Interview: How ed-invent is putting Teachers at the Heart of Edtech

One of the fastest growing verticals in the education space besides MOOCs is probably the edtech incubator / accelerator. Those programs offer training and mentorship, sometimes office space and other perks, in return for some equity in the startup.

Lately, more and more of the established brands in the education space got into this space launching their own programs. Our supporter Macmillan Digital Education, a hybrid between incubator and investor, is one example, Pearson and Kaplan have both launched their initiatives just recently. Continue reading Interview: How ed-invent is putting Teachers at the Heart of Edtech

Is the European Commission about to kill Net Neutrality?

The latest draft of a proposal by the European Commission gets defenders of net neutrality up in arms. End of May Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, has sent out a tweet urging her followers to back her in defending #netneutrality


But according to the German blog that dug into the latest draft of a regulation that aims to

lay down measures to complete the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent

quite the opposite is the case. If the draft would pass as is in the European parliament and became a law, net neutrality as it is defined today would be dead in the European Union.

In case you are not familiar with the concept of net neutrality:

Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. (Wikipedia)

Under the proposed regulation Internet service providers could probably cut deals among themselves and also offer different data plans to their customers, treating services differently. For example French Internet provider Orange could throttle down the data packages of YouTube and deliver videos from Dailymotion (in which Orange has around 40% stake) faster. All of that would be OK, it just needed to be mentioned in the terms of service.

This way big brands like Google, Yahoo or Microsoft could cut a deal with Internet service providers to speed up their services, killing competition with faster results and quicker loading times which of course would make it very difficult for smaller competitors to gain traction. It is basically a death sentence for innovation as Tagesschau titled its report on the issue.

So instead of helping the consumer as proposed in the draft this regulation would eventually hurt us by making the Internet less competitive.

And it is bad for the education (startup) space as well. New trends like MOOCs are relying heavily on streamed videos or other bandwidth heavy features. With net neutrality down the drain Internet service providers could bully those kind of services into paying an extra fee, or else…

Interestingly we already see emerging partnerships of Internet service providers and education startups in which the products are bundled into the data plans. And under the proposed regulation this business model would be basically a must for education startups that plan to use a lot of bandwidth. A good way for Internet service providers to make money from both sides, the education provider paying for fast data delivery and the student paying for fast data reception. A real progress for the consumer and Europe as a whole.

Further reading:

Picture by click via Morguefile

More Investments in European MOOC Platforms to come?

In a press release last week the European Commission states that European Universities need to think global. With a new strategy named “European higher education in the world” the commission aims to prepare European students with the skills they need to work internationally and to attract more foreign students to study at one of the 4000 European universities.

According to the press release

… the number of higher education students in the world is expected to quadruple, from around 100 million in 2000 to 400 million in 2030, with particularly strong growth in Asia and Latin America. Europe currently attracts around 45% of all international students, but its competitors are rapidly increasing their investment in higher education. The largest providers of internationally mobile students are China, India and South Korea.

Besides promoting the long tradition of high quality education in Europe, the European Commission also believes that

… universities must also promote an international outlook among the 85% of students who are not mobile, so that they too acquire the international skills required in a globalised world. This means universities need to develop international curricula, promote language skills and expand digital learning.

To achieve these goals the European Commission is going to invest €400 million each year to support international student exchanges and increased cooperation between European universities and their partners worldwide.

This could of course lead to some significant investments in European MOOC platforms like iversity and FutureLearn which could help them to catch up with the heavily VC funded US-based competitors Coursera, Udacity and edX that all work on expanding their partner portfolio internationally.

Having the European Commission as investor would also give European MOOCs a strategic advantage in the way they operate. Other than VC backed MOOC platforms they would not need to focus too much on business models and revenue but could focus on pedagogy and partnerships.

On the other hand it is clear that MOOC platforms that are funded by VCs and run like tech startups are able to move faster as funding often comes faster and is attached to less restrictions which is of course an advantage for this kind of model.

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The Education Foundation’s Facebook Guide for Educators

One could argue that Facebook is the original social network for education when we look at how the company had started out originally. Nowadays, however, this role has clearly been taken by Twitter and vertical networks like Edmodo and others. Still, Facebook started as a social network for Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard fellows, and this means that up to today there is some education DNA left.

On the other hand, Facebook has built up a quite bad reputation when it comes to security and privacy. So how can teachers make use of the world’s largest social network and all of its tools and features in school without jeopardizing the students safety?

There have been projects like Inigral, an application for colleges and universities, to (re)turn Facebook into a more learning friendly environment but what about teachers and students who want to use the “plain” version of Facebook without extra apps?

And that’s where Ian Fordham and Ty Goddard, co-founders of the UK-based Education Foundation, come in. Together with Wellington College and the London Nautical School they did some deep research, testing and workshops at the Facebook HQ all of which have led to a free Facebook Guide for Educators.

The guide wants to show educators in schools, colleges and universities how to

  • support subject teaching across the curriculum
  • support out of school hours learning
  • encourage informal social learning
  • enable easy communication between students, teachers and parents
  • support the development of digital citizenship skills

Besides the obvious features that all of us use on Facebook, there are a lot of “hidden” gems that are often overlooked as they seem to target users coming from the corporate space, not education.

The guide explains how teachers can use Facebook in a number of ways, including how to run projects based around Timeline, set up Groups to share resources, create Events for exams and deadlines, and enable language students to speak to peers overseas. The guide also addresses ways to overcome the challenges of using Facebook in school environments, including confronting some educators’ cautiousness about social media’s potential as a learning tool.

If you want to have a deeper, practical look into how to make the most out of Facebook timeline with your own class, I recommend reading my article from September 2012 about an Amsterdam-based grammar school that set up various interesting Facebook timeline projects for the history classroom.

Though the Facebook Guide for Educators was developed based on experiences in the UK, it is of course useable for teachers across the globe. That is one great thing about social media, it is global and hence has a big potential to connect learners and teachers through the different platforms, Facebook is an example for that.

You can download the free Facebook Guide for Educators here and you should also take a look at all the other activities of The Education Foundation.

Cursopedia – Why European Clones are Inevitable

If you are writing about the global startup scene you often come across the notion that all of the innovation happens to take place in the US whereas Europe, especially Germany, is going to clone the successful concepts, build a local version and hope that one day the US company is going to acquire its European clone in order to get its foothold on the other side of the pond.

Continue reading Cursopedia – Why European Clones are Inevitable