The Next Stage for EdSurge Concierge

column | Startups

The Next Stage for EdSurge Concierge

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist) and Leonard Medlock     May 24, 2017

The Next Stage for EdSurge Concierge

Over the past 24 months, the Concierge team at EdSurge has listened to more than 180 school and district administrators seeking new edtech tools. We’ve taken notes, created need profiles for more than 200 instructional problems and matched those needs with more than 450 unique products from the EdSurge Index. At the same time, with support from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, we have worked steadily on a research project testing the idea of an online diagnostic tool.

Now it's time to move to the next stage.

Starting on June 1, EdSurge Concierge will no longer offer free, phone-based diagnostics to school and district administrators, nor will we make direct connections between administrators and company representatives.

Instead of those calls, we intend to expand the number and types of digital diagnostic tools that we make available online. We're also pleased to say that we recently were awarded the second phase of an SBIR grant from the Department of Education. That means that Concierge is shifting resources to make sure that our product data reflects the instructional and technical attributes that are most important to teachers and administrators.

These efforts will help EdSurge sustain its mission to help schools and colleges find, select, and use the right technology to support all learners.

While this shift falls short of Concierge’s original vision of providing just-in-time human touch points throughout the edtech decision-making process, the Concierge team is proud of the learning experiences gained from our close work with administrators in public, charter, private and international schools. We are also excited to apply these learnings to EdSurge’s editorial efforts, R&D artifacts, Index updates and national conference programming, Fusion. (See here for more details.)

EdSurge has always been focused on understanding the story—it’s in our journalistic roots. Concierge was built on our belief in the power of capturing the story of administrators’ edtech challenges—and capturing a good story, of course, involves a lot of people! Despite growing 200% year-over-year at the end of Q1 2017, the Concierge service was unable to reach the volume required to cover the cost of delivering phone-based diagnostics.

The spirit of Concierge remains strong: We continue to explore ways to improve our information resources and deliver the value of Concierge in a more on-demand way.

How was Concierge successful?

In addition to the 180 school and district administrators who were able to make edtech decisions in alignment with their teaching and learning approaches, there were dozens of administrators who came to Concierge and were able to understand how technology was NOT the solution to their instructional problems.

The SBIR Phase I grant from the Department of Education enabled us to create a beta version of our digital diagnostic for Learning Management Systems—something that we’re aiming to roll out more broadly in the future. We also delivered an extension program for Future Ready Schools that includes an edtech audit—a simple survey tool built upon our EdSurge Index—on top of the Concierge service. And we published the Edtech Selection Playbook, a collection of personalized learning research, observations and processes, freely available to the public.

There were also a number of quiet wins. We facilitated over a thousand feedback items from administrators to company representatives, several of which led to direct product improvements or more transparent product marketing. And through our Concierge Premier service, we helped over 1,200 classroom practitioners identify nearly 1,000 edtech tools, connect with other teachers in their districts using similar tools, and send a clear message to their administrators on which tools do and don’t work.

What does this mean moving forward?

The dozens of thank you notes and scores of endorsements received from education leaders and company representatives using Concierge have solidified our belief that sound edtech decisions are made when educators articulate their instructional needs.

EdSurge is applying this philosophy to develop assets that help administrators discover and select edtech tools. That begins with an ambitious project to rethink the way products are represented in the Index and continues with end-user tools that help educators make sense of their instructional problems and which edtech tools might solve them.

When does the current service end?

The phone-based version of the Concierge service is no longer available effective June 1st. We are honoring all commitments to administrators who scheduled diagnostics before June 1st (to coincide with the end of 2016-17 school year) and will continue work supporting our Concierge state and district partners.

What about all of the Concierge data?

All Concierge school, district and company stakeholders will receive a copy of all data collected through the Concierge phone-based diagnostic and online proposal system. EdSurge will aggregate non-personally identifiable information (PII), such as technical requirements, to make informed decisions about our product database and other R&D projects. Disaggregated data (including PII) will not be shared with the EdSurge editorial team or third parties without explicit consent.

What if I am a school administrator or organization looking for support?

What if I am a company representative looking to engage with EdSurge?

We have enjoyed the conversations and direct engagements with so many thoughtful educators over these past months. Having direct conversations will always be core to great product development—as well as great journalism. We're still eager to continue the conversation and so look forward to talking with you in the future!

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

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