At the Founders conference in New York on Friday, author David Kirkpatrick asked the founders of startups Knewton, Codecademy, Skillshare, Kno and DimensionU, “Is anyone on this panel even close to making money?”
When no one piped up, he added, “I didn’t think so.”
However, given Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s projections that half of North American higher education will move online in the next ten years, followed by a significant portion of k-12 education a few years later, Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira said the margin creation opportunity is going to be “ridiculous.” As colleges and school districts increasingly adopt digital resources and course materials companies like Knewton, Kno and others have an opportunity to help provide the content.
The group also talked about the changing role of the traditional classroom teacher as students increasingly learn from virtual teachers, non-institutional teachers, games, software and potentially robots.
“[Technology] enfranchises everyone to become an educator,” said Codecademy co-founder Zach Sims. “[That] creates an interesting predicament for [traditional] teachers.” Since opening its platform all kinds of content creators in January, Codecademy has seen significant interest from people interested in teaching, he said. (As we recently reported, online class platform Udemy has even enabled some online teachers to draw six-figure checks from their online courses.)
Sims and DimensionU founder and CEO NT Etuk said they expect teachers to become more like facilitators of learning than distributors of information. In an ideal classroom (even without technology), teachers should be more than vehicles for passing along information, but as more schools adopt blended learning programs and incorporate online classes, teachers will have little choice but to rethink traditional roles.
Still, while innovation is creeping into the traditional classroom, Sims said, “most people innovating are doing it outside of the system ”
Skillshare CEO Michael Karnjanaprakorn said that as his company and others challenge the current models of education with platforms that enable all kinds of people to teach, “you’ll start to see a redefinition of what education means.”