EdTech Off to a Good Start in 2012

GUEST COLUMN | by Heather Campbell

Looking back on 2011, major waves were made in the edtech world. We started seeing a noticeable shift in the movement from traditional textbooks to digital copies. Startups were bringing new ideas to the table about the way education is delivered. And most importantly, Fortune 500 companies were starting to take notice.

But how will it all pan out over the next 11 months? Will we see more of the same—or will 2012 be the year that blows the lid off the industry? Here are some movements and companies we think will have a big year…

The open source movement gets reexamined.

Ruffling feathers and raising important questions, a recent article on edtechdebate.com outlined the possibility that open educational resources can actually disproportionately benefit the wealthiest students, leaving those in need still very much in need. Do you think this will stop any OER momentum? Not likely, but the concerns are founded, and worthy of further exploration. Either way, we’ll expect to see this movement gain more steam as the technology to support and distribute open textbooks catches up.

Schools get in tech-savvy shape.

According to Forbes, educational social network Edmodo is now used in more than 60,000 K-12 schools, and their presence will only widen and strengthen after a recent round of funding. Perhaps they’re following the lead of higher education institutions and tech startup 2tor, which has cracked the code to online education by offering masters programs at top universities, and is expected to greatly expand their offering this year.

The etextbook craze takes off…on paper. 

We would be remiss not to mention the latest Apple announcement about iBooks 2 – the app that plans to digitally destroy the traditional textbook. Could it be the next great innovation in educational technology? Or could it flop a la Ping? We’ll have to see how it shakes out, but knowing Apple, they rarely miss.

Then again, it’s not just Apple getting in on the action. E-readers and etextbook apps have quietly become a major priority amongst a number of Silicon Valley startups. But as the competition begins heating up in the race towards etextbook domination, one thing we should remember is that while the technology has arrived, it doesn’t necessarily mean students are ready to jump ship. In fact, it has been predicted that e-books will account for only 25 percent of the market by 2015, and that’s not just student textbooks, but all books. So are we overhyping the digital textbook craze? Or are these companies just planning ahead? Either way, it’s better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.

The unknown becomes known.

Then of course there are always the surprises. Maybe it’s not the Apples or the Microsofts out there that will spark the next revolution. Maybe it’s the unknown start-up that will blindside us with the next big thing in education technology. Who knows? But one thing we can count on is the accelerating pace at which technological developments are made, and the subsequent changes they will have on the way we retrieve, process and recall information.

What are some of your predictions for 2012? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Heather Campbell is the Community Manager at Chegg.com — committed to making education more affordable by offering inexpensive textbooks for students to buy, sell or rent. Write to: hcampbell@chegg.com

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