Edtech Insiders

Special Episode: 2023 Reflections and 2024 Predictions by Alex, Ben and Edtech Leaders from Instructure, Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, Age of Learning, Kinnu, Flint and Samvid Ventures

January 01, 2024 Alex Sarlin and Ben Kornell
Special Episode: 2023 Reflections and 2024 Predictions by Alex, Ben and Edtech Leaders from Instructure, Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, Age of Learning, Kinnu, Flint and Samvid Ventures
Edtech Insiders
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Edtech Insiders
Special Episode: 2023 Reflections and 2024 Predictions by Alex, Ben and Edtech Leaders from Instructure, Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, Age of Learning, Kinnu, Flint and Samvid Ventures
Jan 01, 2024
Alex Sarlin and Ben Kornell

2023 was an amazing year for Edtech! 

In this super-sized episode, Ben and Alex review top trends from the year that was and make some predictions for 2024. 

Also, we asked some of our favorite guests (and Edtech C-suiters) to give their thoughts on what we can expect to see in 2024. 

Show Notes Transcript

2023 was an amazing year for Edtech! 

In this super-sized episode, Ben and Alex review top trends from the year that was and make some predictions for 2024. 

Also, we asked some of our favorite guests (and Edtech C-suiters) to give their thoughts on what we can expect to see in 2024. 

Alexander Sarlin  0:04 
Welcome to Season Eight of Edtech Insiders where we speak to educators, founders, investors, thought leaders and the industry experts who are shaping the global education technology industry. Every week we bring you the week in edtech. important updates from the Edtech field, including news about core technologies and issues we know will influence the sector like artificial intelligence, extended reality, education, politics and more. We also conduct in depth interviews with a wide variety of EdTech thought leaders and bring you insights and conversations from ed tech conferences all around the world. Remember to subscribe, follow and tell your ed tech friends about the podcast and to check out the Edtech Insiders substack newsletter. Thanks for being part of the Edtech Insiders community enjoy the show.

Ben Kornell  0:51 
All right, everyone, it is that time of the year Edtech insiders, end of year extravaganza reflections, predictions, bold proclamations, we have finally come to my favorite episode of the year. And with me as always my amazing co host, co founder of edtech. Insiders, Alex Sarlin. Thanks for being with us today, Alex, and almost Happy New Year, happy almost New Year to you. It's a really nice feeling for the year to be almost over this has been an intense year. And I'm ready to sort of push the reset button and move on. But in a good way, in a good way. There's all sorts of exciting things on the horizon. So we're ready to turn the page a little bit ready to turn the page. But you know what, it's been amazing things we just had a really fun interview on the podcast that I really recommend everybody check out with Louise begelman of story shares. I can't wait for everybody to hear this one. Because she's just as incredibly interesting work with these high low texts, basically, you know, high interest texts for low level readers, which is becoming the majority of readers in the US. So it can't wait for that one to get out in the world. But what's new on the horizon? You just had an event last night, didn't you? Yeah, the events are going great. We had our end of the year, Bay Area edtech extravaganza up in person party. And we did a swag Exchange, which is the best because you know people have swag from companies present and past and is funny. And everyone was sharing things. And it was a great, great, great turnout. So really incredible to see our community continue to turn out and support each other ad tech summer ad tech winter. You know, there's one thing that never changes. And that's how powerful and strong our community is. And you know, before we dive too far into our reflections on the year and our predictions, you know, on the personal front, too, I would just shout out everybody here in the EdTech insiders community who's been a great supporter of me and the view and of all the things we've been building at Tech insiders, like we hit our two year anniversary last month. And I remember like you and I were like, holy crap one has it been two years. And my gosh, we just started this just chatting about what was going on in edtech. And here we are, we have so many users and listeners and subscribers and community members all across the world. And it's just mind blowing. And so we're humbled and honored. I'm actually curious, do you have any like wins or successes to celebrate on the personal front for 2023? For me, my biggest one is my son Sebastian is seven. And I was his youth soccer coach. And we had a team assigned to us. And you know, we had ups and downs during the season. But we made it to the end of season soccer tournament nice. And this like all star team where the dads all know each other, and they're like the best athletes on one team. We kind of made it all the way to the championship round. And it was us versus the golden eagles. And it was one one with like a minute left to go in the championship game and my son like pass it to his friend Hudson, who hit a rainbow shot to win the championship. And you know, we celebrate all these like, work things and so on. But, man What a moment that was. And then on school board, I'd say that my other big win was we pass a strategic plan and our facilities master plan and it's like you read all these stories about dysfunctional school boards. It's like, Whoa, I am on a highly functional school board. So it's just been outside of our ed tech insiders life. 2023 has been a very good year. How about for you?

Alexander Sarlin  4:48 
Yeah, so I hadn't been thinking about it this way. But I mean, one thing that has been really amazing so our son AVI is just about 18 months now he's we almost 18 months when this episode airs. And it's been, I mean, it's been incredible. I'm an older parent. And it is, you know, this is my first go around to parenting. And having been an edtech. For all these years, having built things for kindergarteners haven't built things for all ages, it is so interesting and so fun to be on the parents side of this for the first time. And, you know, we've been trying to go by the APA roles to some extent and keep him away from screens. But at the same time, we're in ad tech, and I know a lot of tools. And we've been starting to look at some of the ad tech products and actually, you know, put him in front of some learning games and some early things. And it is just the it's like this coming together of the personal and the professional in a way that is so much fun. It just seeing him light up, he's you know, we're mostly going hands on, he has lots of wooden toys, but at the same time, it's really exciting just knowing that there's this entire world of tools and games and social experiences, and all of these amazing entrepreneurs out there making education more and more and more interesting, and fun and effective. So I'm loving seeing those sorts of pieces come together, that would be my personal highlight. And of course, just you know, he's the best. It's an incredible experience parenting generally, even though I feel like I don't have nearly enough time to be with him, as I'm sure many of our listeners can sympathize with that. Yeah, totally. So we want to keep ourselves accountable, at least a little bit. You know, we've been doing our predictions about the next year in edtech. This is our third year doing it. And this year, we want it to be really sort of keep ourselves on the track here and look at some of the things we actually did predict last year, it was a very different world last year. But some of the things we did predict. And we want to make sure that we are looking back and learning from what you know what came true, what didn't come true where our minds we're at. So the way we're going to do this today is basically for each section, we'll look at what did we predict last year, reflecting on those predictions? What happened and didn't give ourselves a little bit of a sort of a grade? And then given that structure? What do we think is going to happen in 2024? And then of course, next year, we can look back and do it again. That's the plan. Right, Ben? That sounds great. We're gonna start with a short montage of some of the predictions that we made last year, about 2023. So as we talk about them in this episode, you'll have a little bit of a sense of some of the things we predicted. So enjoy this montage of predictions that Ben and I made, some of which were on some of which were way off from last year.

Ben Kornell  7:35  
My bold prediction in this would be that actually investment outside the US will exceed investment in the US in seed A and B stage companies.

Alexander Sarlin  7:52  
So I think we can definitely predict that when we talk about our funding rounds, for this next year, a good half of the rounds, you know, or more are going to be global are going to be outside the US, I would predict that.

Ben Kornell  8:08 
I think that the EdTech. Winter continues for VC backed companies. But I do think seed and a heavy tech companies will get funded well. So that includes AI, VR, AR and companies that leverage heavy tech infrastructure to solve education related problems. That's really where VCs need to head. And VCs only work with high growth.

Alexander Sarlin  8:42 
I think that this current snapping back to in, you know, real life centers, you mentioned goes student they've just acquired a series of, of in person centers, we've started seeing this happen in India too. I predict that they're going to come to not be that happy with those strategies. I think that there's some sort of epiphany that I don't think the industry has quite had yet, which is that, you know, there's a reason why some learning should and could be in person and shouldn't couldn't be online, like online, and especially mobile, which I think doesn't get enough, you know, discussion when it comes to this format kind of conversation. Mobile learning is incredibly convenient. And this generation z that is literally on their phone every moment. I just don't think people have really understood how much you can do for them if you make things mobile first.

Ben Kornell  9:38 
The brightspot in K 12, I think is workforce replacement solutions. And when I say replacement, I don't mean that we should replace teachers. But I think that the reality that certain verticals have clear gaps like I believe it's Illinois and Wisconsin have a computer science requirement for are high school students. And a last I checked in Wisconsin, there were only eight fully credentialed computer science teachers in the state in high schools, eight. So I do think that companies that figure out how to kind of provide staffing bridge solutions, that also goes for the mental health side, you know, there's just all this, like, we're gonna hire up a bunch, you know, 100,000, mental health workers, well, good, good luck finding them. I think that tech as a bridge for humans is actually a great solution set.

