“Help teachers support students.” Many software providers in the ed-tech space have impactful statements like this at the forefront of their mission. But staying true to a mission-driven value proposition is not always easy.
Luckily for ed-tech providers, adopting interoperability means that living your mission and operating a successful business do not have to be at odds with one another. Finding ways to be competitive will only improve ed-tech products — to the benefit of students, teachers, and of course, the providers themselves.
Why Disparate Datasets Hurt Everyone, Especially Students
Even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, there was a growing reliance on technology and digital tools within the education space. COVID-19 merely exacerbated existing issues, such as fragmented ed-tech software, and transformed data standards and interoperability from “nice to have” to “must have” overnight.
The need for seamless and secure transmission of data across systems is (and remains) enormous and urgent. Every key player across the education ecosystem — from districts and teachers to students and parents — is relying on integrated software to help them navigate these waters.
To that end, ed-tech software providers must make interoperability a top priority to remain competitive, profitable, and mission-driven.
#1: Interoperability Makes You a Stronger Technology Partner
As an ed-tech software provider, it might be helpful to think of yourself as a technology partner versus a technology vendor. While the latter provides solutions that enable districts to gather data, a technology partner is committed to helping customers achieve their data vision: how districts plan to leverage their data across various systems to make improvements in serving every learner and supporting every educator.
Technology providers like PowerSchool offer their customers the ability to unify data through standards-based interoperability. As a result, they’re also more likely to help a customer attain their data vision and thus be seen as a true partner supporting a district’s mission — not just a vendor looking to further its business.
#2: Interoperability Helps You Successfully Navigate an Evolving Education Landscape
While achieving interoperability isn’t necessarily the at the top of every ed-tech provider’s “to-do” list, the pandemic, and the resulting impact it has had across education, underscored the urgency in prioritizing it to stay competitive and keep business afloat.
The truth is, it’s unlikely that education as a whole will ever return to its pre-pandemic ways. Learning models will continue to be a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction, meaning the volume of data being collected through software will only increase. Ensuring that districts can easily and efficiently integrate multiple systems to support their education strategy/plan is paramount, particularly as student assessment results and state reporting continue to roll in, pile up, and present data-tracking pain points for districts.
#3: Interoperability is a Strategic, Forward-Thinking Business Strategy
In the years since COVID-19 first became part of our lives, software providers are combining their powers for good by merging and expanding upon their ed-tech services. Similarly, conglomerates are acquiring more companies and consolidating in order to offer a one-stop-shop suite of services.
In both scenarios, interoperability is essential for success. Merging products means enabling data to integrate across systems in a smooth and efficient way. And for conglomerates, creating a fully compatible ecosystem for an easy user experience is a top priority. If multiple tools are eventually going to live under the same roof, interoperability effectively increases the sale price of an ed-tech software provider, as it’s already primed for integration and ready to get to work.
Technology providers that adopt a data standard and achieve interoperability, like Infinite Campus and Aeries, who both provide student information systems to the education space, become a more lucrative partner/investment option compared to competitors that don’t.
Final Thoughts: Interoperability is the Rule, Not the Exception — and It’s Here to Stay
At this stage, every business across every industry has realized that affording customers the ability to share data seamlessly must be the rule, not the exception.
If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us that integration is an inevitable necessity to move forward, and that to be successful in the future, we must change how we think about interoperability.
For ed-tech software providers specifically, interoperability is a way to help school districts measure what they want — not what they’re already measuring. It’s a way to deepen the role ed-tech plays in the larger education ecosystem, build ongoing and positive customer partnerships, and increase competitive equality. It’s a way to prime your business for success without ever losing sight of the mission: Help teachers. Help students. Improve education.
Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.
As new technology emerged, educators saw the introduction of Education 2.0. Professors and teachers could now take advantage of electricity and lights to provide a better experience in the classroom. Once laptops started becoming available to more of the population, they began the phase of Education 3.0. This meant educators could use the wealth of the internet to show material and ask students to find their own.
Currently, education is entering the stage of Education 4.0. What does this mean for teaching and how can educators use it to benefit their students? Here is a look at what this new era of education can bring.
How Can Education 4.0 Help Students?
Education 4.0 relates to the dawning of the fourth industrial revolution. The production of technology like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 3D printing is increasing, making it more available to the average consumer. Progressive digital devices are becoming more prominent in people’s lives worldwide — and education is no outlier.
Many students now are interested in a different way of learning. As education costs rise, nearly 70% of adults want alternate options for credits. The pandemic created a need for people to learn outside of the traditional classroom and Education 4.0 could do that for them. Busy students could learn anytime and anywhere, increasing accessibility for many.
