In an increasingly digital world, educators are looking for ways to expand access and engage students, while corporations seek to equip their workforce with skills for the jobs of the future.
This trend is driving demand for learning beyond the traditional classroom and is creating a wave of innovation in educational technology. As a result, “edtech” is becoming a global phenomenon, with a market that is projected to grow to more than $252 billion by 2020.
A critical mass of this edtech development has formed in Arizona, where companies and educational institutions have become leaders in creating a wide range of technology platforms for learning, training, collaboration, credentialing and financial aid. Arizona’s focus on advancing cutting-edge technologies has led to innovations in the emerging sector across the state.
Education, first and foremost, is an investment in people, says Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, but it’s also an investment in the economy.
“Providing a steady, educated pipeline of talent is crucial to attracting and retaining businesses,” says Watson. “We hear over and over again that talent is a top factor driving corporate location decisions. This is especially true for companies in high-value industries that require uniquely skilled workers, whether this be in technology, health care and bioscience; aerospace and defense; or business and financial services. These are all sectors that have experienced tremendous growth in Arizona in the past several years, demonstrating our state’s ability to meet employers’ workforce needs.”
The Phoenix area alone is now home to more than 50 edtech companies. The ecosystem shares resources and expertise in edtech and is expected to grow.
“Companies tend to congregate around companies of the same industry,” says Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “They share supply chains, and you end up with a workforce that’s knowledgeable about the industry. These are key factors in the development of an economic cluster such as the one we’ve seen grow here in Arizona.”
“Advances in edtech have also been supported in Arizona, thanks to a mindset that embraces new ideas,” says Watson.
Arizona parents and students are accustomed to choice in their educational institutions and a variety of learning opportunities, which is exactly what edtech provides. Arizona public schools allow open enrollment, and Arizona is one of the top three states in the nation for school choice, according to the Center for Education Reform’s 2017 Parent Power Index.
Washington, D.C.-based Village Capital, a startup that supports ventures in edtech, has also noticed what’s happening in Arizona. In 2017, Village Capital called Phoenix the next “edtech hub.” Company executives from the firm who work with startups all over the country said they were impressed with how Phoenix has attracted some of the best talent in edtech. In an article on the company’s website, and printed in the Arizona Republic, Marissa Lowman, the head of Village Capital’s education practice, writes, “The city has positioned itself well for the future as its cluster of edtech companies tries to change the world and creates a ton of local jobs in the process. As a venture capitalist who works with startups all over the country, I’m impressed with how Phoenix has attracted some of the best talent in edtech, and I look forward to seeing how the community grows in the coming years.”
Arizona’s edtech companies have built technologies that support a wide range of educational activities and learning styles. Among the leaders:
CampusLogic is a market leader in student financial services software that serves more than three million students, nearly 500 of whom are higher education customers. CampusLogic provides tools to simplify financial aid forms by personalizing them, and helps administrators of institutions get financial aid insights about their students.
Edgenuity has become a leading provider of online curriculum, supplemental material and instructional services for the K-12 market. On its website, the company reports its solutions are used in nine of the top 15 school districts in the U.S., helping schools meet academic goals and improving student outcomes. More than 200 core, AP, honors and extra-curricular courses are available on this platform.
Parchment is the most widely adopted digital credential service in the industry, according to the company’s website. Its services allow students, academic institutions and employers to request, verify, receive and share credentials in secure ways. Since 2003, the platform has helped millions of people and thousands of schools and universities exchange more than 20 million transcripts and other credentials globally.
Picmonic is a leading visual learning system for medical and nursing students, building an online study system that includes pictures, audio and stores. It has now expanded into materials, test prep and more for K-12 and undergraduate students.
Edupoint is the creator of the industry-leading Synergy Education Platform, which unites distinct K-12 data management functions, creating system-wide data connections that help improve administrative processes and learning outcomes.
Proctorio is credited with revolutionizing remotely proctored exams. This software is an automated remote proctor that provides a scalable, cost-effective solution to validating student identities and activity during online exams. It assures teachers that the student is the one taking the test and confirms his or her online activity during the exams.
Stormwind brings a live, Hollywood-HD quality experience to the world of e-learning. The company’s technology creates and delivers interactive online training in individual IT courses including enterprise, Linux, cybersecurity and Windows Server at an affordable price.
The edtech startups in the state have a network of support in both the private sector and academia. One active group is EdTechAZ, which is focused on supporting technology-driven innovation in education, promoting technology companies committed to innovation, and enabling the growth of the edtech ecosystem in the state.
At the university level, the University of Arizona’s Master of Science degree in Educational Technology emphasizes a practitioner’s approach to the design, development and evaluation of instructional technology for education and industry. The program focuses on learning, instructional design, visual design, multimedia development, evaluation and research.
The Arizona State University (ASU) Draper GSV Accelerator is a joint venture among ASU, Draper Associates and GSV Capital, the leading name in edtech investment. Led by Tim Draper, one of the world’s leading venture capitalists and an education entrepreneur, and GSV, the goal of this partnership is to increase investment in edtech companies and bring new technologies to market.
ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Master of Education in Educational Technology degree also prepares learning design and technology professionals in formal and informal educational settings, such as K-12 and higher education, museums, and nonprofit and government organizations.
As a result of the strong foundation provided by Arizona, companies based in the state are poised to take learning to a new level using new technologies and platforms. They are in a unique position to create solutions aimed not just at enhancing traditional educational institutions, but also at training and upskilling the global workforce and providing students anywhere in the world with a clear pathway to a fulfilling career.