For those who believe in the power of technology to transform education, there is a lot to like in the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released National Education Technology Plan. The report calls for states and districts to adopt high-quality openly-licensed educational materials, implement universal design principles, improve technology-based assessments, and much more—all very much needed in U.S. schools. However, missing from the report is a discussion about the barriers facing educational entrepreneurs as they try to bring these types of innovations to the classroom.
Over the course of the last year, as an education policy consultant and the chair of the Wharton Education Network, I’ve spoken with dozens of education entrepreneurs to try to better understand these barriers—and how smart government policies could make it easier for entrepreneurs to contribute to educational innovation.
What I’ve learned from that research, and from my own experience as an education entrepreneur, is that two types of barriers exist: "Supply Barriers," which prevent new organizations from launching, and "Demand Barriers," which prevent new organizations from growing to scale. Below is a breakdown of the most commonly cited barriers.
While the barriers to educational entrepreneurship are complex, the solutions don’t have to be. In fact, there are several actions we can take—particularly at the federal level—that could make a difference in reducing these barriers.
The 2016 National Education Technology Plan outlines a set of bold and exciting goals, but we as a nation will need all the help we can get to accomplish them. By understanding, and addressing the barriers faced by educational entrepreneurs, policymakers could play a powerful role in bringing those goals much closer to reality.