Beyond K-12: EdSurge’s Next Move

We started EdSurge in 2011 by focusing on K-12 education. This past March, we began broadening our coverage to include education beyond high school. Here’s what we’re doing and how we hope you can help.

EdSurge is all about exploring one fundamental question: How can learning be supported by technology? In 2011, our attention was riveted by the entrepreneurial activity surrounding students in grades K through 12. With an eye on improving students’ learning, we adopted a cheerful green banner and plunged into examining how entrepreneurs, teachers and administrators were beginning to collaborate.

The reason is simple: Learning doesn’t stop just because you turn 18. And the role that technology is playing in supporting learning for these students is growing.

Colleges and universities have been scrutinizing technology, for reasons both similar and dissimilar to K-12 educators, for decades. But societal changes rippling through higher ed have given those questions more urgency and power:

Early signs suggest that technology, smartly chosen and carefully implemented, can improve learners’ outcomes, lower costs and ease difficult transitions. Novel, online programs enable adult students to learn anytime, anywhere. “I’ll just pop open my laptop for an hour or so after the kids go to bed,” says one adult learner, working to complete her bachelor’s degree online with the ASU Global Freshman Academy. Zero-cost textbook degrees at Virginia's Tidewater Community College are decreasing the costs of a degree by 25 percent or more, while increasing success and retention. And a range of technologies such as NextGenVest, DREAMer’s Roadmap and Moneythink aim to help students make sense of their financing options, ensuring students take advantage of all aid opportunities and manage that money effectively.

Even as technology can help students, there are plenty of instances where it can also lead to dead ends: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) did not make it possible for anyone on the planet to get the equivalent of a Stanford University degree for free. Rush an implementation or misunderstand the needs and concerns of students and technology can make students’ lives worse. Udacity did not successfully help incoming freshman at San Jose State University overcome problems with algebra.

What we’ve learned through our immersion in the K-12 space is that cutting through jargon and hype, elevating a spectrum of voices and questions, and bringing people together to discuss and explore the implications of technology on learning can help. And that’s what we hope to do in higher education.

In March we launched a higher-ed newsletter, EdSurge Next, to begin sharing stories and voices. (Yes! Sign up here!) Behind the scenes, we convened a team—including people with experience in higher-ed teaching and administration, journalists and engineers—to think hard about how EdSurge could add value in higher ed. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this summer we launched the preliminary version of what we call the Digital Learning Network—a place that aims to link the scholars, practitioners, institutional leaders and entrepreneurs driving these changes. Because higher-ed students—the people at the core of learning—are too frequently left out of the conversation, we debuted EdSurge Independent, a student-led place for discussion and learning.

Most important, we’re doing a lot of listening. Through user research and reporting on stories, we have interviewed hundreds of faculty, administrators, students, entrepreneurs and policy makers, attended convenings and conferences, facilitated more than a dozen workshops, and started to immerse ourselves in the higher-ed ecosystem.

And we’re just getting started. Here’s what you can expect to see from us—and where we hope to involve you.

Stories, stories, stories: We are keen to share the stories of the people leading these conversations in higher-ed institutions. They wear many hats, such as vice provost of digital learning, instructional designer, director of academic technology and VP of innovation. We’re excited about reporting on the majority of learners, namely “nontraditional” learners, many of whom attend community colleges or are working on credentials from places far from the Ivy League halls. And we’re eager to share stories by those in the field—from students to educators and administrators—people whose voices too often go unheard. Want to write? Join our next EdSurge Independent cohort? Let us know here.

Products: Our current Edtech Index catalogues mostly products designed for the K-12 community. By creating a Higher Ed product index, we get a chance to rethink how to build a collection that can support decision makers in higher ed who are seeking the right tools for their context. We’ve launched with an initial focus on digital courseware, emerging software that enables fully online or blended learning experiences. We will start adding more products in the days ahead and expanding to other product categories in the near future. We invite you to suggest products to add here.

Networks: The beta of our Digital Learning Network aims to link scholars, practitioners, institutional leaders and entrepreneurs driving change at their institutions and companies. So far, we’ve engaged in Twitter chatswebinars and in-person convenings. Expect to see a more robust iteration of the Digital Learning Network in October. And sign up here if you’re interested in emerging Digital Learning Network opportunities.

Our goal at EdSurge, and by extension EdSurge Higher Ed, is to make the assumptions behind education technology transparent. To provide objective, independent information and stories about how products work or don’t, and in what context. To tell stories about how edtech can support a broader transformation in institutions and in the higher-ed system. And ultimately, to help institutions find, select and use the right technology for their context. For their pedagogy. For the values and outcomes that most matter to them.

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