MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) held an event entitled "De-Classifying Education," in which these questions were addressed by a panel of entrepreneurs and investors.
The speakers included Lisa Petrides, founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management and Education (ISKME), Osman Rashid, CEO and co-founder of Kno, Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, Glen Moriarty, CEO and co-founder of NIXTY and Philip Bronner, from Novak Biddle Venture Partners.
Undoubtedly, there are several factors which Petrides describes as "game changers" in education: information available freely everywhere, personalized learning, widespread access to the Internet. But with the obstacles in the education system, including its political and legal barriers, there's a sense that it is difficult for entrepreneurs to get a foothold - and get funding - for education technology.
Education is a Huge Market Now, but Will Open Content Change Things?
But Kno's Rashid argued there are huge opportunities. The annual market for education technology is $88 billion, and growing at a rate of 21.7% a year. The market for digital textbooks alone is $54 billion.
But as the panelists debated what constitutes "disruption" in education, both Khan and Moriarty argued that the future of much educational content was likely to be free and open. Khan Academy, for example, is in the process of becoming a "real free virtual school for the world." But the move to make content free shouldn't devalue the learning experience, and there are lots of opportunities to build analytics and management platforms.
Despite the emphasis on free content and opencourseware, venture capitalist Philip Bronner made it clear that investors are interested in startups working in this area - good news for education technology entrepreneurs.