Author: Scott Rupp

McGraw Hill Acquires Achieve3000

McGraw Hill announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Achieve3000, a recognized leader in differentiated instruction and learning acceleration for PreK-12 students in all 50 states and 49 countries.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to be completed in approximately 60 days, subject to customary closing conditions.

Based in Red Bank, NJ, and founded more than 20 years ago, Achieve3000 delivers a comprehensive learning platform that significantly accelerates and deepens learning in literacy, math, science, social studies, and English language arts. Teachers in every subject and all 50 states rely on Achieve3000’s solutions to promote equity, increase engagement, and accelerate learning in their classes.

McGraw Hill is a portfolio company of Platinum Equity. Achieve3000 is McGraw Hill’s first add-on acquisition since Platinum Equity acquired the company in July 2021.

Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw Hill, said: “This is a great opportunity to further complement our core products in PreK-12 with supplemental and intervention solutions to help students of all ages and abilities, which has become even more important since the pandemic. With this acquisition, we will offer a wider array of outstanding digital learning materials that serve teachers, engage students and drive better learning outcomes.”

Sean Ryan, president of McGraw Hill’s School Group, said: “Achieve3000 and McGraw Hill are a natural fit. The combination of our people and our products will provide more effective and compelling support for classroom teachers.”

Stuart Udell, CEO of Achieve3000, said: ”Both organizations already share a common mission of accelerating learning for all students. By joining forces with McGraw Hill, we foresee a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach and jointly deliver a powerful learning experience to students, whether in a classroom, at home, or in a hybrid environment.”

Jacob Kotzubei, Partner at Platinum Equity, said: “The need for supplemental curriculum solutions is greater than ever as our educational system continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic. The addition of Achieve3000 will further strengthen McGraw Hill’s ability to serve students, educators and administrators around the world.”

Luke Myers, managing director at Platinum Equity, said: “We are making good on our pledge to help McGraw Hill accelerate its digital transformation, which is especially important in the K-12 segment. Achieve3000 is tightly aligned with McGraw Hill’s strategic priorities, and its scale, track record and suite of digital solutions make it an ideal fit.”

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is serving as legal advisor to Platinum Equity and McGraw Hill on the acquisition of Achieve3000 and Willkie Farr is providing financing counsel on the transaction. BofA Securities is the lead underwriter for the debt financing. Macquarie Capital is serving as financial advisor to Achieve3000.

Blockchain: Revolutionizing Education For The Future

Natalie Smolenski

By Natalie Smolenski, head of business development, Hyland.

Digital credentials, presented through a blockchain-secured format, have the power to eliminate fraud and verify students’ identities through admissions. Blockchain, a verification infrastructure used to prevent fraud, plays an increasingly important role in educational record verification, as the technology is quickly being adapted to verify educational experiences and qualifications. These include degrees, transcripts and other types of credentials.

Not only can blockchain make credential verification much faster, it is also significantly less expensive and vastly more secure. This opens the possibility of virtually eliminating records fraud, streamlining the verification of educational documents and giving control of personal data back to individuals.

Eliminate records fraud

Academic records fraud is both widespread and pervasive, as it is easy to edit and falsify information both digitally and on paper. Diploma mills are a flourishing industry – a real diploma can be purchased from a fake school and fake diplomas from real schools. Universities also regularly discover that applicant transcripts include photoshopped grades.

Blockchain can solve this problem by providing a decentralized, transnational and digital verification infrastructure to prevent and detect fraud. It achieves this by employing both advanced cryptography and timestamped digital signatures to validate both the issuer and recipient of a credential. Digital signatures and hashed data, combined with the immutable blockchain ledger, ensure that credentials have not been tampered with. Minimization of fraud increases trust, which facilitates international student mobility and safeguards the public from professionals with illegitimate credentials.

Streamline sharing and verification of educational documents

Under the current practice of applying for employment or further educational experiences, individuals must request their official academic records from their school or institution. This process is both costly and time consuming: the receiving institution is required to validate the credential either by using a software vendor’s solution or by contacting the school—or a third-party credential verification organization (CVO)—by phone or in writing.

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The Cost of Proactive vs. Reactive Data Security

Erin Werra

By Erin Werra, writer, Skyward’s Advancing K12 blog.

This past year, K12 schools became the top targets of ransomware attacks. In August and September 2020, districts accounted for 57% of reported ransomware attacks. You know the threat is out there, but is your district prepared?

Nothing worth having is free. Create a strong plan when things are going well, and you’ll be grateful if disaster strikes.

Security teams

Brilliant teams are run by people, not by machines. Salary, training, and planning fall under this category.

Has your security team grown in proportion with ransomware risks? According to CoSN’s 2020 EdTech Leadership survey, 69% of districts say they are proactive or very proactive—but less than 20% of respondents had a dedicated full-time employee responsible for cybersecurity. 46% listed it as a shared responsibility, 30% “part of the job,” and 10% ad-hoc. This means an overwhelming majority of school districts run the risk of cybersecurity missteps or passing the buck.

One study by ISC2, a professional IT organization, shows more than 4 million cybersecurity jobs are unfilled worldwide. Not only is this a potential blind spot, but it’s an opportunity for students pursuing STEM and computer science fields.

Backup services

Know your data recovery options. Data hosting services may offer multiple options for backup and recovery, but multiple data centers should be a priority. Whether hosting offsite or in person, frequent backups are crucial.

Single sign-on

Humans creating passwords is one of the weakest points of any network. Single sign-on uses multiple strategies to strengthen security, as well as makes logging on to the many, many different ed tech solutions any given district relies on much easier.

Training programs

Constant vigilance is easier when training prompts frequent reminders. Your team members all possess wildly different levels of tech savviness—even the most grizzled veterans of the computer sciences benefit from security training updates. Security training creates a unified set of standards for everyone to follow and may even give you a baseline set of data, so you know where to add training.

Crisis communication templates

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and create templates when the worst is yet to come. Readers will appreciate calm, collected communication more than a slapdash letter in the event of a data breach.

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The Future of Tech In Independent and International Schools

Stephen Bilboe

By Stephen Bilboe, sales and marketing director, WCBS.

The pandemic has hit all aspects of education; in the past year we’ve seen about 30 UK independent schools close their doors permanently as a direct result of COVID-19. Many schools have had to give discounts on their fees, revenue from boarding and trips has been halted, and income has ultimately taken a hit.

Schools that have been the worst affected are typically smaller schools that have been struggling with admissions and reduced student numbers for a while. With school fees having risen by 3% and 4% on average over the last decade, an independent education is out of reach for many middle-class families. Therefore, for those schools that have struggled to successfully widen their catchment net – in some cases the hit to income has been the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

With the move to remote learning the market has had to really focus on their value proposition; delivering value to parents and education to students, which on the whole, the schools have done brilliantly.

Adapting fast to protect reputation

When a parent is being charged thousands in fees, schools have had to deliver outstanding levels of teaching to warrant such an ask, especially when delivering to their students remotely, at home and not on campus.

All schools have had to shift to online learning and live lessons, and have adapted well to remote learning. The standard has been remarkable within Independent and International schools, where the stakes and expectation is even higher, what with the ask of fees.

Because of the reduction on fee income the pandemic has forced Independent schools to focus on their admissions process even more. Without the luxury of open days, they can’t just rely on a good telephone manner, a beautiful prospectus and families walking through the school gate. Schools in our market now have to firmly position and differentiate themselves to compete so that they’re attractive to parents and make sure that pupil numbers are coming through.

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Grubhub and Transact Partner To Offer Universities Expanded Off-Campus Meal Spending Programs For Students

Transact Campus

Transact, a payment solutions for a connected campus, and Grubhub, a leading food-ordering and delivery marketplace nationwide, announced today a partnership to extend Grubhub’s restaurant network to Transact’s CampusCash program. The partnership enables more student spending off campus, allowing universities to better adapt to hybrid learning environments and increase availability for contactless meal delivery and payment options.

Transact serves 12 million customers annually at more than 1,300 universities across the country. The Transact CampusCash program enables students on campuses using Transact’s mobile-centric campus technology to use their student ID cards for cashless payments at university-approved off-campus merchants. Grubhub’s robust network of more than 300,000 restaurants is now included in Transact’s off-campus merchant program. This partnership will allow students to use their university-branded CampusCash account while they are away from campus, even visiting family and friends across the country.

“Universities had to quickly adapt technologies to keep operations running smoothly over the last 18 months as they pivoted to hybrid learning and contactless dining experiences,” said Brian Madigan, vice president of campus and corporate partners at Grubhub. “We’re excited to partner with Transact to help university partners stay nimble with continued flexible meal models and expand the off-campus dining options available to students, while driving orders to local restaurants in their communities.”