Continued learning for adults has many benefits for them and society. Research has shown lifelong education can postpone a person’s symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. They’ll also continue to communicate with people of all backgrounds and further their careers. Being able to utilize technology like AI and virtual reality will change how curriculums form and make experiments more accessible.
Recent Education 4.0 Trends
With new technology comes new chances to improve the lives of students. Here are just a few advancements education could see by implementing Education 4.0.
1. Virtual Reality for Education
Imagine if you could stand in ancient Rome during class or perform a dangerous experiment without the consequences. This is what utilizing VR in the classroom can do for students.
By making lessons more interactive, students could likely show greater rates of retention and focus. Additionally, they’ll be able to learn more because they’ll have more access to information that was previously out of reach.
Infosec Institute, a leading cybersecurity education provider, today announced free cyber education resources to help organizations and employees level up their cybersecurity during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) and beyond.
Hosted every October by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), NCSAM aims to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and provide resources for individuals to be secure online.
In support of this initiative, Infosec is providing a comprehensive security awareness and training toolkit, featuring:
A training module for employees of all levels
An employee assessment to help identify security awareness training needs
Four posters, newsletter and email templates focused on key security behaviors
An NCSAM-themed screensaver to educate learners on data breaches that happened this year
An employee presentation about the program and targeted behaviors
“For organizations and individuals everywhere, securing data and systems is no game. As the threat landscape grows, education and training must grow to meet it,” said Jim Chilton, Infosec General Manager. “National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is an opportunity to build excitement and momentum within organizations around cyber education that employees can use to protect themselves at work and home. Infosec is pleased to offer these free resources to make training accessible and engaging for everyone.”
As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month approaches, Infosec will release additional complementary resources for use by organizations, including a hands-on skills challenge, a training webinar for security awareness administrators, and discounts on instructor-led boot camps. All Infosec NCSAM resources are powered by the award-winning Infosec IQ and Infosec Skills security education platforms.Infosec IQ security awareness and training empowers employees with the knowledge and skills to stay cyber-secure at work and home with over 2,000 awareness and training resources.Infosec Skills helps cyber professionals upskill and get certified with unlimited access to 1,200+ hands-on cybersecurity courses, labs and cyber ranges.
The adaptation to the “new normal” in education pushed schools and other learning facilities to evolve and transform their classrooms into hybrid environments. This allowed faculty to instruct students on campus and online at the same time to meet their curriculum and complete their teaching calendar periods on time.
The main benefit of virtual classroom solutions is that by facilitating collaboration and synchronous learning – allowing active participation and interaction with the teacher in real-time – they create a learning environment that is most analogous to a physical classroom.
However, teachers were exposed to technology and methodologies that were not part of their daily routine or that they may not have experienced before, so their learning curve to comply with this adaptation had to be rapidly enforced. In addition, more online content creation spaces were needed, and physical lab spaces were compelled to be virtualized. At the same time, education providers needed to balance these hybrid learning setups with new forms of live or asynchronous learning and content delivery methods to avoid hybrid fatigue.
These opportunities for smart classrooms presented challenges that solution providers needed to overcome as well. For example, solutions must integrate and work seamlessly with diverse Professional AV (Pro AV) equipment, multimedia devices, and control systems in existing classrooms. These solutions must be easily implementable yet scalable and present protection against cyber threats as more classes move to an online platform. Also, the delivery of content should be dependable and accurate. These solutions should focus on the student experience, offering collaborative functions so interactivity can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes.
Schools have started to look at technology that may have been only seen just for corporate or even government applications only. As interactive multimedia classrooms become more popular, there is an increase in the kinds of devices being used in these hybrid environments. More content needs to be displayed, and this will see both more displays in total and an increase in the ways that displays are utilized. Livestreaming and broadcasting are now essential elements of the hybrid classroom, especially in PBL (project-based learning) scenarios. Video signal transmissions need to be bidirectional for fully interactive learning.
By Christopher Hills, chief security strategist, BeyondTrust.
While cyber insurance is intended to provide consumers peace of mind, in recent years it has become a complex and strenuous process. As a result of the shift to hybrid or remote environments, many organizations were forced to expedite their digital transformation initiatives to continue functioning. For higher education institutions, seismic changes were needed to allow their students and faculty to connect, and to enable remote learning.
Unfortunately, the sweeping migration to digital services and remote learning presented an opportunity for bad actors and cyber criminals by broadening attack surfaces. These bad actors have realized how to capitalize on organizations or higher education institutions that lack security controls or who have made poor security decisions.
The response to the increase in cyberattacks has been an overwhelming rise in cyber insurance claims over the past few years. Cyber insurance brokers responded with soaring rates, coverage decreases, risk assessments, and even a lack of coverage due to the lack of money available to write policies. Paradoxically, this response by insurance brokers from a costs basis alone is forcing many higher education institutions to opt-out of their insurance policies just when they are needed the most.