Alexander Sarlin  10:36  
My first prediction in higher ed is that we're going to see a sort of continuation and maybe even a rapid uptick of a trend we've begun seeing this year, which is really the combination of traditional degrees with employer based training. And that's going to happen, I think, in a few different ways. One is the fact that schools I think, are going to increasingly offer career based certifications as part of their offering for undergraduates and even grad students and start to bring in, you know, the Googles and IBM is in into its and, you know, big company, and, you know, Salesforce and MongoDB, and all these companies education, into the, into the ivory tower, you know, inside the inside onto the campus, so that students can actually graduate with, you know, multiple types of credentials.

Ben Kornell  11:31  
I'll categorize my predictions into good, bad and ugly, on the good, I think we are finally realizing the potential of AI, as you mentioned, and the driver, I think, are both use cases, and no code interaction with, you know, AI databases. And so let's be real, like, the potential for AI is probably greater in many other industries, where it's around optimizing advertising, or using gigantic datasets to infer intelligent information or even healthcare breakthroughs. In education, the unlock has been that it's conversational AI, that many people are building these interfaces that are actually usable, and interactable, with teachers or students who have, you know, very low technical capability. And so I'm very, very excited about that.

Alexander Sarlin  12:32  
I think we're gonna see a slew of sort of virtual reality celebrities next year, like people who are movie stars, or who are, you know, ad spokesman who are not real people. And I think that we may have our first virtual teacher celebrity, our first you know, Sal Khan, in the AI world. And my guess is that's going to happen in South Korea, or Japan first, where there's a huge education and AI, infrastructure and a sort of interest in this kind of world.

Ben Kornell  13:04 
The areas that I think have demonstrated staying power is homeschooling and micro schooling. I think that that I think we see that trend solidify. And instead of, you know, 1% of total market, I think that goes to 5% to maybe even 8% of total market. One thing we have to realize is that homeschoolers are now no longer this one way door, where I'm going homeschooling, and I'm never coming back, I think people are way more willing to take a year of doing homeschool, or two years of doing home school, coming back to the system.

Alexander Sarlin  13:46 
We've all seen artificial intelligence do some incredible things, you know, just in the last few months, imagine, you know, that large freshman psychology class, whether it's in person or online. Now it has, you know, 30 sections, and they each have a TA working with them. And it's a big undertaking. Imagine if the class is online. And every section is run by a, you know, intelligent AI avatar that makes these really amazing discussion prompts. And, and they grade everybody's papers in a way that is totally reliable. You can see a lot of cost benefits of, you know, reducing the cost of delivering instruction that can come through the use of AI and AI, as you mentioned, none of us want to replace teachers or adjuncts or professors, but I think the technology allows different kinds of models.

Ben Kornell  14:37 

Meanwhile, on the workforce side, I also think that the kind of degree on the wall value is going down, and pragmatic assessment of your skills is going up. So I expect a big boom in assessment products in workforce and what we know in K 12. And in higher ed is that. These are generally the best selling products. But we have not seen that happen and workforce. So I think, you know, once you start losing these governing bodies controlling like universities that are credentialed and controlling things, then it puts a premium on assessment of capabilities. And I think with AI, and with, you know, remote ability assessment, the cost of assessment has gone down dramatically.

Alexander Sarlin  15:31 
I think artificial intelligence is really going to become like the central technology, fueling many of the ad tech startups for the next year, I think you're just going to see it become like a slide and everybody's deck is, here's how we're using AI. And if you don't have it, the investor is gonna say, how are you using AI? And how are you using it intelligently. And I think you're gonna see a lot of interesting things happen in the AI space, incredibly rapid and cheap, educational content creation, which may be somewhat threatening to traditional publishers, we've already seen Adobe launch artificial intelligence, stock imagery, which is just fascinating. The ability to provide educators or learners with ways to personalize materials so you can, you know, print out a different worksheet for every different student, and it can have their favorite, you know, animal on it, you can do that almost immediately. With this kind of technology with the generative stuff. I think you're gonna see AI tutors, and chatbots just about everywhere that I think a lot of companies are going to be competing for that space.

Ben Kornell  16:31 
Thank you, everyone, for listening. I know you come here to hear Alex and Ben talk about Ed Tech insiders. But we also have our friends of the pod and they've come with special predictions about 2024. And here is the first one.

Ian Chiu  16:46 
Hey Ben and Alex, it's Ian Chu from Owl ventures. Congrats on another great year for Edtech Insiders. My prediction for 2024 is learning how to leverage AI to learn train and earn is going to be top of mind for educational institutions and companies alike. This first year since the launch of chat GPT has been one of discovery for many, which brought both amazement of what AI is capable of, and fear as to what it means for learning integrity as well as potential job displacement. In the next 12 months, we're going to see AI become an integral part of every technology company's offerings. And concurrently more efforts by end users and institutions to learn and understand how we can best integrate AI into our daily lives and workflows. It's going to be an exciting year.

Ben Kornell  17:37 
You know, I think there's probably no two letters that really capture the tone, vibe and theme of 2023 other than the letters A and I. So let's start with AI. And let's look back and also look forward. What were your predictions for 2023? What was your past prediction? Did it come true? And where do you think things are headed?

Alexander Sarlin  18:01 
Yeah. So I had two basic predictions for 2023. One was around the idea of AI sort of being everywhere, you know, there's going to be an AI slide in every deck, there's going to be all of these use cases, that, you know, we'll be able to start personalizing educational materials and user generated content and all sorts of different formats and AI tutors and chatbots. And, you know, that wasn't exactly the most bold prediction in the world, although, you know, and even at the time, it was sort of like, this is my bold prediction. Wait, it's not really that bold, this is almost definitely going to happen. And yes, I think that definitely happened. The other I don't think was quite as pression, which was really about the concept of AI being used by higher ed to reduce the cost of delivery. Because you know, as anybody who listens to this podcast knows, higher ed costs are completely out of control and have been for a long time and higher ed, professionals are trying, on some level, at least to think of ways to make their delivery costs a little bit lower so that they can reduce costs to others. And we talked about the idea of, you know, what would it look like if you had a freshman psychology class with 30 sections, and each section is actually taught by an AI TA that can do some of the feedback and the discussion prompts and the grading and as far as I know, that has not yet happened. And I'm saying yet with a capital yet here, because that is definitely going to happen. But it is definitely not happened yet. So those are my predictions. I give myself a sort of easy a minus on the first one. I certainly didn't get all the details, and probably a C on the second maybe even a c minus on the second one because I was very optimistic that the education institutions would embrace this in sort of strategic ways. And I don't think they've quite gotten their heads around it yet. No offense to them. It's a fast changing world. How about you, Ben, what were you thinking about for AI?

Ben Kornell  19:51 
Yeah, on the AI front last year, I basically said that, you know, Hoover coming out of the kind of web three seat. Right. And so I said, you know, web three, and crypto seems like it's on the downward spiral. Is AI, just another fad? And I said, it's not a fad. Yes. And that there are real use cases that are relevant for education. And, you know, I had already seen some of the non generative AI, but more supervised AI, ml deep tech AI companies coming of age. So I was bold on those. I did say that the kind of general purpose AI companies like Chet GBT, and all of that would not go viral in education. You know, at that time, we were seeing actually right after our predictions episode, New York City band chat GPT. So my prediction was that we were going to have this wave of education specific AI that's going to be adopted, but the kind of mainstream would not. And I would say, that's really not played out. In general, I would just say, mostly, when people say AI today, the general population, they mean, chat. CBT and AI are interchangeable for the common conception. And so I don't think that there's been clear lines drawn, but there has been a lot of effort to kind of make distinctions around what's safe and what's not in an education context. So yeah, I would say on not a fad, I would still give myself a strong area on the kind of general tech not playing in the education tech, I'd probably give myself a B. And that's mainly because man, the force, and power of these engines like open AI, and Google, Bart and Gemini, and all of these things are really powerful.

Jomayra Herrera  21:50  
Hello, it's Jomayra Herrera from Reach Capital. And I predict in the next year, we will see a big evolution in the AI tutor landscape. Ai tutors will go from being better web search experiences to actually being a great tutor, which means they personalized learning experiences to students, they are customized to the content that students are actually learning in the classroom. They also can predict misconceptions that students will have and actually reflect what great tutors do. And so I'm excited for that new opportunity in the horizon.

Alexander Sarlin  22:32 
One thing I definitely didn't predict and I think it's really relevant to what you're saying here is that these schools that were all about banning AI, all these big urban districts banned AI, like big sweeping brushes, and then reverse their bands over the summer, it really, the flavor of the reaction really changed. And I gotta give the especially the K 12. world a lot of credit for not sort of falling early into reaction mode.