“We’re always looking for ways to increase the value of student ID cards, and partnering with Grubhub to provide students with additional off-campus dining options makes the cards even more indispensable,” said Erica Bass, vice president of product management at Transact. “By giving students more cashless options to choose from, we’re doubling down on our efforts to provide a superior dining and overall campus experience.”

Campuses with an existing Transact off-campus merchant program can easily add Grubhub as an off-campus merchant to their existing program to give students more dining options. Matt Camino, director of the PacificCard at the University of the Pacific, said, “Our experience adding Grubhub to our off-campus flex tender program has been seamless. We added Grubhub to fill a gap for students who do not have transportation off campus readily available. Our students are excited about the additional food options and delivery services. With students returning to campus fully, I’m looking forward to the positive impact that the Grubhub and CampusCash off-campus program partnership will provide.”

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Infosec Institute and Midwestern Higher Education Compact Bring Leading Cyber Education Resources To Higher Education

Infosec Logo

Infosec Institute, a cybersecurity education company, announces it has partnered with the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) to bring market-leading cyber education solutions to colleges and universities within its 12 member states, as well as members of the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

MHEC is statutorily-created in its member states and dedicated to strengthening postsecondary education through cost-savings initiatives and policy solutions informed by research and the expertise of regional leaders. Through partnerships with solution providers like Infosec, MHEC helps save colleges and universities millions of dollars annually.

“Educational institutions are often lucrative targets for cybercrime because of the massive amounts of personal data they store for faculty, staff and students,” said Jack Koziol, Infosec CEO and founder. “We look forward to empowering midwestern higher education faculty and staff with the knowledge and skills to stay cyber secure at work, school and home with our market-leading security awareness and training platform, Infosec IQ.”

The new partnership brings more than 2,000 Infosec IQ security awareness and training resources to 47 states.

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Are Schools Equipped Enough For Online Classes?

Shannon Flynn

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.

Prior to COVID-19, a mere 34% of schools were offering fully online classes and only 2% of American students were participating in them. However, during the pandemic, 69% of parents said that their kids were receiving hybrid or fully online instruction.

This massive shift to online education happened within a matter of weeks at many schools while others made the transition in just a few days. The rapid adjustment left thousands of teachers struggling to create virtual lesson plans, as most schools were ill-equipped for such a sudden, drastic change.

Now, more than a year has passed and some teachers still feel unprepared for the coming school year.

The Virtual Dilemma

Online classes have come with their fair share of benefits, including personalized instruction, flexible learning schedules and increased access to Advanced Placement classes, electives and more. However, many teachers received little to no training in regard to teaching online classes, so students aren’t able to reap all of these amazing benefits.

A lack of training also means that teachers don’t have the tools or knowledge to create online lesson plans and deliver material in an engaging way. Subsequently, students are bound to struggle to comprehend and remember the material. Ultimately, their letter grades and ACT and SAT scores will reflect this disconnect.

Many students lack access to computers and the internet at home, too. This disparity is most common among minority populations and low-income families. Last year, 7% to 8% of households with students had little to no access to computers or the internet, making remote learning impossible for millions of kids. While educators are working to improve access by providing free laptops and hotspots, they have a long way to go before everyone has an equal opportunity to receive a virtual education.

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Transact Releases New Emergency Hotline Capabilities As Colleges Prepare To Welcome Students Back To Campus

Transact CampusTransact, the leader in innovative credential and payment solutions for a connected campus, today announced the release of a new mobile feature that gives college students emergency hotline and suicide prevention information at their fingertips. This addition to Transact’s mobile credential platform comes at a time when the majority of college students are reporting mental and emotional trauma stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Over the last few years, there has been a steady increase in utilization and demand for campus counseling services,2 and this year, 73% of college presidents identified mental health as a pressing issue, said Nancy Langer, CEO, Transact. “We know from working closely with university leaders around the country that student health and wellbeing are of the utmost concern as campuses prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year. We designed this technology to be part of the support system for students and school leaders. Our easy-to-implement tool allows students to access emergency contact information directly from the student ID credential on their smartphone.”

The emergency hotline and suicide prevention contact capability is available immediately to all existing Transact Campus Mobile ID customers through a simple system update. Transact’s mobile platform allows university administrators to push updates to student IDs without the expensive process of reprinting and redistributing IDs. Users will also have the ability to customize their students’ IDs to include national, state, local and/or school-specific hotline information. Many states are moving to require this information on student ID cards.