Higher-education institutions represent a perfect target for cyber criminals given sensitive, cutting-edge research they conduct. In addition to the potential cost of the information being compromised, downtime is considered a major disruptor in any attack. If a higher-education institution were to suffer an attack, resulting in students not being able to connect, learn, and get the education that is being paid for, it could have severe consequences in the long term.
One noteworthy shift universities and colleges can make to defend against cyber criminals is to limit the number of users within their network that are granted administrative rights. Administrative rights granted to end users are a perfect storm for cyber criminals when it comes to footholds and leverage.
Another key change higher-education institutions can adopt with those who need administrative rights is credential vaulting and cyber hygiene. If you can manage the privilege by controlling and minimizing when, where, and how the identity uses the privilege or administrative rights, you can significantly reduce the attack surface cyber criminals are lurking at. When you couple that control with management, hygiene, and audit capability, creating a trail of information on the who, what, when, and where of network access, it becomes nearly impossible to fall victim to the bad actors.
Minicoders, a startup co-founded by the venture builder, Nuclio, emerged as the first educational platform that aims to teach kids the basic notions of computer programming through video games set in the metaverse, using a play-to-learn model. The platform is developed to guarantee the safety of children, allowing parents to supervise their activity.
Minicoders aims to encourage learning of computer programming for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years by converting the screen time into both productive and entertaining hours. For this reason, Minicoders.com makes available: 1) Minicoders Kids, an educational app with videos and a virtual assistant to introduce informative concepts, and 2) Roblox gaming experience where children can practice the concepts learned.
According to a study performed by the company, school children are using a device with a screen and Internet connection between two and three hours a day. Moreover, 68% of parents are showing concerns for the amount of non-productive hours spent by their children on these devices.
In the beginning of last July, Minicoders.com launched Magic School, its first gaming experience developed in the Roblox metaverse, that has surpassed 20,000 players in a month. Inspired by the famous story of Magic Universes, in which players step into the shoes of a true apprentice of magic to explore a metaverse filled with different types of experiences.
To access all the magic powers and enjoy the gaming experience, players will have to solve challenges in the form of computer programming blocks from which they gain knowledge on the basic notions of this subject. Parents can follow up on the progress of their children through parental control and safety.
By Mike Bianco, director of information security, Skyward.
Schools face plenty of dangers and threats, from pandemics to budget cuts, but ransomware may be one of the most pernicious, transcendent, and frightening – and it’s not going away.
Ransomware is big business for crooks, and schools are seen as easy pickings. CBS News reports that cyberattacks and ransomware targeting K-12 schools hit record highs last year, with ransoms ranging from $10,000 to $1.4 million and a total cost to districts of more than $123 million, according to IBM.
Because so much of what a school system does, from teaching to storing records, takes place online, the threat of a ransomware attack effectively stopping those processes dead in their tracks and wiping out the supporting data is enough to keep administrators up at night.
Add to that the threat of students’ sensitive data stolen and dumped or sold to bad actors after ransomware attacks (NBC News reports that in 2021, ransomware gangs published data from more than 1,200 American K-12 schools), and it’s a miracle administrators get any sleep at all.
And in case a district admin was thinking of sneaking in a catnap, they should consider that 30% of educational outlets consider themselves unprepared to face a cyberattack resulting in their data being held for ransom. Why do so many ransomware attacks target schools? Several reasons:
Schools are vulnerable
Whether it’s students, parents, teachers, or back-office staff, the fact that so many different personas with so many different ideas about internet security are using the system makes it easy for hackers to exploit weaknesses.
Schools lack resources
Districts may not be able to afford the most robust ransomware-prevention tools, or the personnel needed to monitor them.
Data is centralized …
School districts tend to keep their data in one central repository, which is attractive to hackers. Think of it this way: If you’re a bank robber, do you want to rob one bank with $5 million in deposits, or five banks with $1 million in deposits each? Educational data is the $5 million bank.
And it’s valuable …
Student data is pure gold. It can be used in a variety of ways, to establish false identities, to apply for credit, and to make large purchases.
Producing additional blackmail opportunities
Suppose a hacker acquires the report cards and other data of high-school seniors. They could threaten to release the information to prospective employers if the student or their parents don’t pay a ransom.
(This is generally thought of as small potatoes by hackers, but it’s not out of the question.)
How districts can protect themselves
Given that schools are and will continue to be ransomware targets, what can districts do to prevent themselves?
First, districts need to realize they’re not Susan Storm, and they can’t put a force field around their data. There is no magic shield; there are only multiple layers of protection they can employ to deter hackers.
Second, they need to understand that protective measures may only make their district a less attractive target, and not a non-target. After the low-hanging fruit is harvested, their district may still be seen as ripe for the picking.
Third, districts have to accept the fact that protection against ransomware is ongoing and evolving. It is absolutely not a one-and-done.
About 15% of 10 to 19 year olds face a mental health challenge. Depression, anxiety and other disorders are striking kids at alarming rates – and staying with them into adulthood. A new partnership between LUCID and MNDYRR is working to solve these issues with a new app.
LUCID’s digital therapeutics platform offers personalized, AI-curated playlists that help people alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout and more. These science-backed music therapies are 20 percent more effective than a run of the mill relaxation playlist you can find on a streaming service.
Now, MNDYRR is leveraging this technology and incorporating LUCID’s music therapy into their teletherapy and social network platform.
“Many use music to manage their moods already,” McMahon said. “Using our service you can access entirely unique and personalized playlists, curated by data-driven AI, that will help you reach your desired mood. It’s simple, it’s accessible and it’s effective – all things that are important when it comes to the mental wellness of a child.”
When a child or caregiver first accesses the app, an AI therapy chatbot will run a quick assessment to get an initial diagnosis. From there, kids will be directed to a digital therapy suite that will help to address their needs.
“There’s an urgent need for new and innovative mental health therapies,” MNDYRR’s founder and CEO Adam Starks explained. “At the extreme end of the mental health crisis for youth, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth aged 15 to 24. Being able to offer interim solutions is going to help get kids off of the proverbial ledge.”
MNDYRR’s goal is to become a central hub of mental health care for young people. The mental health industry is incredibly fragmented – LUCID and MNDYRR want to bring quality, robust care all under one umbrella. “In order to reach that hub position, we need to be able to offer solutions for a host of mental health struggles,” said Starks. “Anxiety, depression, burnout – everything. LUCID’s music therapy is absolutely integral to that vision.”
“This partnership is key to what we want to do as a medtech company,” continued McMahon. “We’re excited to play a role in bringing about a solution to this ongoing systemic issue.”
As educators face a new generation of technology needs for teaching and learning STEM, science, and coding, companies are rising to the challenge by deeply understanding educators’ evolving needs. The 2022 Best of STEM Award provides EdTech companies with a fresh twist—an awards program judged by STEM educators for STEM educators: “The Educators Pick Best of STEM Awards.”
“Three years ago, we created the awards program EdTech was missing—Educators Pick Best of STEM,” said Daylene Long, CEO and founder of Catapult X. “The needs of educators are rapidly transforming as new teachers enter the field, administrators address learning loss, and educators search for modern solutions to engage students born as digital natives. This program is truly about creating connections between EdTech and the teachers they serve.”
“Our educator judging team this year was particularly strong,” said Lead Judge Annie Galvin Teich. “With a larger team, we were able to match science and STEM technology to specific science and STEM expertise, such as high school physics and emerging technologies. These experienced STEM educators offered unique insights and feedback to the award entries.”
The 2022 Educators Pick Best of STEM awards go to:
BibliU, provider of a learning enablement platform, today announced details of its Series B funding. The company has raised the first tranche of $15M led by its current investors with participation from new investors. The funds are targeted for expansion in the U.S. market, including new product development, additional publisher partnerships and further investments in sales and marketing.
All existing institutional Series A investors – Stonehage Fleming, Oxford Science Enterprises, Guinness Ventures, and Nesta Impact Investments – participated in the round. Richard Hill, Head of Direct Investments at Stonehage Fleming, joins the BibliU board of directors in a newly created position.
“Since our initial investment in 2020, BibliU has experienced tremendous growth – both in the U.K. market, where half of the nation’s higher education students now have access to content through the BibliU platform, and in the U.S. market, where universities and colleges are replacing legacy bookstore models with BibliU’s digital-first solution for content,” said Richard Hill, Head of Direct Investments, Stonehage Fleming. “We’re excited to increase our investment in BibliU, and by the growth opportunity BibliU has created. We also believe BibliU is delivering significant impact not only through substantially reducing the costs of textbooks and course materials but also by increasing student engagement and improving learning outcomes for students. This is an important aspect for our investors.”
BibliU addresses long-standing pain points in higher education that directly impact student success. Even those students with full financial aid packages that cover tuition, room and board, do not anticipate hidden costs such as textbooks and course materials. These expenses can derail a college education. Sixty-five percent of students in the U.S. admit to not buying their course content due to cost, while similar research from BibliU found that 70 percent of students in the U.K. have skipped buying their textbooks and learning materials.
The BibliU study also found that more than a third of students (35 percent) said they could not afford to buy their textbooks. Since digital content equalizes socio-economic disparities and students gain access to the required learning materials from day one, BibliU is helping colleges and universities promote diversity, equity and inclusion.