From Bootcamps to EdTech: How Silicon Valley is Disrupting Education

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America’s education computer and software market is expected to reach $21B in sales by 2020. This isn’t the only education sector market that tech giants are going after: from Marc Benioff handing out “innovation grants” to middle school principals, to the explosion of Silicon Valley coding and BDR bootcamps, to Netflix’s chief championing an algorithmic lesson planner, Silicon Valley has moved into the education sector in full force. NewtonX conducted a survey on disruptive education models in America with 300 executives at the education/EdTech verticals of tech giants as well as with founders of disruptive education academies. The results of this survey informed the insights and data in this article.

What Are Tech Giants Trying to Fix in Education?

There are two categories of disruptive education that we identified:

  1. Professional Bootcamps ( the coding bootcamp industry is worth $240M and graduates over 20,000 developers per year)
  2. EdTech  ($50B+ industry with investors staking over $9B in EdTech in 2018)

EdTech encompasses both hardware and software, which for companies like Google, goes hand in hand. In fact, Google dominates the EdTech sector for primary and secondary schools, where over 50% of the nation’s children use Chromebooks and the accompanying Google apps (Gmail, Docs, etc.) that come with them.

The bootcamp industry is sometimes considered a subset of the EdTech industry. However for the sake of this article, we divided them into separate categories because of their different intents: the EdTech industry seeks to revolutionize existing classroom and learning experiences, while bootcamps seek to replace traditional educational experiences with a new model.

EdTech consists of learning software, AI-powered or gamified lessons, apps and tools for organizing and doing schoolwork, and tools for education administration. In other words, much like how the workplace underwent a digital makeover, tech giants want to digitize the classroom in order to optimize learning and prepare children for digitally-driven jobs.

Bootcamps, on the other hand, upend traditional models of education. Since 2012, when the concept first emerged, they’ve gained in popularity and captured the support of some of the largest hiring companies in the world, including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Dropbox, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Amex. Bootcamps typically follow one of two business models: “Employer Sponsored,” wherein hiring companies partner with bootcamps to gain access the talent they produce, or “Income Share,” wherein graduates give a portion of their first year income back to the bootcamp provided they make over a certain amount. Both models offer training tuition-free, and usually have rigorous standards for acceptance into the program (though these standards are not necessarily dependent on academic history).

Where EdTech attempts to optimize the classroom, bootcamps are designed to be more effective than a classroom. Rather than teaching how to think and analyze, they teach applicable and transferable job skills. Initially, most bootcamps were tech-related: FullStack Academy, App Academy, Starter League (formerly Code Academy), etc. Now, however, the model has proved so successful for students and employers alike, that it’s being replicated for other business areas. SV Academy, for instance, offers BDR training with guaranteed job placement in an employer-sponsored bootcamp model.

Will Silicon Valley Be Able To Hack Education?

Technology and the need for technologists has made upending traditional education models necessary. Despite more and more people getting college and high school degrees, many of these degrees result in crushing debt and very few directly applicable job skills. Bootcamps offer a viable alternative, and have proved effective from the employer point of view.

In-class EdTech, on the other hand isn’t as cut and dry. There is little evidence so far to indicate that using computers in the classroom improves educational results. While computer skills are certainly necessary, it’s not yet clear if using a gamified path program is a better way to teach than using a worksheet.

Not all in-school EdTech is focused just on the classroom, though. Risk detection systems, for instance, can leverage AI to identify at-risk students and offer suggestions for how and when to intervene. Management systems like these will likely grow in popularity, particularly at the district level, where superintendents have to answer to district constituents.

Other projects, such as code.org’s mission of getting every public school in the US to teach computer science (financed with more than $60M from Silicon Valley companies and founders), will likely be successful, but with eventual pushback as to the limits of involvement for wealthy Silicon Valley luminaries in the public school system.

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