Ben Kornell  22:58 
Yeah, go k 12. If you're looking for that timeline, check out our Chad TBT one year birthday kind of timeline where we walk through those shifts. Yeah, so I'll take a crack at my bold prediction for AI in the future. I'm very curious to hear about yours. First, you know, you and I have been talking about multimodal for a long time. And so my concept is Omni modal. Yes. And it's this idea that so the difference between multimodal and Omni modal is in multimodal, you take texts, and then you move it to vision or you move it to voice. And basically natural language processing is the interim step where everything kind of moves to text, and then it moves back to whatever the mode of consumption is. And what I think we're starting to see is speech to speech. We're starting to see vision division, we're starting to see vision to text to speech. And so this idea that an output only comes first, like inputs only go in one processor direction that's gone. Basically everything goes to everything. Yes. And from an output standpoint, the idea that you just want to text output or just one of audio or just one a visual, basically, my bold prediction is that in chat GPT in, you know, Google's Gemini in whatever way you can access that you're going to start getting all three ready for you. And every time you engage, you're able to move fluidly from all of the different modes. And what I think is powerful about that is for people for whom writing or text or language or speech or any single mode is challenging for them. This is going to give new avenues for expression connection and content generation that are really powerful and you think about students with reading disabilities, or students with processing have disabilities or who can't speak or who are visually impaired, there's so many ways in which this is going to help navigate the world. My dark prediction is that we're going to have a wave of AI, boyfriends and girlfriends coming to high schools near you. And I think there's going to be a big parent freak out around, what are my kids saying, and talking to and doing with their AI. And I don't think people realize how, you know, social media has these like elements where people kind of get go down the rabbit hole. Yeah, AI is like that to infinity. And for the teen brain. AI is an incredibly attractive friend, who always reinforces what you are thinking and saying, loves to talk to you anytime, and also can create all kinds of voice and images and so on. And I think that's going to be a defining theme, really for four or five years coming up.

Sunil Gunderia  26:08 
Hello, Sunil Gunderia, Chief Innovation Officer at Age of Learning here, my first prediction is about AI. A recent study from EdWeek found that more educators perceive AI in edtech products as a negative than as a positive, I predicted edtech. Companies that will gain the most traction in 2024 are those that can demonstrate evidence that their AI based products actually improve student outcomes. The second prediction is based on the growing bipartisan support for expanding investment in early childhood education, policymakers are recognizing that edtech can be used to both improve kindergarten readiness, and to upskill the ECE workforce, which I predict will result in expanded procurement of evidence based ad tech solutions for EC II. The final prediction is based on the impending Esser cliff, which is going to require in new funding models to address learning loss, the southern Education Foundation in collaboration with innovative to you are doing some great work on a model known as outcome based contracting. This is where edtech developers agree to have skin in the game, as a portion of their district contract is contingent on student results, I predict we'll see the expansion of the use of outcome based contracting in 2024. Thank you all and wishing everyone a fantastic new year.

Alexander Sarlin  27:32  
So much great stuff in there, I have a few things to add, which is basically my predictions. And they're very, very similar in certain ways, which is that I was just watching this amazing clip in an AI sort of explainer video about the Eliza system, the old AI psychiatrist that was made in back in that I believe it was the 60s or 70s. And the scientist who is in charge was saying, Oh, he would sit and look over the shoulders of the people using it just to be sort of tech support and help. And they would ask him to leave. Because they were like, What are you doing? I'm with my psychiatrist. And he's like, This computer has no idea what you're talking about, like I made it, believe me. And it was very, very easy for people to fall down that, you know, believing a AI to be real rabbit hole. And that was 5060 years ago. These are visual, their video. I mean, it's unbelievable. And they can do influencer, they can do you know, tick tock dances. I don't know if you've seen any of this incredible stuff. Like you can literally take a still picture of somebody and have them do any tick tock dance with AI. Oh my god. So we're in a crazy world. So one of the predictions that I made last year that has definitely not yet come true, but it's sort of heading that way, at least in the pop world. And I think it's relevant to what you're saying, Ben is this idea of AI influencers and sort of the first I predicted last year we'd see the first AI Sal Khan in 2023, the first AI superstar teacher who is not a real person, but everybody knows their name, and you ask them questions, and they can answer anything and teach you anything. That has certainly not happened. I still think it's a great idea. It hasn't happened. But what has happened is enormous amounts of progress, quote, unquote, on AI influence in pop culture, you have a 6 million, you know, follower, supermodel influencer from Brazil, this character name shoes, the first AI, you know, digital supermodel, you have influencers making 10s of 1000s of dollars a month, who are not real people who are just created, and you can make them do anything and promote anything, and they do great. South Korea has just introduced a whole suite of virtual avatars that can be used to promote products or all sorts of things. So this stuff is happening not in the education world. But it is only a matter of time before it is part of the education world. And like you say, Ben, it'll be part of the education world in the dark way that you know, high school kids will have virtual boyfriends and girlfriends and people who they you know, it'll come in from pop culture and from consumer culture, but I do think if we get our act together at Tech We there also could be a positive education version of this where you do have teachers, characters, basically characters that are consistent, that you can ask questions of that can teach you anything, they can tutor you on anything that you can just sort of feel comfortable with as a peer or, you know, any different context. So I'm excited about that I thought it would happen this year, at least begin to happen this year. And it definitely has not I give myself a clear D for that one at the same time, I think it is coming. And you see it in pop culture. The other prediction I have, that it's sort of related to your Omni modal idea, because I think that is a powerful idea. We know UDL is all about multiple modalities, universal design for learning, you know, the idea that you can put material in front of students in many different ways, and that they can search for material or ask questions, in many different ways, is incredibly powerful. And I think this year, we're going to start really taking advantage of it just like you say, the other thing that I would say is more of a sort of Inside Business prediction, which is, when we saw a few weeks ago, curriculum associates buy out soapbox Labs, which is ostensibly a b2b voice recognition AI platform, that was a little bit of a canary in a coal mine feeling to me about that, in that you have all of these really fast moving, often very technologically savvy startups that have come out in the last year. And then you have all of these, you know, big edtech companies that have deep pockets and have been looking at this space very carefully. And I think we're gonna see a lot of consolidation this year, which is earlier than you might think, for new technology. But I think that, as you have multiple companies in each category, within AI, some of them are going to need bailouts or need exits, and there'll be great tech, but they just can't compete in a crowded and sort of busy market. So I think we're gonna see a lot of acquisitions over the next year, this is what they're going to be my prediction that my bold edtech AI prediction is that I think you're gonna see a lot of the sort of older guard accompanies purchasing and then integrating and in some ways, cutting off from the rest of the EdTech world, sort of making sure that they own it, different AI solutions, and that might be aI tutors, that might be content generation, that might be personalization engines, that might be translation engines. There's all sorts of things that are happening in AI. And these are functionalities that the big tech companies could really use in huge ways. You know, if you have a company that does translation of content into many different languages or into speech, well, who could better use that than a big publisher that has a huge long tail of content, but you don't think they're just going to build it themselves? I don't think they know how yet. I've been actually a little underwhelmed this year about the AI suites coming out of the bigger edtech companies. I don't know, I just haven't seen quite as much sort of really exciting features from that as I would have expected to. So if I were them, I mean, if I were a Pearson or McGraw and Hmh, or Wiley or Eleusinian, or a, you know, just big companies have been in the space a long time or Renaissance or curriculum associates or amplify. I'm not sure I would sort of hire and try to do that internally. I think I might just lean back and pay attention to the space and start cherry picking and plucking people out and aqua hiring these, you know, five person companies that are doing really cool things. So yeah, I feel like strategically it makes sense. Well,

