Pearson’s digital textbook transformation will likely face stiff competition. Earlier this month, McGraw-Hill, Barnes & Noble Education and Chegg teamed up for a new digital textbook rental program that the trio claims can help students save as much as 70 percent from buying print copies. In August, Cengage will launch a buffet-style offering where students pay $119.99 a semester to access all of the company’s digital higher-ed materials.
more on OER in this IMS blog http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=oer
Mike Silagadze isn’t shy about his desire to take market share from the largest college textbook publishers through his classroom software company Top Hat. He believes his company’s brand of digital textbooks beats anything Pearson, McGraw-Hill and their ilk can provide.
Founded in 2009, Top Hat claims that 2.7 million students access its digital course materials, including those at 750 of the top 1,000 higher education institutions in North America.
Silagadze believes younger faculty members and future generations of college students will help drive institutions to adopt digital materials instead of print.
Top Hat has challenged tangible goods for a long time now. Its first offering was a digital version of clickers to measure student responses in the classroom. In 2017, the company launched a marketplace for e-textbooks, working with authors and offering openly licensed content from the likes of OpenStax as well.
Last year, the company ceased sales of individual assessment tools to instead offer a bundle of its products. Students pay $48 for one year of Top Hat’s products. Interactive textbooks on Top Hat cost an average of $35.
As a result, colleges are rolling out social media accessibility standards and training communications staff members to take advantage of built-in accessibility tools in platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
For example, last fall, a blind man filed 50 lawsuits against colleges whose websites he said didn’t work with his screen reader. And on August 21, in Payan v. Los Angeles Community College District, the Federal District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Los Angeles Community College failed to provide a blind student with “meaningful access to his course materials” via MyMathLab, software developed by Pearson, in a timely manner.
California State University at Long Beach, for instance, advises posting main information first and hashtags last to make messages clear for people using screen readers. The University of Minnesota calls for indicating whether hyperlinks point to [AUDIO], [PIC], or [VIDEO]. This summer, leaders at the College of William & Mary held a training workshopfor the institution’s communications staff in response to an Office for Civil Rights investigation.
But more technology doesn’t always mean better results. Within K-12 learning environments, the digital divide means that students in low-income and rural households have less access to reliable internet and fewer connected deviceson which to complete the online portions of their homework. And while Pearson’s initiative applies only to textbooks in higher ed, the shift to digital has implications at the collegiate level as well.
Just as traditional software has a thriving open source community, textbooks have Open Educational Resources, complete textbooks that typically come free of charge digitally, or for a small fee—enough to cover the printing—in hard copy. And while it’s not an entirely new concept, OER has gained momentum in recent years, particularly as support has picked up at an institutional level, rather than on a course by course basis. According to a 2018 Babson College survey, faculty awareness of OER jumped from 34 percent to 46 percent since 2015.
One of OER’s leading proponents is OpenStax, a nonprofit based out of Rice University that offers a few dozen free textbooks, covering everything from AP Biology to Principles of Accounting. In the 2019–2020 academic year, 2.7 million students across 6,600 institutions used an OpenStax product instead of a for-profit equivalent.
The knock against OER is that, well, you get what you pay for. “One faculty member told me only half-jokingly, that OER is like a puppy that’s free. You get the free puppy, but then you have to do all the work,” says Cengage’s Hansen, who argues that traditional publishers provide critical supporting materials, like assessment questions, that OER often lacks, and can push more regular updates.
By virtue of being free, OER materials also heavily skew toward digital, with hardcover as a secondary option. (Or you can download the PDF and print it out yourself.) The same caveats about efficacy apply. But at least OER doesn’t lock you into one digital platform, the way the major publishers do. OpenStax alone counts around 50 ecosystem partners to provide homework and testing support.
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Or you could always split the difference.
That’s the territory Cengage wants to stake out. Late last summer, the educational publishing behemoth—it announced a planned merger with McGraw Hill in May; the combined company would surpass all but Pearson in market capitalization—rolled out Cengage Unlimited, a “Netflix for Textbooks” model that rolls all textbook rentals and digital platform access into a single rate: $120 for a semester, $180 for a full year, or $240 for two years. Almost a year in, the US-only program has a million subscribers.
In fall 2007, Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation (now Amplify) was invited to submit a paper to an “Entrepreneurship in Education”
As education entrepreneurs know, growth in K-12 comes hard. Sometimes very hard. We were living Marc Andreessen’s startup mantra: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror.”
The edtech boom of the past two decades promised efficacy and new instructional models. Many teachers instead experience it as “clutter.” But poorly integrated standards, curriculum, assessment, and intervention materials have always been a problem.
