The educational technology (EdTech) industry has been in the news lately for being one of the most funded sectors in 2020. This includes the Eruditus group, where we recently raised Series D funding. While the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent boost in online learning have been one factor, there has been a huge evolution in the space over the last few years. In my years in higher education since completing my PhD about 15 years ago, I have definitely seen more openness to online education now than ever before. Even the elite schools that the Eruditus group works with, many of which have traditionally shied away from anything online when it comes to their degree content, have found a way to experiment with online in the executive and professional education space.
In my view, a lot of this change has been fueled by the evolution in skills required to stay competitive in our fast-changing environment. Technology and analytics are developing and changing rapidly, becoming more central to business. People all over the world are looking at up-skilling in order to keep up, and this has driven the demand for access to high-quality content around business analytics, machine learning, AI, and digital.
The pandemic effect
It goes without saying that this has been a difficult year for the whole world and it has posed enormous challenges for traditional education institutions, from K-12 to higher education. But this disruption of the status quo has brought a huge opportunity for EdTech companies to innovate and transform the way that we deliver content and knowledge. So in general, I see more openness to EdTech and the various ways that technology can impact and improve educational outcomes. I do worry that with the way schools and universities had to jump online quickly and without much preparation this spring, some people—both students and faculty—might have had a negative experience with online learning. This is a potential challenge we will have to overcome as we collectively venture forward and advance online learning.
Given the existential crises that many universities are facing, I feel fortunate that the Eruditus group is in a position to help universities respond to these challenges. We are working very actively with our partner universities in a number of different areas. The first one comes directly out of the COVID-19 crisis, which was to pivot to live online classes for traditional executive education courses. Even before COVID, we had conducted thousands of live webinars in conjunction with our online and blended programs. We have been able to offer best practices and instructional design assistance to faculty and also market these programs to bring in a more global audience.
Another thing that I’m very excited about is online bootcamps. These are intensive, skill-building courses are geared towards people who are new to a particular career — either fresh graduates looking to build a new set of skills or professionals who are moving into completely new careers. We are providing these in conjunction with our university partners and bringing their faculty, knowledge, and credibility to these offerings. These courses are fully online and we have worked hard to make them accessible from a pricing perspective. This is an important offering right now, when we have so many people out of work and looking to build skills in order to find their next job.
The company we are building at Eruditus is very special to me and my past four years here have been a fascinating journey. Before I came to Eruditus, I had actually promised myself that I was going to be independent and never work for another company! But as I started to get involved, I was so taken with the mission, the culture, and the people that I’m now deeply committed to our long-term success as an organization. What attracted me and keeps me going is this endeavor to take the fantastic research and knowledge from our partner institutions and make them accessible to a much broader audience. I’m also excited about the global nature of our business and working together with people from all over the world in pursuit of a common mission.
The way forward
When I think about the next three to five years, I see at least two key areas that we will be focused on. One of them is to have a significant presence outside the English-speaking world. We have already started doing that in two ways — by translating our global courses into Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin, and by partnering with top regional schools in geographies such as Latin America and China. By offering courses in native languages, we are making high-quality education accessible and affordable and creating an opportunity in regions where it didn’t exist.
The second thing that I see happening is the intersection between non-credit executive education and for-credit degree programs. We will find new and exciting ways to build bridges between the two and we will see more experimentation. As those lines blur, more people will get the opportunity to access education at the level, pace, and price point that works for them.
I am excited to be a part of that change and to see how our teams can work together with partner schools to explore new possibilities.
I’m happy to share our first-ever podcast below with my views on changes in EdTech: