Education Innovation Heats Up in the Desert

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, April 20, 2012

The ASU Skysong Education Innovation Summit has become the can’t-miss education innovation event of the year in just the three years since it was founded.

This year came as close to living up to the hype as anything could (full disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board).

Held at Arizona State University’s Skysong campus from April 16 to April 18, roughly 800 people—from educators to entrepreneurs to investors, thought leaders, and policymakers—crowded this year’s education’s “Davos in the Desert” conference.

As usual, there was a great mix of thoughtful panels and keynotes about how to use innovation to drive educational improvements for all students—not just in the U.S. but in the world—as well as a number of education companies showcasing their wares for investors (with disruptive start-up PresenceLearning winning this year’s pitch contest).

But this year’s conference also occurred in a different context. The climate in the “edtech” world has heated up dramatically and become even frothier than it was a year ago at this time.

Coursera has been only the latest in a string of education start-ups to announce their debuts with significant investment and investors behind them. In Coursera’s case, it brought heavy-hitting VC Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to the party.

In an industry long noted for its lack of innovation and investment, things are changing fast.

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