies and social media have all influenced interface designs to be more intuitive to use, responsive to different device types, and easy to navigate.
These companies each have a global reach, offering multiple language packages to a variety of different education and industry areas. Just as learners are mobile and hetergeneous, so must the platforms be. The websites promoting each product are similarly branded separately to different markets to ensure effective capture of attention and sales.
Big data is a hot topic in education. It is driving forward the design of platforms, forcing strong integration between systems. The personalised learning experience will dominate the next decade of learning. Education platforms can no longer we library shelves for dusty content, as media, data and communication channels encourage collaboration and exchange of views on learning development, both between learners and between learners and tutors.