October 24th, 2013 Future of Education #3: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities in EdTech


On October 24th, 2013, OLC covered the panel event, “Future of Education #3: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities in EdTech” hosted and sponsored by 4.0 Schools. The attending panelists were Jeremy Johnson, Founder of 2U, Preeti Birla from the Office of Innovation at the NYC DOE, Brian Fitzgerald, VP of Product at Knewton, and Jeremy Friedman, Co-Founder & CEO Schoology.  


The panel was moderated by Ki Mae Heussner, Staff Writer at GigaOM. 

The event started with an introduction of each panelist and their respective companies.


Jeremy Friedman was the first to introduce himself as the Co-founder and CEO of Schoology. Friedman described Schoology as an organization that combines dynamic course management, an easy-to-use collaborative interface, and next-generation API integration into one innovative learning management solution. This is in order to facilitate easier with more than three million users in over 40,000 K-12 schools and universities around the world—


Jeremy Johnson was the next panelist to introduce himself as the Founder of 2U. According to Johnson, 2U revolutionizes higher education by developing the world’s best online educational experiences in partnership with leading universities. The organization was founded in 2008 by a team of education veterans and it provides universities with the technology, infrastructural support and capital they need to transform on-campus programs into state-of-the-art web-based programs.


Nexy, Preeti Birla introduced Innovate NYC Schools as a federally-funded arm of the NYC Department of Education. Innovate NYC schools connects developers and educators to accelerate the identification, piloting and evaluation of promising EdTech solutions.


And finally, Brian Fitzgerald introduced himself as the VP of Product at Knewton. Knewton, according to Fitzgerald is the world’s leading adaptive learning company since it partners with pioneering learning companies, publishers, content providers, and educational institutions to enable personalization at massive scale.

After the introductions, Ki Mae Heussner asked the question, “What are some of the biggest challenges to Edtech?”

One of the biggest challenges to Edtech, according to Jeremy Friedman, is privacy. Data collecting is absolutely crucial to the development and progression of Edtech because data is what enables Edtech to personalize, customize, and evaluate teaching and learning methodologies in the classroom. However, since local governments and different countries have their own set of privacy laws, it can prove to be very difficult for companies to collect data on students.

Friedman also listed another challenge to Edtech which is system and data integration. Various schools have various different levels of technological infrastructure that can either successfully integrate Edtech systems and data into their curriculum or unsuccessfully implement Edtech into their curriculums due to the lack the necessary skills, tools, and/or resources.

And finally another big challenge to Edtech, according to Jeremy Johnson, are the misconceptions that arise in education technology and its relation to traditional methods of teaching. Academics in higher institutions are often distrustful of educational technologies explained Johnson because they assume Edtech to be comprised of highly unreliable MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) or unaccredited “correspondent” courses.

After this question, Ki Mae Heussner asked the question, “What are the trends or coming trends in Edtech?”

For Brian Fitzgerald, one of the biggest trends for the foreseeable future is the implementation of content online. The problem with the online content in the past, such as MOOC’s, is that it falls under the paradigm of one size fit all. By sticking with teaching methods that provides no distinctions with the needs of various different schools or even grade levels, education technology in the past didn’t improve student learning. However, the trends are changing according to Fitzgerald as the transference of content onto the internet is now being personalized to fit the variety needs that arise in the totality of education.

All of the presenters agreed with Brian but Preeti Birla concluded the panel by adding that integration is an also important trend in Edtech. For Birla, the more “choices that a student or faculty has in choosing the appropriate technological tools for their educational needs will drive better learning.