The theme of disrupting higher education was buzzing among hundreds of conference attendees this week at the Education Innovation Summit at Arizona State University. The event offered start-up companies a captive audience for pitching their products. Here’s a small sample of announcements they made:
Altius Education: This company has already gained prominence among educators for its creation of a “transfer college,” which gives students a bridge to a bachelor’s degree by helping them transfer to traditional four-year institutions. And now the chief executive of Altius, Paul Freedman, has bigger plans—he wants to put “the flying car of higher education” in the driveway of every student. The engine, he says, is called Helix, a new tool that seeks to reinvent what learning-management software can do. Altius bills Helix as a “learning environment” that uses personalized narratives to engage students and explain why learning is important. It’s driven by a data-hungry brain, which helps the platform evolve as students use it. As part-technology company and part-educational institution, Mr. Freedman says Altius can do things that software vendors can’t—like letting students adjust their semester schedules based on their learning goals.
OpenStudy: Traditional grades are one-dimensional. Transcripts don’t convey how good students are at working with others and solving problems. That’s the argument made by the leaders of OpenStudy, the social-learning network that calls itself a “global study group.” To fill in those gaps, the company has introduced SmartScore, a measurement of “soft skills” including teamwork, problem-solving, and engagement. In a blog post that previewed SmartScore’s introduction, OpenStudy’s co-founder, Preetha Ram, said the tool would “challenge the traditional notions of intelligence normally quantified by grades.” OpenStudy says the new score reports on skills picked up in its platform that could be useful in the classroom and the workplace.
Sophia: The social platform for teaching and learning was purchased this week by Capella Education Company, the parent of the for-profit Capella University. The partnership means Sophia will roll out low-cost college courses online, beginning with a college-algebra course in June. Capella will be Sophia’s first client to offer course equivalencies, and Sophia chief executive, Steve Anastasi, wrote that four more courses will be introduced in the coming months.