Ben Kornell  33:20 
you know, I'm sure AI is going to continue to weave into all of our stories. But that was actually one of my predictions from last year is that m&a would see a huge uptick. You know, I predicted that for 2023. And it really hasn't happened like I thought it would. Sure we've had a drumbeat of m&a announcements, but nothing that I would say is out of the norm. My thought on the driver of m&a Was that because of the tough financial situations, people would push for m&a. There was a lot of private equity, money on the sidelines. There were large, highly distributed companies. And then there were a number of promising companies that had seen some slowdown in their revenue growth. And we're also like dealing with runway challenges. What I think happened instead is we had 2023 was really the year of the layoffs where that was like the true de rigueur trend, you know, and everyone, you know, is kind of like, every time a public company had a layoff, their stock goes up. So it filters down to the psychology of like, Hey, I'm doing well, I just had three rounds of layoffs. And I'm like, in what universe are we living? Because three years ago, that would have been like, oh, crash, you know, spiral burn. This company is doing all these layoffs stay away. Right. And now it's like they're disciplined. They know what they're doing. So I just think one don't get caught up in the hype cycle. In general. I did predict that the EdTech winter would continue. And I predicted that global investment would outpace the US those have come Um, true, but definitely a miss on the m&a. And, you know, actually your thought about, you know, AI driving m&a? That's a more of like positive response. But, you know, I think what will determine that is the valuations like if AI valuations continue to be, you know, outpacing normal market valuations. I think those larger companies also sit back and wait for those valuations to come down to earth. My reflection on 2023, other than layoffs trending was that our public companies in edtech, and our unicorns have taken a beating. I mean, it's like, Please, sir, may have enough. I don't think that everyone really totally understands that when you're like, a small sector like we are, and you only have a certain number of public companies, it really really affects how people value the space, when you have a company like to you crashing, Chegg has kind of had a crash, and then they're back a little bit, but it's still, you know, it is not rose colored glasses here, the only exception being Duolingo, of course, but we're going to have so my picks going forward, my regular prediction is we're going to have a prolonged edtech winner. And I think VC is going to pick back up in 2024. because interest rates are going to you know, they've kind of peaked in or coming back to Earth, I do think that there's going to be a number of AI companies that do generate significant revenue, but other industries will like healthcare, for example, health, m&a, health, VC, all that has picked back up. But Ed Tech, I think we are in for another down year. And I think the funds may be in for a tough year, and potentially not hiring a lot or consolidating. Just in the last week, we've seen some firm out of Boston actually laid off all their venture capitalists. So the layoff trend has even hit VC, I'm going to double down and say more m&a and focus on profitability. So maybe I will double down on just more m&a happening. I think it's going to happen because people are distress. And I think there's going to be some good businesses that are picked up for not very much. But I would actually say I think that the big publishers are not going to do a lot of AI acquisitions, I think they're gonna hire and create teams internally interesting, that are AI teams, I think you might even see like a chief AI officer for a company that's really thinking about AI integrations across the entire platform. And I do think that schools and universities are going to have an expectation that there are, you know, AI integrated tools across platforms. So I expect it to be more of a core capability.

Hanna Celina  38:06 
Hello, it's Hannah Celina from Kinnu. So I think that 2024 will be a year of deep reflection for everyone about what learning actually means. And I expect slash hope that people will see that learning goes beyond rescaling upskilling preparing for a career, and is actually the most human thing to do. It's something that we do because we're curious not because we have to. And the fact that now machines can complete a vast majority of tasks will finally bring this understanding that we're not learning because we have to, but we're learning because we want to. The second thing that I expect to see is a continued crunch. In the funding market for a tech companies. It's been a very hard year for tech companies in 2023, funding wise and in 2024. In addition to what we've seen so far, I also expect kind of increased level of scrutiny for companies that have raised on kind of thin application layer of AI in education. And investors who are now a bit more savvy, who have taken a bit of a cold shower after the initial excitement about the potential of AI will really start looking with far more scrutiny at founders at what is the value add that the company actually brings with AI to education?

Ben Kornell  39:36 
Tell me a little bit about your funding and market predictions.

Alexander Sarlin  39:40 
I hope that is true in some ways. I mean, I think there will be some benefit to that future. But I just AI challenges is hard. It's sort of few and far between. And I think a lot of the, in my experience with the really great AI players, the individuals who are you know, willing to put all their energy and time into education versus all the other things they could be doing with their AI skills tend to want to start their own thing. That's the thing I've seen. It's like, if you're a really brilliant recent PhD in machine learning, your dream job is not to go work for as the chief AI officer at McGraw Hill, I just don't see it. I have never heard anybody say that. I might be wrong. This might be the year that that changes. But I think the path that I've seen so far is that people tend to want to change the system. That's sort of a lot of the raison d'etre for a lot of edtech entrepreneurs, right? They're fueled by the frustration that exists, and all the missed opportunity and all the problems in these big systems, and they don't see the entrenched players as the solutions. So I don't know, it's gonna be interesting to see. I mean, you know, a lot more about the sort of edtech big scale markets than I do. So it's hard to take the over on this, like, it has been a really, incredibly brutal year. You're right. You know, I also predicted last year that the rest of the world that you know, the global edtech would outpace the US edtech. And as you mentioned, that's exactly what we have seen, it wasn't that different than existing trends. But you know, up to the third quarter of 2023, there was only $1.2 billion of investment in the US and about point 7 billion in Europe, point four in India, point four in China, which is a bounce back, and then you know, even more in the rest of the world. So we are seeing in 2023, when the numbers fully come out, definitely less than half of all of the investment is going to be in the US, which is really, you know, it's interesting to see, and global edtech is just really exciting, I think that I am going to be slightly more optimistic about the future of the EdTech investment space, I hear you and I think you definitely have inside information about this. So I definitely hear you that, you know, the VC world might not be sort of feeling incredibly bullish, and some of the limited partners might be holding back. And there's reasons to be pessimistic, if you look at this huge dip from we're basically, you know, an equivalent of like, 2017 numbers, you know, in terms of investment in the US after having seen it, you know, 6x in 2021. So, and it's all the way back down. So that doesn't look good. That said, I do think that we just saw our friends at transcend, put out a report about the Transcend fellowship, put out a report where they interviewed 20, you know, Ed Tech VCs about what they're doing about whether they're raising a new fund, about how they're sort of thinking about things. And it was surprisingly optimistic for, you know, such a dismal year coming out of such a dismal year, there was still a lot of belief in the ability to raise new funds, the ability to keep, you know, to keep moving and growing from this sort of low point. I think there's probably something to that. And it might be a little bit of, you know, asking the people whose job it depends on to predict the future, and they want it to work. But at the same time, like, I was pretty negative last year, I don't think we talked about this in the predictions episode. But there was a while where we talked about, you know, what will happen this year in terms of edtech investment? And I took the under there, I was like, I don't think it's gonna be last year at all. I don't think it's gonna be, you know, near it. And it wasn't, you are very right, yeah. But this year, we're at a low. And I mean, these charts look so funny, I'm looking at the India chart, right, I'm looking at that investment in India. And it's like, it was basically a half a billion dollars in 2018, and 2019. And then in 2020, through 2022, in the basically the pandemic years, it was, you know, four times as much. And then like, six, seven times as much, it was just huge jump. And now here we are 23. And it's back down at point four, like, lower than it was in 2018. And I, you know, it's hard for me to imagine that this field, given all the technological changes, given the fact that education is not going anywhere, there's still more and more people who need education, it feels like a running scared market, correction of all of the generalist investors running away, is what we're actually seeing here. It doesn't seem to me like, Oh, this is where we actually should be like, these really low numbers are like the actual size of the EdTech. Market. It feels Yeah.

Ben Kornell  44:14  
I mean, one thing, though, that is also happening here is that there was the concentrated bets in large companies. True, you know, and that really skewed these numbers. And as we know, the largest tech company in India, yes. Yes, and I don't know if we want to pull up the global conversation, but I think you were really prescient, in not only that, things were going to go down, but you were also prescient in like, the ability of smaller companies to like, make more impact. Yeah. So you don't need as much capital, you know, in the smaller companies. So actually, why don't you do your bold prediction on this and then let's talk about global Sure,

Alexander Sarlin  45:00 
I mean, my bold prediction is that I'm a little bit optimistic, I think we're gonna see the numbers come back up, I think they're not going to come up to 2021 levels for sure, they're probably not even going to come back up to 2022 levels. But if they make up half the distance between where we are now and 2022, that's still a, you know, doubling or tripling of where we are in 2023. So I'm hoping that next year, fueled by AI fueled by just sort of optimism about people finally getting the memo about where education should be going, I'm optimistic that there's going to be some level of bounce back.

Amit Patel  45:38  
Hi, this is Ahmit Patel from Owl Ventures. One prediction that I have for 2024 is that there will be significant demand for mental health resources, especially within k 12 schools, the profound impact that COVID had on everyone, especially young people and educators is still far from being fully understood. In fact, 16 of the 20 largest public school districts around the country are starting to offer online therapy sessions to reach millions of students. And I believe the number of districts that are offering these types of resources is going to significantly increase. This has been particularly helpful in rural environments. And for students that come from lower income backgrounds, as it has made it easier for them to access these resources. Even for students in urban settings, it has been hugely helpful. Given the flexibility students have to access telehealth resources. I believe this trend is not only going to help students and educators have a greater sense of belonging, but also have a significant impact on academic performance.

