Last month, EducPros and Prime organized an immersion program in NY and Boston for 20 French education executives from universities, engineering and business schools, and training organizations.

The 1-week program was an opportunity for the group to exchange with leaders from Ivy-League universities, Ed-tech startups as well as high tech companies to discuss how universities are being reinvented and how new technologies are transforming education.

According to Katharine Frase – VP & CTO at IBM Public Sector – “digitization is transforming education in the same way that it has transformed the media, retail, banking, and entertainment industries.” The rapid digitization of the education industry and the emergence of adaptive learning and cognitive systems are also happening in parallel. These concepts, as well as personalized classrooms will motivate and engage learners at all levels from  kindergarten students to PhD candidates.

The rise of the smart classroom and adaptive learning

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have made educational content widely available to anyone with an internet connection. Their publishers are also making the content more engaging and adaptive for classroom use, while mobile devices make it possible to learn anytime and anywhere. All of this digital education creates a tremendous amount of data about all aspects of teaching and learning. And it’s not only test scores, but also information about student behavior on digital learning platforms, attendance, and more.

With EdX – the massive open online course provider and online learning platform – teachers can now learn more about the students who enroll in their course by exploring their answers, initial assessments, surveys, and other questions that do not count toward the course grade. EdX Insights includes charts and reports of student performance on both graded and ungraded questions. EdX delivers about 500 free courses from numerous institutions, including MIT and Harvard and is now working with a division of wireless technology company Qualcomm to sort out the educator’s “mobile first” strategy. The two organizations hope to advance the capabilities of EdX’s massive open online course platform to work better on mobile devices.

Personalized learning is on the rise, and digitization makes it possible at scale. Knewton, an edtech startup founded in 2008 by Jose Ferreira, a former executive at Kaplan, Inc, has for mission to bring personalized learning to the world. Their engine analyzes student activity to recommend the best content and evaluate progress by:

  • Modeling and analyzing how different students learn.
  • Figuring out which materials and lessons are most effective
  • Empowering teachers with data about how students are performing

Knewton’s adaptive engine is embedded within learning applications to deliver the right piece of content at the right time for each learner – and actionable data about student progress, proficiency, and engagement.

Voxy, another edtech startup in NY launched a web-based English eLearning platform providing institutions with an adaptive, dynamic curriculum and personalized instruction.  Voxy is built on the principles of task-based language learning, and tailors every single course based on learners’ daily performance, proficiency levels, personal goals, and interests. The Voxy curriculum uses authentic content that is relevant to learners, including up-to-date news articles from leading publishers, English songs, videos of people accomplishing daily tasks, and audio recordings of real-life situations.

Data and cognitive systems provide decision support for teachers

Higher education classrooms have been focused on a one-to-many interaction between a teacher and a group of students. All students receive the same material from a teacher in a lecture setting because individual attention for 30 or more is nearly impossible. The classroom of the future will shift from a one-size-fits-all model to a truly personalized environment. IBM envisions educational institutions adopting cloud-based cognitive systems to collect and analyze all of this data over a long period of time — creating longitudinal student records that would give teachers the information they need to provide personalized learning experiences for their students. These systems would also help teachers identify students who are most at risk, why they are struggling, as well as insight into the interventions needed to overcome those challenges. The system could also couple a student’s goals and interests with data on their learning styles so that teachers can determine what type of content to give the student, and the best way to present it.

“The potential of new technologies is presenting higher education with a historic opportunity: the opportunity to better serve society by reinventing what we do and how we do it.”

MIT President L. Rafael Reif, 2012

Higher Education institutions are also challenged to deliver an exceptional student experience, while increasing recruitment and improving student retention and performance. 

The key issues include:

  • Reputation – Increasing brand awareness, value for money and reputation.
  • Recruitment – Increasing new education markets.
  • Retention – Increasing student attainment, success and graduation rates.