“We hope the ease and accessibility of this feature will help keep college campuses safer and save student lives,” Langer continued. Statistics show that services, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, are effective in reducing emotional distress and suicidality. These services help divert callers from unnecessary law enforcement, emergency and hospital services.

This potentially life-saving capability strengthens Transact’s robust and secure mobile-centric campus platform. Thanks to integrations with the nation’s primary smart phone wallets, campuses that use Transact’s contactless student ID credentials are incredibly secure and accessible with a tap.

“We recognize that this is the future for all colleges and universities, and we will continue to provide revolutionary technology to support campus goals and improve student experiences,” Langer added.

For more information or to schedule a demonstration of Transact’s campus solutions, visit www.transactcampus.com.

Avoiding Post-COVID EdTech Failure

Al Kingsley

By Al Kingsley, CEO, NetSupport.

Think back to all those brilliantly publicized great EdTech ideas of the past that have miserably failed. It’s quite possible you’ve lived through one, two, or more. I’ve been in the education and tech business for about 30 years, and have seen everything—from lavish laptop programs to superior software concepts launch with fanfare only to end up being scrapped. They were written about in our most popular magazines and showcased at the education trade shows, but they didn’t last more than a few years.

Why?

As a student of EdTech history, I believe I know. It’s part of the reason for writing My Secret #EdTech Diary. Many of those well-meaning, inventively inspiring EdTech solutions–most of which were based on a device, or specific software–vanished because there was little forethought. There was inadequate thought given to training, professional development, maintenance, upkeep, upgrades, support, setting expectations, and then securing the funds needed to sustain them.

Historical perspective about EdTech launches that failed

These historic EdTech launches were initially expensive not only to develop but to be deployed, used, and ultimately dropped. Think about the cost of a district laptop initiative. The cost is staggering, but it needs more than just money.

Historically, laptop deployment plans were very political, too. They had to be sold to more than just directors of technology; they needed to be endorsed by entire communities, which ultimately funded them. Looking back, it’s easy to see that the plans would never endure through breakdowns, leadership changes, curriculum transformations, and lack of use. EdTech like this was doomed from the beginning, because it couldn’t be sustained beyond the purchase of shiny devices.

So, why look back?

Looking back at our mistakes is vital. It is also simple to do and can help us to avoid future failures. Especially now, post COVID, when we have the opportunity to be educationally innovative, and more relevant and intentional with our products. If we’ve learned anything by looking back, it is that we were unprepared for a situation like the pandemic.

I’d like to say again, we have so much technology available to us and yet for many we were unprepared. How did that happen? There’s a spotlight on education and technology right now and an opportunity to rethink and reshape how we utilize EdTech and how it can best underpin amazing teaching and learning. The positive outlook for EdTech companies is that they can help provide the change needed, and to do it for more than a few most economically fortunate, but rather for everyone around the globe. That will require more than simple, shiny-device thinking. We need to use what we’ve learned from the distant as well as the recent past.

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Leveraging Technology-Enabled Instruction To Improve Student Outcomes

Dr. Bill Daggett

By Dr. Bill Daggett, founder, International Center for Leadership in Education and Successful Practices Network.

The first full school year of remote, in-person, or hybrid model of instruction during the COVID-19 era is finally behind us. Now that the dust is settling on that tumultuous time for students, teachers, parents, and administrators, we need to reflect and dissect the cases of perseverance and success and how they came about so that we can be ready to grapple with the challenges that we will surely meet going forward. Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned from the past year, but possibly the most critical is the need for school systems in every community to have a plan to deliver technology-enabled instruction to students.

Leveraging technology to improve student outcomes is not a new concept but it is a practice typically done in isolation and at the maximum comfort level of the teacher. Many instructors to this day reject the full capabilities of what advanced technologies can provide in favor of a twentieth-century model of manual computing and labor because that is “how it has always been done.” In reality, new and innovative technologies, coupled with the ability to digitize and deliver content remotely, has expanded the capabilities of teachers to personalize instruction based upon a student’s interest, learning style, aptitude, and countless other factors because no two kids are the same. In essence, the traditional paradigm has been flipped from “students go to school to learn” to “learning goes to students wherever they are.”

A May 2020 study examining the impact of school closures on student learning demonstrated that students in schools using technology-enabled instruction, in this case a reading software that helps teachers differentiate instruction for student in grades 2-12–Achieve3000 Literacy, continued to attain similar levels of reading growth during school closures as they had earlier in the year.

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