Ben Kornell  46:40 
I love your optimism, I'm probably going to take the under on though for in part because I think many of the EdTech investor so the general is Sir out. And the ed tech investors have to run a longer race now. And so they're going to be more paced. And their focus right now generally speaking, is taking care of existing portfolio, not new. And so a lot of that will be just cash management and helping them run a longer race. That said, reach capital, by the way, is just deploying, and they are moving. And there's a way in which I feel like they're kind of on this and didn't see. And so it's going to be really interesting to watch. Okay, so on global the segwayed into this, I was bearish on Europe. And I was bullish on India. And I think both were probably wrong. But to my credit, I called out tutoring across the world. And I particularly mentioned, you can play the clip, go student, I predicted would have a bunch of headwinds to grow. And you could just see that one coming in. And of course, I don't celebrate, you know, we're all doing education for good and for impact course. But you could just see the writing on the wall that that one was not going to live into its valuation. And same with paper. And you can also play my clip, basically, for the high efficacy, you know, intensive programs, there's a path, but for these low touch, everyone can get it kind of value propositions, that's gonna wear out really quickly. That definitely happened. But back to the global point, I think I missed that. Europe was going to be solid. And I was basically saying too much regulation. I was saying, too many barriers cross country, all the funding from COVID going away, and boy, was I wrong. There's like a really solid engine in Europe, supporting ed tech, and India, on the opposite side had really came back down to earth, there wasn't the infrastructure. And I think parents there started realizing, learners aren't getting the ROI on that. Yeah. And the pricing power was not strong enough. Okay. And so where do I go from there after I would give myself an F plus. On my global predictions, you know, I mentioned this a little bit last year, but I continue to be very bullish on Latvia and global markets. And I do think that there's a lot of activity in LATAM. To be fair, I probably have been overly bullish just on $1 for dollar basis, just because the amount of money has still not been rivaling UK, Europe, or US markets. But I'm still very bullish on Latin. And I, my bold prediction is we will have a new global unicorn that's coming out of LATAM. And my guess is it's Mexico, or Brazil, that's going to produce it. But I think on our list of unicorns that we're going to talk about next year, one of those new unicorns that'd be Latin American.

Alexander Sarlin  50:01  
Yeah, one org that has gotten really deep in Latin and it's been exciting to watch has been GSV, you've seen a number of different big investments in Latin American companies. And I was really impressed this year at what I guess it was at the New York ed tech week pitch competition, I think a full probably third to a half of the pitches were from Latin America, and there were some amazing companies with really big traction. And that was something that, you know, is a big advantage. And you've said this for a long time, a big advantage of some of the Latin American economies is that you can get a lot of users when you're addressing real pain points very quickly, if you sort of hit the right price point and the right price points, sometimes a little bit low. But that's okay. Because, you know, you can get a really big user base, whether that's lots of schools, whether that's lots of learners, or students, or, you know, two T's. And I've been impressed with Latin America as well. I didn't have a whole lot of predictions last year about the global edtech scene, other than the one already mentioned that more than half of the funding will be from really outside the US, which I think we both agreed on what I would say about this year, and this is a little bit of a hand wavy prediction, but I'm gonna do my best with that is that, you know, in a world, like the one we were just talking about, where smaller companies, we've been calling them sort of micro companies in our newsletter, you know, that can make really big impact with not that many employees without having necessarily having to grow and grow and grow, especially leveraging AI for efficiency. And in many ways, often leveraging AI for their actual product, it can help, you know, can help design, the UX, it can help design all the content, it can do all sorts of things, I think give an advantage to a few different regions. One, you know, we've seen some really cool companies in Europe, and we saw our friends at Keita science in Finland get acquired this year, we saw I'm a big fan of Kinu, which is out of England, but he has a Polish founder and European company that they do a really, really cool learning app that's mobile friendly, all these things. And that's been great. And we've seen, you know, learn XYZ, among many, many others, by the way of small groups of people who are really passionate about education, know a lot of different things. And sometimes it's education, you know, with a lowercase E passionate about learning, passionate about the fact that everybody is really hungry for you know, solutions, it doesn't necessarily mean working within the traditional system. And so we've seen a bunch of these sort of micro companies fueled by AI in Europe. But if you really zoom out and look at the entire world and think about, you know, where are places where you could have a small group of people with advanced education, AI expertise, who come together and get really rapid traction by building something that just like catches up flame, I actually think that's going to happen in Asia, I think that's going to happen in Singapore, I think it's going to happen in South Korea, I think that's going to happen in Indonesia, and especially around some of the sort of education hubs, they're the places where there are some really advanced colleges, it may happen in Japan, and in India to and you're gonna definitely, I mean, you're already seeing lots of these really impressive companies. And we talked to title this year, really impressive companies coming out of basically the cities in the Asian and South Asian continent. And, you know, I can imagine a whole ecosystem of these sort of small groups of really motivated young people who didn't necessarily love their own education system, but went really far in it anyway, for a variety of reasons and got, you know, advanced degrees and all sorts of technical fields, and are coming together and saying, we now have the tooling to make a really successful, pretty large scale company with just the, you know, four of us or just the eight of us or, you know, small groups. So I think this is happening already. We don't have as much insight into it as we do for some of these other groups just because of where we sit in the world. But, you know, I have a suspicion especially, I'm really bullish on South Korea, specifically. And the reason I am, is that South Korea has a culture of learning and tutoring. That is like sort of second to none. It's unbelievably intense, but also unbelievably sophisticated. It was taking advantage of YouTube, for you know, massive spreads have tutoring for a long time. And it is now a global leader in soft culture of sort of all kinds. I mean, we're all Kpop fans now. So I think my bold prediction this year is that we're going to start talking a lot more about Asian AI fueled micro companies in edtech, especially out of South Korea, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see, you know, so we were talking about, you know, Berlin last year, we've been talking about Mexico City, there are places that are becoming sort of hubs of tech in various ways. I think Sol is going to become a serious hub of Ed Tech soon, and there's so much content there and there's so much sort of passion for the field. And I think there's a lot of really sophisticated technical experts in various aspects of these fields including video including Natural Language Processing gaming. I mean, Japan and Korea have run laps around us in the creation of games for quite a while, not entirely, but they have huge cultures of that as Canada. And I just think there's gonna be some really interesting things coming out of like small groups of people doing like literally mind blowing things. Yeah.

Gemma Lenowitz  55:22  
Hi, Alex and Ben, this is Gemma from Samvid Ventures. And my bold prediction for 2024 is that we will be talking about semantic layers. And ad tech companies will be adding semantic layers into their products, basically to help school districts and universities make better sense of their data. Because those layers will enhance the accessibility and usability of data, think user friendly dashboards and reports. Now, this could mean that big business analytics providers like Microsoft and IBM will continue to be major players in education. But I actually think new AI tools will make it easier for smaller professional development providers and teacher training programs to help instructors better use data effectively to personalize learning for students.

Ben Kornell  56:08 
I'm excited for us to do our tech insiders direct from Seoul Korea episode, let's make it happen. Maybe we need to make sure you know we reported out we sent a scout reporter out to Asia Ed Tech Summit, maybe this is our year to go. Yes. So we're halfway through we've kind of covered AI, we've covered market trends and investing we've covered global, let's go to our old standby K 12, higher ed and workforce. Let's start with k 12. I'm going to go with I think my predictions were really influenced by where we were it was 2022. And we had just seen the rise of liberty mom's and a wave of elections that were influenced by politics. And so I really, you know, I'd say my reflection on last year is that politics probably wasn't the headline, it was maybe a subhead. And I think teacher shortage was the headline. And so, you know, I maybe got those reversed. And I would even say, as we talked about higher ed politics may be shifting more towards higher ed and away from K 12. I don't want to underestimate it and you know, identity politics in the K 12 zone. But we've actually seen a backlash around the Liberty mom movement that might end up making it a less politically viable path for Republicans. So you know, I'd give myself a B, on that prediction. And I was probably over optimistic around AI use cases being so powerful, and I was probably overly pessimistic around the bands of Chet GPT. And so, you know, I think the reframe going forward is that, for edtech, the EdTech industry, schools and school districts are thinking about coherence and consolidation of their products. And Gone are the days of let every flower bloom. And I think they're taking a much more focused and measured path to adopting any new products, and they're calling existing products. And so there's an increasing focus on professional development and employment pathways, because of the teacher shortage. So how do I train up the teachers that I do have? Because that's who I'm stuck with? And for better or for worse? And also, how do I take my paraprofessionals and other people who are in the system and train them up to be educators. And so I think that AI is not going to be the headline around a lot of these, it's going to be embedded in the tools. It's going to be embedded in the curriculum. And I think there will be way more AI utilization, but not I want to buy an AI tool. It's going to be much more like I want personalized curriculum from my curriculum providers. And then the AIS enablement of that. I do also think my prediction about AI around AI, boyfriends and girlfriends, I think that that will become a controversial item. And so it is going to play out a little bit more around b2c general public use AI, kind of like social media plays out. And so I think that will be controversial, but for our ITT Tech friends, I think it's going to be tough sledding in K 12. Because there isn't a ton of funding. There's still some but the SR Cliff has come. And there's no no major funds anymore. And I think the buyers are getting much more restrictive and savvy and streamlining and cutting things out. Yeah, yeah. And by the way, on a sales motion I'm seeing that bottoms up doesn't work top down doesn't work, you've got to have almost a level of both like where teachers have these like viral ways of discovering your product. But then you also have support with, you know, administration to buy down. And edtech adjacent spaces like mental health, you're also seeing that same kind of dynamic where you can have a champion who loves what you're doing, but you're still going to have to get like superintendent or assistant superintendent level buy in to make a sale. All right. So those are my predictions. I don't know if any of those are bold. Maybe my bold one is that it's like career tech stuff in education could actually be a very attractive vertical retain, yeah, train attract talent, like talent is the number one issue for schools and it will be for next year.

