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4 characteristics of a good ed tech investment

Thanks to savvy advice from technology investors, here's why some innovations succeed, why some fail, and what the higher-ed market should expect in the near future.

Forget MOOCS, say technology investors. What higher education institutions should invest in are personalized learning platforms that provide simple data on outcomes.

This was the main take-away from a panel hosted by the National Education Association (NEA) on investing in education.

According to investors, one of whom was once approached by a young Steve Jobs, investing in ed tech first means understanding its place in the overall market.

“The last major technology innovation that truly disrupted the higher education model was the lecture, and that happened in medieval times,” said Daniel Pianko, a partner at University Ventures. “Innovation in higher education moves slowly.”

“There’s only one company worth more than a billion dollars right now in education, and that’s Blackboard,” said Donn Davis, founder and partner of Revolution Growth. “Education is the second largest sector but it has the least innovation when it comes to the companies associated with it.”

However, after lamenting the up-until-now state of things, all investors part of the panel agreed that the market is about to change for education and its technology, due to two major reasons: the economy and global interest.

“Technology does two things,” explained Davis, “it makes things cheaper and it makes things better. And like no other time before, thanks to unsustainable high tuition rates and a lack of public faith in the power of traditional higher education, institutions will need to rely on innovative technology to make their ‘product’ cheaper and better.”

“Disruption only happens when others know it exists,” continued Pianko. “Because of the growing global interest in higher education, not only are incoming and current students demanding access to technologies on an incredible scale, but institutions need to become the best at what they offer to remain competitive—technology can help reach those goals.”

However, it’s not enough to provide technology, institutions need to know what they should invest in for success.

(Next page: 4 characteristics of a good investment)