Edtech Business

Columbia's EdLab Offers Forum for Startups

By Elizabeth Woyke     Dec 6, 2012

Columbia's EdLab Offers Forum for Startups

New York City is hometo thousands of teachers, dozens of edtech start-ups and a handful of graduateeducation programs. Yet, in spite of their common interests, the groups don't alwayscommunicate. Now one organization, based at Columbia University's TeachersCollege, is kick-starting a dialogue.

Called EdLab, the organization is Teachers College'stechnology research unit. Founded in 2004 to develop software tools forTeachers College faculty and students, EdLab has lately been expanding beyondColumbia to play a more public role in New York's edtech community.

EdLab's new role wasclear Tuesday night as the organization hosted its first start-up Demo Night.About 100 people trekked uptown to Columbia's campus to hear three local edtechstart-ups (Amphetomobile, BiblioNasiumand Late Nite Labs) discuss their products and answer questions. The mix of faculty, students, teachersand entrepreneurs represented a more diverse crowd than the business types whotypically attend New York edtech Meetups and networking events.

EdLab plans to hostDemo Nights quarterly. "We want to help promote things and spread theword," explains Hui Soo Chae, EdLab's director of development andresearch. "Someone has to get the accelerators, incubators and VCs workingtogether to support and develop the edtech space."

Adam Aronson, who helps lead the NY EdTech Meetup agrees. Aronson's Meetup boasts 1,220members but he still sees a need for an organization like EdLab. "EdLab's tie to the universitybrings out a lot of folks who otherwise might not get involved," he notes."These intersections between the edtech and Columbia communities could bevery beneficial."

Outside of events,EdLab is connecting these communities through its products and services. Thoughit initially only created tools for Teachers College, EdLab has opened up manyof its recent products. Currently, anyone can access:

  • New Learning Times: EdLab's education news site. Written by EdLabstaffers, NLT soft-launched in September and will officially launch in January2013; 
  • Research Broker: an online tool that matches academicresearchers with corporate research projects and jobs;
  • Survey Sidekick:an online platform that both designs surveys and coaches users on the mosteffective ways to write them. Currently in beta, Survey Sidekick is expectedto fully launch in the coming weeks;
  • Vialogues: avideo-hosting site that facilitates group discussions via time-synched commentsand quick polls and surveys.

Some of the onlinecurricula EdLab designs on a consulting basis for external organizations arefreely available, as well:

EdLab still developsproducts to Teachers College specifications but now takes a longer view. "Wewant to supportboth the College and the broader educational landscape," says Chae.

To stimulate NewYork's edtech community, EdLab is considering establishing an edtechaccelerator that would be an East Coast response to California's Imagine K12.  First, however, EdLab has to figure out how tobankroll big projects while supporting its 40 full and part-time employees. Incontrast to, say, MIT's Media Lab, which is an accreditedprogram, EdLab is considered part of the Teachers College library departmentand operates on a smaller budget. "We're still building up an audience butthese projects do need to be self-sustaining," admits EdLab's ChiefStrategy Officer Michelle Lee. "Monetization is on the roadmap." Optionsinclude spinning off popular services and inserting ads into EdLab sites.

Also planned for2013: new products such as a social learning platform, outreach events and morealliances with educational publishers and start-ups. "We're branchingout," says Lee. "We realized there are a lot of relationships we canbuild."

Start-ups seem tovalue EdLab's hybrid nature. "Coming here is an opportunity to talk toteachers and people who want to be teachers," says Ovi Jacobs, chiefoperating officer of New York-based Late Nite Labs. "And teacher feedbackis so much more valuable to us than other kinds of feedback."

About Me

Elizabeth Woyke is a technology and business reporter. She has a strong interest in edtech and the New York tech community. In addition to EdSurge, she writes for Fast Company, Inc. and Money. Be sure to check out her EdSurge exclusive on New York's iZone360 initiative.

