Bringing together edtech big and small.
GUEST COLUMN | by Diana Stepner
There’s a powerful change currently taking place in edtech. As learning can take place anywhere, anytime, the next great edtech idea can come from anywhere as well. Established corporations like ours recognize we don’t have all the answers. This is why earlier this year Pearson announced the launch of the Pearson Catalyst for Education accelerator program. We’re looking outside, collaborating with startups and other organizations to meld together our reach and insight with their products and rapid delivery.
So how does the Pearson Catalyst for Education program work? Several months ago, Pearson business leaders identified important education challenges they wanted to solve – such as new student web services, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and repurposing existing literature content into a new digital offering. We invited startups to apply and work with us to address those challenges during a three-month pilot.
Once we announced the program, we received over 200 applications from over 18 countries around the world. After a review process, we identified a shortlist of startups. Each of the six Pearson leaders, who have since become the program sponsors, subsequently selected a single startup to address their representative business challenge. The six companies were chosen for their innovation and talented teams, as well as their potential to impact and scale across – and potentially disrupt – the wider education industry. The Pearson Catalyst inaugural class comprises: Spongelab, VLinks Media, ClassOwl, ActivelyLearn™, Full Stack Data Science, and Ace Learning Company.
What I find particularly exciting about Pearson Catalyst for Education is that it operates as a genuine partnership between Pearson and the selected startups; they are given access to our extensive domain knowledge and expertise in the education sector. Throughout the program, the startups have mentoring sessions with Pearson subject matter experts in areas such as education, emerging markets, efficacy, UX and social media. And, of course, the sponsors offer strategic insight into the startups’ core areas of focus.
By the end of the three-month pilot period, the selected startups will know how to partner with Pearson, which could open up opportunities to scale their product globally. They will also be invited to present their ideas to senior technology leaders from Pearson at a “demo day” in November.
The identified opportunities and challenges for the first program, and the selected startup that align with each are:
● Certification test prep application: VLinks Media, a platform that gives world-class content creators the ability to deliver courses to learners on mobile devices and the Web. (Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.)
● Health profession simulations: Spongelab, a science education website for teachers and students that provides a free online collection of multimedia including educational games, videos, images, and lesson plans, with a focus on game-based learning. (Toronto, Ontario CANADA)
● MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) premium content-as-a-service and access: Ace Learning Company, an institutional and publisher platform, as well as a direct-to-student marketing website powered by LearningAce.com. (Los Gatos, CA, U.S.A.)
● New student web services: ClassOwl, a social academic platform made by students for students, which provides a single planner that allows students to follow their classes and student groups in one place, created by a multidisciplinary team of Stanford University undergraduate students. (Palo Alto, California U.S.A.)
● Repurposing existing literature content into a new digital offering: ActivelyLearn™, an online e-reader that empowers teachers to reach students inside a digital text. (Seattle, Washington U.S.A.)
● Tool to identify student cheating: Full Stack Data Science – an analysis shop that specializes in natural language and text processing with big data and applied machine learning. (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.)
The fun has just begun, and we know there will be exciting developments along the way! Join us @PearsonLabs, #Catalyst for updates.
Diana Stepner is Head of Future Technologies at Pearson, one of the world’s leading learning companies, providing educational materials and services, business information through the Financial Times Group, and consumer publishing through the Penguin brand. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe, employing 48,000 people in more than 70 countries. Follow Diana on twitter at @dianas.