Brand awareness  – Digital Strategy at Harvard University

“We educate leaders who make a difference in the world”

When Perry Hewitt joined Harvard University as Chief Digital Officer in 2009, she was handed a brand with a lot of value and recognition, not to mention centuries of history. She was tasked with making Harvard’s brand “warm, friendly and accessible” in the digital space—knowing at the same time that because of Harvard’s academic exclusivity, the brand “would need to be both accessible and inaccessible.”  To leverage Harvard’s existing brand clout, they focused on two pivotal pillars of change for the university and its news:

  • Re-imagining the news platform: From static destination to active syndication.

Perry and her team helped lead the thinking of Harvard’s leaders and stakeholders from being completely in control of all its messaging, to a point where it relinquished some control so as to have more influence on digital conversations.

  • Getting social: Aggregated, coordinated, shareable (and true) content.

Perry focused on bringing together types of content users and readers might want to share (like beautiful campus photographs) as well as content consumers might not know they’d find relatable and relevant (like hand-written notes, discovered in Harvard’s archives, by T.S. Eliot proposing a magazine he wanted to publish).

New education markets:  International partnerships with institutions and corporates are increasing

Alliance is a non-profit transatlantic joint-venture between Columbia University and three prestigious French institutions: the École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University. Every year, around 300 students benefit from a range of 20 international dual degrees and joint programs in all disciplines, including Law, Political Science, Regional studies, Art History, Curatorial studies, International and Public Affairs, Sustainable Development, Journalism and Engineering. Dual degree programs are offered to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from all over the world.

Nearly half of Harvard Business School faculty and more than 70% of participants come from outside the U.S.  HBS works closely with companies from all over the world to provide executive development solutions (Executive learning; Leadership development; Succession planning; Talent management.).More than 65% of custom programs are delivered for organizations headquartered outside the U.S.

MIT has fostered a problem-solving approach that encourages researchers and Industry to work together across departments, fields, and institutional boundaries. Currently, approximately 800 companies are working with faculty and students both in Institute-wide programs such as the Industrial Liaison Program and the MIT Energy Initiative, and in smaller collaborations. Part of the Office of Corporate Relations, the Industrial Liaison Program is the largest conduit between corporations and MIT. More than 200 companies partner with the program to improve their access to MIT and advance their research agendas.

Digital Technologies for global and residential students

This is the mission of the Office of Digital learning at MIT – To transform teaching and learning on campus and around the globe through the innovative use of digital technologies.

MIT now shares its educational programs with the world through MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx.

The idea is simple: to publish all of their course materials online and make them widely available to everyone. The OpenCourseware materials are from 2,200 MIT courses and many include audio/video lectures. There is also a collection of introductory MIT courses and resources for high school students and teachers.

Since 2003 MIT OpenCourseWare has reached 200 Million individuals worldwide.

 MIT campus

“We hope that in sharing MIT’s course materials, we will inspire other institutions to openly share their course materials, creating a worldwide web of knowledge that will benefit mankind.” – Former MIT President Charles M. Vest, 2002

In addition to OpenCourseWare, MITx offers online courses to its students based on the MIT curriculum. It includes sophisticated assessments, computer grading, rapid feedback for students and short videos with interleaved exercises.

Nearly 50% of MIT undergrads are using the Residential MITx platform in Spring 2015. MITx offers students rapid feedback on their understanding, enables more active learning time in MIT classrooms, and provides more flexibility in course delivery.

Harvard Business School has also gone digital with three educational components through the HBX initiative launched in June 2014:

  • HBX CORE (Credential of Readiness) is a 10-week program that teaches the fundamentals of business and results in a Credential issued by HBX and Harvard Business School.
  • HBX COURSES explore specific topics presented by Harvard Business School faculty.
  • HBX LIVE is a virtual classroom offered in a studio setting where participants can convene and exchange ideas.

Overall, Educational Technology industry is  growing very rapidly.  The classrooms of tomorrow will continuously analyze how the student is learning, figure out his or her strengths and weaknesses, and accordingly adapt teaching content to optimize for most effective and efficient learning.  Universities will need:

  • A better way to capture the minds of current (and prospective) students
  • A deeper understanding of each learner and their needs
  • Optimization of all the content and resources of the institution
  • Real time assessment of how each student is performing
  • An assurance that when they graduate, they are ready for jobs

Full program on