Edtech Business

Columbia's EdLab Offers Forum for Startups

By Elizabeth Woyke     Dec 6, 2012

Columbia's EdLab Offers Forum for Startups

New York City is hometo thousands of teachers, dozens of edtech start-ups and a handful of graduateeducation programs. Yet, in spite of their common interests, the groups don't alwayscommunicate. Now one organization, based at Columbia University's TeachersCollege, is kick-starting a dialogue.

Called EdLab, the organization is Teachers College'stechnology research unit. Founded in 2004 to develop software tools forTeachers College faculty and students, EdLab has lately been expanding beyondColumbia to play a more public role in New York's edtech community.

EdLab's new role wasclear Tuesday night as the organization hosted its first start-up Demo Night.About 100 people trekked uptown to Columbia's campus to hear three local edtechstart-ups (Amphetomobile, BiblioNasiumand Late Nite Labs) discuss their products and answer questions. The mix of faculty, students, teachersand entrepreneurs represented a more diverse crowd than the business types whotypically attend New York edtech Meetups and networking events.

EdLab plans to hostDemo Nights quarterly. "We want to help promote things and spread theword," explains Hui Soo Chae, EdLab's director of development andresearch. "Someone has to get the accelerators, incubators and VCs workingtogether to support and develop the edtech space."

Adam Aronson, who helps lead the NY EdTech Meetup agrees. Aronson's Meetup boasts 1,220members but he still sees a need for an organization like EdLab. "EdLab's tie to the universitybrings out a lot of folks who otherwise might not get involved," he notes."These intersections between the edtech and Columbia communities could bevery beneficial."

Outside of events,EdLab is connecting these communities through its products and services. Thoughit initially only created tools for Teachers College, EdLab has opened up manyof its recent products. Currently, anyone can access:

  • New Learning Times: EdLab's education news site. Written by EdLabstaffers, NLT soft-launched in September and will officially launch in January2013; 
  • Research Broker: an online tool that matches academicresearchers with corporate research projects and jobs;
  • Survey Sidekick:an online platform that both designs surveys and coaches users on the mosteffective ways to write them. Currently in beta, Survey Sidekick is expectedto fully launch in the coming weeks;
  • Vialogues: avideo-hosting site that facilitates group discussions via time-synched commentsand quick polls and surveys.

Some of the onlinecurricula EdLab designs on a consulting basis for external organizations arefreely available, as well:

EdLab still developsproducts to Teachers College specifications but now takes a longer view. "Wewant to supportboth the College and the broader educational landscape," says Chae.

To stimulate NewYork's edtech community, EdLab is considering establishing an edtechaccelerator that would be an East Coast response to California's Imagine K12.  First, however, EdLab has to figure out how tobankroll big projects while supporting its 40 full and part-time employees. Incontrast to, say, MIT's Media Lab, which is an accreditedprogram, EdLab is considered part of the Teachers College library departmentand operates on a smaller budget. "We're still building up an audience butthese projects do need to be self-sustaining," admits EdLab's ChiefStrategy Officer Michelle Lee. "Monetization is on the roadmap." Optionsinclude spinning off popular services and inserting ads into EdLab sites.

Also planned for2013: new products such as a social learning platform, outreach events and morealliances with educational publishers and start-ups. "We're branchingout," says Lee. "We realized there are a lot of relationships we canbuild."

Start-ups seem tovalue EdLab's hybrid nature. "Coming here is an opportunity to talk toteachers and people who want to be teachers," says Ovi Jacobs, chiefoperating officer of New York-based Late Nite Labs. "And teacher feedbackis so much more valuable to us than other kinds of feedback."

About Me

Elizabeth Woyke is a technology and business reporter. She has a strong interest in edtech and the New York tech community. In addition to EdSurge, she writes for Fast Company, Inc. and Money. Be sure to check out her EdSurge exclusive on New York's iZone360 initiative.

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