When it comes to instruction, the work consists of four segments: core curriculum, supplemental (intervention, test prep, little books) curriculum, assessment, and technology (hardware, infrastructure and connectivity). Each of these workstreams are run by separate teams, using independent funding streams, only rarely coordinating. Schools rely—as they always have—on the hero in the classroom, who has to somehow synthesize everything for a roomful of children, every single day.
Twelve Years Later: How the K-12 Industry and Investment Landscape Has Shifted (Part 2)
Twelve years ago, Amplify CEO Larry Berger and I wrote about the “pareto distribution” of companies in the K-12 sector.
The “oligopoly” was the natural outcome of a highly decentralized system and fragmented demand. To serve 15,000-plus districts and more than 100,000 school buildings, a company needed huge sales and service teams; to afford them, the company needed a bookbag full of products across content areas, grade ranges, and use cases. The structure of demand created the “Big Three”—McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson.
Meanwhile, the number of small players—further right on the pareto distribution—has grown dramatically. Online distribution and freemium business models have enabled companies like Flocabulary, Newsela, Nearpod, and others
few alternative models to consider:
companies like Remind, ClassDojo, and Edmodo, who all adopted a “West Coast” approach: collect active users now, with plans to monetize later.
The second includes the “platform” players—Schoology, itslearning, Canvas, and other LMS-like platforms. They have set out to do something differently, only possible by means of technology—to be the search, storage and distribution platform for instructional content. Google Classroom has instead emerged as the de facto standard platform, fueled by the runaway adoption of Chromebooks.
The third includes “policy responsive” players—companies like Panorama, Ellevation or Wireless Generation. hese companies help school systems meet a new policy requirement—social-emotional learning, English Language Learning, and reading assessment, respectively.
But we’re not “decluttering” our classrooms or in our schools. What would it take for the private and public sectors to work shoulder-to-shoulder?
a catch-22: so long as buying is fragmented, it’s hard to justify the integrated product investment; so long as products are fragmented, it’s hard for a district to create an integrated instructional model.
An academic institution’s digital badging initiative is getting off the ground and students are “earning” badges, or micro-credentials, but are they actually providing value to the student toward his or her future career?
1: MAKE PEOPLE ROOT FOR YOU
2: HAVE A FEW GO-TO STORIES AT THE READY
3: STORIES ARE ABOUT HOW YOU FELT
4: THIS MAY SEEM OBVIOUS, BUT “Stories have a beginning, middle, and an end
5: GOOD STORIES ARE UNIVERSAL
6: DON’T BE BORING
Guess what … I searched for Brenda Perea (in hopes of maybe getting some information on how they set up their system) … One of her current positions is with Credly … Do we still want to reach out to her?
NetDragon Websoft, a publicly-traded company based in Fuzhou, China, has agreed to pay $137.5 million for Edmodo.
The deal could mark the beginning of the end for the “free” model of education technology, at least for standalone education companies without other strong revenue streams to support them.
Edmodo was started in 2008 by a teacher and IT support person as a “Facebook-like” community aimed at connecting educators with students and with one another. Also like Facebook, Edmodo grew rapidly. Currently, the company, now based in San Mateo, Calif., claims more than 90 million registered users (both teachers and students) in 400,000 schools across 192 countries.
Edmodo struggled, however, to find a business model that would support its burgeoning community. It raised close to $100 million in funding, and began seeking another round last year. The company had shifted to an advertising-based model—although one in which the company was trying to move carefully and respect its audience of teachers and students.
According to a financial statement published by NetDragon, Edmodo lost $19.5 million in 2017, based on revenue of approximately $1 million.
That seems to be an increasingly popular path. A decade ago, the big education companies were traditional textbook providers such as Pearson. Now the most powerful players are technology companies that offer devices and software. At the top of the list: Google, which supports Chromebooks as well as Google Classroom, and Apple, which sells iPads, Macs and now the Schoolwork app.
By contrast, NetDragon began in 1999 and built its initial financial muscle with games. It has, however, long identified education as one of its top areas of interest. Recently the company has begun purchasing education technology assets at a rapid clip. In 2015, NetDragon paid approximately $130 million to acquire U.K.-based interactive whiteboard maker, Promethean, which gave it a hardware-based entry into classrooms.
The company, which refers to the hardware as “interactive panels,” is equipping 13,000 classrooms in Moscow with digital whiteboards.
Last year, NetDragon also acquired JumpStart, an educational game company behind iconic titles including Math Blaster. And earlier this year, it bought Sokikom, an online game-based math program.