Alexander Sarlin  1:00:50 
Yeah, that's a really interesting one. And we have seen some, you know, swing education, we have seen some startups really focusing on helping fill the talent gap. And I can, that's really an interesting one. Last year, my only prediction that you really run the K 12. World here, and I tried to follow it. But it is so complicated. There's so many pieces to it. I mean, the only thing that I predicted last year that was really specifically about K 12, or PK 12 Is that there had been this moment last year. And this I want to mention go student, again, is one of the players here, where post pandemic, a number of edtech companies, especially tutoring companies, were starting to say, oh, like, there's this snapback thing, people are going much more back to you know, how the way they used to learn and think about this than we expected. And people were starting to open all these in person, you know, centers and this sort of, you talked about micro schooling, and homeschooling, too. They're sort of all of these different moves to think about how do we get people physically together, given that that's what they seem to want post pandemic, it's not all about online anymore. And I predicted at the time that that was not the wisest solution, especially when it comes to the creation of these sort of in person tutoring centers. And I mean, I don't know the exact numbers of the businesses, I you know, it's hard to know, inside baseball from the businesses exactly how they're doing. But my prediction at the time was people are really under estimating mobile learning, as the actual sort of core clearest means to get in front of young people, maybe not the youngest youngest students, but young people in the world, everywhere, right now. And I think that was a pretty good prediction. It's hard to exactly to quantify how well that's been true. But we definitely have not been talking much over the last six months, at least, about, you know, these in person centers and the sort of strategies to get back to Brick and mortar. And instead, we've seen, you know, you mentioned Duolingo, as the sort of apotheosis of this. But like, you know, we've seen a lot more companies leaning into finding students through technology and through mobile phones than we had previously, or at least the ones that have continued to grow. So I'm feeling pretty good about that. One, it was a little bit of a wacky sort of counter cyclical predictions, like people are doing this right now. I'm not sure that's gonna last. And I think that's probably true. The thing that I think is going to be interesting about this next year. One other thing that I have predicted again, not in this episode, but sort of throughout the year, is that in the AI meets K 12. World, we're in this sort of race between basically the good and the bad, like the disastrous, chaotic, horrible things that might and probably will happen in this huge K 12. World in the US, I'm talking about specifically where people bully each other or fall in love with an AI you know, bot and self harm because of it, or all sorts of things can happen. And I've been predicting all year, hey, this stuff is really powerful. It's just a matter of time before this happens. And what we have to do as an edtech community is get ahead of it and have positive use cases have incredible things happening with K 12, at EA, especially younger students, and edtech. So that people realize that this stuff is so powerful. And what's been sort of surprising to me is that I don't feel like either of them has really happened. I don't feel like we've had these horrible disastrous headlines, least sort of moral crises yet, where anybody said, Oh, we've got to keep this out of the hands of our students, because it's going to destroy, you know, the moral fabric of our society. XYZ. I haven't heard much of that. In fact, school leaders in many districts have completely abandoned anything even resembling that kind of rhetoric and even like the cheating rhetoric, and said, Hey, AI is here. It's the new world, like, let's embrace it, let's figure out all these amazing things we can do. At the same time, I actually haven't heard that many amazing things. Like for somebody who follows a field pretty closely. There's been so many different AI companies that have been so many different approaches, and yet, I have still not had seen almost any stories anywhere about this is what the example I was used as like, you know, this sixth grader just invented a cure for this disease using AI or this group of eighth graders just made it in a fully electric car because they're Working with AI or robotics, like, where are those stories? Somehow, I feel like I was just way off on this, I give myself a pure, you know, F on this because I was like, one way or another, there's going to be these real flashy headlines either amazing things like this is the future Look at this kid, look at these group of kids look at this school, look at this district. Or we're all doomed because AI is gonna take over our kids lives. It's actually been a really interesting and kind of nuanced. It's more nuanced than I expected discussion over the last year, and you've seen all of these different district leaders have, you know, these real thoughtful moments of like, hey, you know, is this an inequality issue, an inequity issue, we're keeping our kids away from the technology we know to be the future, that's probably not, you know, what we want to do as educators? It's like, wow, that's very thoughtful. I just had an opportunity to interview the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools a few weeks ago for the podcast, who was amazing. And I asked him about AI, and he was glowing about it. He was like, this is the most exciting technology, we have so many amazing things we can do with it. He was also very bullish on the career tech, you know, to your point actually been about sort of, how do you get create clear pathways for students from, you know, elementary and high school to associate's degrees, two degrees or two career prep in ways that, you know, they can actually be earning credit and getting where they want to go? It's was really interesting, but I was just really shocked at how you know, people have, we just haven't seen it fall off the cliff. And either way, and everybody sort of been in this state of cautious optimism, at least I think that's the majority of how people feel about this. You have your naysayers, and you have some incredibly bullish people saying, you know, this is being really excited. I think I've been really surprised. And I guess with that in mind, I think something's gonna happen this year. I mean, I don't know which direction is gonna go in. But something's going to happen in some of this discussion about the AI, you know, boyfriends and girlfriends. I still think it's just a matter of time before, you know, the right story happens in some school, where people say, Oh, my gosh, like, this is a huge deal. This was never possible before. It's only true because of AI. And it's like a big shocker. I don't know if it's going to be a positive or negative at this point. And I still maintain that, as educators, you know, at tech people, we should do everything we can to have positive stories coming out, because there's people talk about in a very abstract way, hypothetical way, you know, kids could do this, they could do that. They could learn in any language, they could learn in any modality. But it's still not actually happening yet. I don't know if this adds up to a prediction. But I guess I've been pleasantly and very deeply surprised that the narrative has sort of stayed in the sort of middle lane all year. And I don't know, I think sometime this year, something's going to tilt in one way or the other, and I'm hoping it's positive.

Shiren Vijiasingam  1:08:00 
Hi, it's Shiren Vijiasingam from Instructure, I'm optimistic about the future of education. And we need to work together as an industry to ensure new edtech solutions complement learning, we've successfully navigated emerging technologies in education before, and we'll do it again. In many ways, much of the needed technology already exists today, such as virtual learning hubs, where students at any stage of their journey can review assignments and work on their projects from anywhere in the world. Thoughtfully infusing emerging tech like generative AI, where it makes sense means someday soon, we can better empower excellent educators who will inspire the next generation.

Ben Kornell  1:08:43 
We will see and we'll report back on our predictions here. So I think both of us gotten middling grades here. I also should, to be very fair should also say I said the area that I think that have demonstrated staying power is homeschooling and micro schooling. Yes, staying power, but definitely not going to 8% of total market like had boldly predicted. And, you know, also tutoring, let's go to higher ed, where I think, you know, the main thing on higher ed, that we've seen is growing questioning of the ROI. And what we talked about last year, my predictions, your predictions really around growing acceptance of online, growing acceptance of like fractional or this idea of like, breaking down the four year degree in two component parts. And I'd say the part that I didn't see coming was really the political side, this questioning of wokeness of schools, not that the data wasn't there to begin with. And you know, you've done this is kind of your area where you've got a lot of expertise. But, you know, we had seen a bunch of divides in terms of perception of higher ed, among political liberals versus people. Political conservatives. And, you know, we had covered this idea of, you know, our schools, higher ed, you know, perceived to be brainwashing people or skewing people to one political set of conclusions or not, that really burst onto the scene this past month. And so I don't want us to be to have too much recency bias. But if I were going to predict going forward, 2024 is an election year. And I would have predicted a year and a half ago that it would be about K 12 schools, and specifically gender, I think, is really, you know, transgender and transgender rights, and gender confusion. And, you know, basically, how the right frames it versus how the left frames and what's appropriate in schools felt like a political, you know, catalysts. But I feel like we had these university presidents give some real political raw meat to their base. Meanwhile, the Israel Hamas battle has really splintered a long standing Jewish Democratic Alliance, that I think the Republicans will exploit. What does this mean for Ed Tech? I think in part, it means that most universities and schools are going to be further distracted by the politics of campus. And the winners of that distraction from a business standpoint, will be non campus based higher ed options, more and more people will say it's not just not worth the ROI. It's also not worth the political dynamics. And so I think we're going to just, I'm actually pretty bullish on more and more of our online schools are, you know, fractional credentialing schools, or programs? I think that those are going to have continued momentum and continued staying power. And I do think that there are ways in which, you know, the way AI might play out in higher ed is better retention, better completion rates. So you know, definitely not, I'm probably not putting money in to you at x. And I'm probably not putting money into Coursera here. But this idea that the universities that have pivoted to distributed and fractional models, I think that they will be successful. All right, this is your area. And I'm actually really excited around what you see around the corner.

Alexander Sarlin  1:12:30 
No, boy, yeah, I wish I had more of a crystal ball in this world. I'm always a little bit disappointed. I mean, you've heard me over the last few weeks, Ben, and our listeners have heard me sort of go off on higher ed and several times.

Ben Kornell  1:12:44 
And by the way, those are some of the best rants we've had. Positive, right, like rant as a negative connotation, but like, impassioned, pleas, that's, that's probably a highlight of 20. Angry you got on that?

Alexander Sarlin  1:12:59 
Yeah. I'm always really, I don't know, I've been really disappointed over the last set of years about how slowly the higher ed world has really sort of become to do any kind of meaningful self evaluation, there's all these op eds about it, you have individual professors very clearly seeing the problems in the system, many, many, many of them. But I just think that at an institutional level, it's amazing how much inertia you know, there is in that system. And even as these massive changes take place, in society and in technology, and you know, just in how people see the higher ed and its role, the higher ed system just keeps rolling along and increasing their tuition by X percent every year and talking to their trustees involved. And you're just like, at some point, I have so little sympathy for them as a group, because I'm just like, they talked about the ivory tower as this famous metaphor for sort of being detached from the rest of the world. But I almost think it's like hitting the ground at this point. Like, if you're the you know, an officer at a higher education institution, and you do not think that you are responsible for thinking about the ROI crisis, you just mentioned, the role of AI in changing their delivery of education, the way to, you know, actually address costs in education that in a way they make sense partnering, or having some kind of edtech strategy to be able to expand your reach in a meaningful way. I mean, if you don't think these things relate to you, like, you deserve to not exist anymore, because this is what everybody else is thinking about you. And I think there was a you know, this might be a, you know, recency bias thing. But seeing that amazing fallout from the discussion with the three campus with the Harvard, MIT and Penn presidents just a couple of weeks ago, where you had, you know, a very, very strongly out smokin the right wing, Harvard graduate, you know, member of the House of Representatives coming at these presidents. And I think they thought that oh, yeah, we're being dragged in front of the Congress as a political show, like we just have to, you know, maintain ourselves properly and let this blow over writes similar to what we've seen with tech leads when they get put dragged in front of Congress. Right. And I think they were shocked at how much I'm sure they were shocked. I'm sure everybody in the whole higher ed sector was shocked at how little goodwill was left in the country. For these institutions. I just don't think they get it. I think they're so deep inside their own bubbles that they think especially if they're MIT or Ivy League schools, they're like, Oh, well, you know, we get so many applicants every year, we get to decide people's fates, we get to, you know, we have so many smart people, we have so many amazing alumni, like they're buffeted by all these people and all these ideas that make them feel like they're, they're doing things right. And I think that was a real splash of cold water. And the fact that, you know, you had politicians at all levels, from both parties, notably, coming down on these presidents saying, Wow, you really don't get this to you, like you really don't understand what's going on in this political environment. At least, I think this whole year, we're going to start seeing initiatives from above, and I use that word softly, because higher ed is these Byzantine bureaucracies. They might be coming from the outside trustees, they might be coming from donors, they might be coming from the new president who comes in after Liz McGill, and is like, Okay, guys, let's do something really different. But I think they're going to be these pushes coming from above, where people say, we really need to, this is like a PR crisis. And it's one that we have completely earned. Because we have absolutely not been responsive in any meaningful way to the changes in this country for decades. And it was really starting in the 80s, that the sort of tuition crisis really started where it started, you know, divorcing this idea of college being worth it. Anybody who hasn't read Paul tufts articles and books about, you know, the ROI of college over time, I highly recommend them. But the numbers, I mean, they're supposed to be these intellectuals. They're data driven. And the numbers are not on their side. Like this is not they have not been serving the populace in the way that they maybe think they are. And so anyway, what this all adds up to for me, I'm doing a little speechifying here. But like, what this all adds up to for me, is that I think this year, we're going to start seeing colleges have basically the sort of crisis strategies where they start to say, oh, you know, we've already had this demographic crisis, we already basically aren't seeing any Republican applicants in any meaningful numbers, because they are turning away from college, we all we certainly aren't seeing applicants whose parents aren't, you know, who are first generation. And on the right, like, we're starting to see people just not respect us at all, we need to change that perception. And to do that, I think they hopefully might finally start embracing some of these strategies that, Ben, you and I have talked about so many, you know, for years on this show, and that others have talked about for decades, which is embracing ways of serving education that actually serve the people they want, you know, making policies that are friendly to parents, you know, to students, who are also parents, to older students, to, you know, the non traditional students of all stripes, making affordable educational options, doing dual enrollment in meaningful ways, so that high schoolers can come in with years of credits under their belt, completely overhauling the credit transfer system, which is just like a joke, actually being really taking their accreditors like these accrediting agencies around the country are basically populated by the colleges that need to credit them like it's a sort of self serving loop. And I mean, maybe there's finally some opportunity for the schools to look at the accreditation and say, hey, you know, this thing that you're doing here is actually keeping us you know, this policy of accreditation that will you need this many student hours per credit, you know, this many contact hours for a teacher per credit that actually keeps us from doing from offering lower cost education. So, maybe 10 of the schools with at one of the original bodies can come and say, Can we look at actually, you know, making an exception to this rule or finding a way around it or changing it? Because it's keeping us literally locked in the past. I'm going all over the place here, but what the theme is, maybe colleges are finally going to be forced to change and if they are, Ed Tech is right there. Have there are so many amazing entrepreneurs. There's so many amazing companies. There are so many amazing ways to deliver education at different in different ways at scale, globally. Low cost, and I agree with you this is not a flip back to Oh, PMS This is not a flip back to the sort of earlier era where colleges were like, oh, we need a tech solution. So let's just find one partner, one of these big companies that and do a multi year contract. Like I don't think that's how it's gonna go. But I think hopefully what the way it'll go is these these colleges which have deep pockets, frankly, some of them, some of them are closing down and have negative money, but some have deep pockets might start looking for edtech solutions that actually allow them to do the things they want to do. And I don't know, I've been beating this drum a long time. And I have a feeling we'll look back last year, and I'll say, Wow, I thought this was a year and they didn't do anything. But hopefully this, you know, when you have the governor and the senators, the Democratic governor and senators of Pennsylvania, coming down on the head of the University of Pennsylvania's, you know, the president university like that's a watershed moment that has not happened before. It's really interesting. I think they thought of this as a right wing, sort of like Mac issue. And it's not people just don't like

Ben Kornell  1:21:03 
The contrast to though is Florida's university system, which has been, you know, consistently under attack by Republican lawmakers and the governor. And, you know, he's shedding tenured faculty because people don't want to be in a repressive restricted. Like, you can't teach what you want to teach zone two. So there, it's when I think it's coming from the right, it's coming from the left, there is the sense of, you know, just keep swimming. I do think the politics force people to take their eye off the ball right on the ROI. Yes, exactly.

Sohan Choudhury  1:21:46 
Hey, it's Sohan from Flint, the AI platform for schools. My prediction for 2024 is that most school leaders will move entirely beyond thinking of AI as a threat. And instead focus on how it can be used to improve student outcomes. Every teacher has felt the frustration of picking up on beating teaching speed that leaves students unengaged or falling behind. And I can solve that by personalizing learning for every student. And there's no critical mass of schools that have shown this in practice, I think that many folks are gonna look around and realize, wait a second, this is the single highest leverage investment I can make to improve student outcomes, AI will be seen as a no brainer. And many of the common use cases we're seeing today, like lesson planning, or creating worksheets, will pale in comparison to AI tutoring and a one on one help for students.

Ben Kornell  1:22:35 
And then, you know, I'd say my other theme that I've been pondering too, is for the institutions that are the most elite, are they institutions of higher ed? Or have they become investment funds, that have a storefront that positions itself as research and, and student learning? Because these endowments are so huge. And if you look at who's been able to push out the leadership, and who's kind of calling many of the shots, it's the donor people who are essentially LPS of the funds. Yep. And these funds are so large, and by the way, you know, full disclosure for everyone who thinks about Ed Tech VCs, often, it's a university endowment, that's one of the key financial LPs, you know, limited partners that are investing in some of these funds. So these university dollars are flowing down to many of us in the EdTech space, you have a much, much more complicated set of stakeholders in these large, large corporate enterprises now that represent elite Higher Education universities, where you and I have typically focused are mainly not on the elite schools, and more on the average college and university. And that might be a state school, or a, you know, small or midsize liberal arts school. They have all the political problems to that may not be in the New York Times, but they're facing all of these things, too. And as like, this is one of those areas. Alex though I feel like every year you kind of bring up like maybe this is the year this is the year, but at the same time on a decade long view, actually things are moving quite meaningful to a decade ago. Yeah, so I think you may be disappointed in the year over year, but on a decade timeline, look at Western Governors, look at ASU look at Purdue look at all of the ways in which now it's become like okay to have significant online programs. And I think also the other element is the OPM crash has been precipitated Then part because universities have built their own capability to deliver some of these programs in diverse ways

Alexander Sarlin  1:25:06 
I keep hearing that, but I think all that really means is that they have found smaller vendors to work with, like they haven't built it themselves, I just think that they have found lower cost platforms.

Ben Kornell  1:25:16  
That's my guess, maybe maybe. And when there's also a difference between the platform being the technology tool, that is the vehicle to get things out, versus it is also the course material, I think they definitely have vendors who are helping them with the technology system and the platform. But you see a lot more of course, generation and course content coming from.

Alexander Sarlin  1:25:38 
That's true. One other thing to keep an eye on, we saw Western Virginia University, cut 28, liberal arts majors, and 143 jobs, and then introduce two new majors, including eSports. This year, people are angry, they're shocked. They're like, This is crazy. And they're right, in the old paradigm. But this is really just a shift to the modern world. And I hate to say it, because it's such a scary thing to say. But like, this is a treating University, like an actual business, you cut the unpopular products and create new products. And I think we're gonna see a whole lot more of that this year. Yeah,

Ben Kornell  1:26:19  
I think it's unfortunate, because some of the dynamics that we're dealing with in our political realm, and around democracy make me think the case has never been stronger for liberal arts skills and capabilities and critical thinking and so on. But I agree, there's like much more of a career focus, and near term ROI connected to the degrees. All right, so for workforce, you know, I said last time, so a year ago, I said, we see a lot of employees thinking of education as a benefit, not as something I have to go on out on my own and find that something I will get from my employer, I think that that was a artifact of the time where the kind of talent wars were still raging strong. And let's be clear, we're at an all time, you know, low in terms of unemployment, so there's still quite a war for talent. But I do think that employers are taking their foot off the gas a little bit in terms of education as a benefit that's going to attract new employees, where I think they're going is around upskilling, our workforce and creating a nimble workforce, so is less around, I will hire you and you will get I will fully pay for your bachelor's degree. I don't think that that trend played out like I thought it might and so I, you know, rate that low, like a C, C plus or something, I think it's much more of a sense that for our workforce, to dynamically contribute to our company, we need them to be more nimble. And we need to have regular upskilling. We're not hearing a lot about guilt. By the way, we're not hearing a lot about some of the workforce company darlings. And many of the boot camps moved into workforce space, we're not hearing a lot about that. And I think that that's mainly because it's not going horribly bad. But it's also not going incredibly well. And I think that we're settling into a workforce environment, where it's not as lucrative as it once was because of the competition and because of company's ability to do some of the content generation themselves. So my sense of it is that workforce is going to be like an ongoing player where learning is now infused into basically, every employers, people ops, you know, department, but I don't think that we're going to see a bunch of new mega companies coming out, I think it's often optimized where your company is specialized in your space, or it's purely a tech and learning platform. If I were to be really bold and push myself, guild is the type of company that is at the right time in its evolution in art to go public. So if you were going IPO, I think guild should be at that point in its journey. But my guess is that the economics of the business aren't the kind that they want to expose it to public market valuation and pressure. That would be the bold prediction, but I'm gonna come off that ledge. Lane language learning, though, might be a really interesting area for edtech and corporate learning and you know, Duolingo and some of the other you know, Language Learning companies I know are doing deals with large employers who understand that to have a global workforce, there needs to be, you know, more English language speakers, and that this is an advantage. But again, I'm also not that bullish on that, because eventually, you're going to have seamless, like aI platforms where you're going to be able to speak your native language, and it's going to translate. So, you know, I didn't perform incredibly well in in workforce in my predictions last year, I just think that it's not going to be a poppin year across ad tech in general. And I think higher ed's eyes off the ball, and I think workforce, employers are really more around like near skilling. It's not even totally upskilling. It's just like, you have a job, what are the new things you need to do to keep doing that exact same job? And I think that's kind of where we are. And I don't think we're, you know, education as a benefit is going to continue to be a thing. Yeah.

Alexander Sarlin
I think part of the reason you're not hearing that much about it. My guess, Ben, is that they're shifting. I mean, we saw multiverse go through layoffs and have some trouble this year.

Guild made a shift halfway through this year. They rebranded in a pretty significant way and they sort of really changed their focus. I agree with you that this. That what they changed it to you haven't heard a ton about, but I don't think that necessarily means it's not working. What I think it means is my guess is that it's really in the weeds in terms of like it's becoming more like actual workforce.

Learning like inside the company, learning for helping people basically get new career paths from, and especially make that leap from sort of frontline worker to actual knowledge worker within a company. And that is a very hard story to tell. It's actually a kind of a boring story to tell. It's not a very sexy story.

But I think it's actually a really smart evolution of the workforce learning field. You know, I've talked to the up limit folks a few times this year. Up limit is an upscaling company that sells to corporations and they do these sort of cohort based courses for companies. And we also see disco and others, you know, shifting to that.

I think what I find interesting about the workforce space, and this is sort of leads to the prediction, which is not that different than yours, you know, is that there's starting to be a little bit of more of a Maturing of the workforce space and what the maturing I think looks more like is that each company is, you know, workforce training set where workforce learning environment, their ecosystem, whatever they're making available for people is less sort of off the shelf.

Let me put it this way. There's two tiers of this. One is that there are these skills that are happening across the entire world, especially AI, but including data skills and others, including business skills, traditional ones from like executive ed that can be taught across workforce, no matter what you're doing.

But there's more and more and more training and pathways that are happening within Individual workforce system. So I mean, I talked to the 360 learning folks at one point, and they have this really interesting epiphany, which is basically it's been almost impossible for every individual company in the past to create a hierarchy of skills and hierarchy positions and actually organize, you know what it looks like for people to move around and upskill within the company and get to new paths.

Until now, but I actually can do this very well. It can take not only job description data, but it can take actual performance data. It can actually look at what people do on a daily basis and back fit that to training, create automatic training based on it. Like I think there's more and more, and I think guild is doing that kind of thing that maybe not where they are yet, but they're doing much more of a, you know, they're big deals with the walmart's of the world instead of it being like, hey, we'll get your walmart employees access to these different universities so that they stay with walmart and they get their degrees and they have a better life.

And, you know, that's a noble goal. Now it's more. We'll help your Walmart employees figure out how to become a Walmart manager, figure out how to become a corporate, you know, a corporate communications person. And that becomes much more specific to Walmart, much stickier, big contract that's going to last years and years, right?

And it's not nearly as dependent on usage and it's not nearly as dependent on retention as the other ones are. It's not about how many people did it and how many people stayed with the company. It's really about. Actual outcomes, you know, we got this many people to transfer jobs inside walmart. We got this many people to upscale, so I think this is a maturing of the space, but it's just way less sexy and it's way less easy to explain because it's really about like, it's different within a seaman's and it's different within a walmart and it's different within an amazon and it's different within a, you know.

Pick a company. It's different within every company, United Airlines. And that's really hard to talk about. It makes the workforce world really messy, but I don't know. I know we're at, we're at time, Ben. So how can we wrap up this episode? What do you see as the overall trends for the next year in a nutshell?

Ben Kornell
Yeah. So three major takeaways is one ed tech winter continues. Two, AI integrated into everything. Omnimodal AI integrated into everything. And I'd say the third one is, and we didn't actually talk about this in each segment, but really demonstrating efficacy, impact, and results  are going to be at a premium.

And so with your winter, because there's not new, a lot of Easy capital to get. And because there's going to be all of this new and fully integrated AI into basically every system and channel that you're looking at, how do you demonstrate that the product and company that you're leading is changing the game for your end users?

Like that's going to be at a premium. So, you know, as I like wave goodbye to everyone for 2023, I would just say. This work that we're doing, we do it because we care about that impact. And so let that guide you and good luck for 2020. What about you, Alex? What are your kind of bigger headline takeaways? 

Alexander Sarlin
AI continues to be everywhere, but the narrative starts to actually get a little pointy rather than middle of the road.

Higher ed finally gets its head out of the sand and tries to do things that people need. And the workforce training, the idea of career skills, not only Goes everywhere in workforce training, but actually gets pulled down back into higher ed and even down into K 12. I think we're going to see more career training, more, you know, training on workforce tools for 10th graders than we ever have.

We didn't talk about that, but it's, it's all the pieces coming together. That's my, yeah,

Ben Kornell
well, No matter what happens in 2024, if it happens in ed tech, you're going to hear about it here at ed tech insiders. Happy holidays to everyone. I hope you have a great time with your friends and families, and we'll see you again in 2024 with our podcasts, newsletters, and events.

Thanks so much for joining us. 

Alexander Sarlin
Thanks for listening to this episode of EdTech Insiders. If you like the podcast, remember to rate it and share it with others in the EdTech community. For those who want even more EdTech Insider, subscribe to the free EdTech Insiders newsletter on Substack.