Is your institution spinning off edtech companies?
This is not a game that only the Stanford’s, Carnegie Mellon’s, and MIT’s of the world should be playing.
There are huge advantages to the home institution when an edtech startup is born and leaves the nest.
These advantages are, I would argue, not so much financial but cultural.
The presence of entrepreneurial faculty provides a different sort of energy to the campus. They bring their connections, experience, and history of risk taking to their leadership roles on campus - an orientation that is increasingly important as we all look to figure out how address the challenges of cost, access, and quality that we all face in higher ed.
The advantages of having faculty spinoff their research into companies, particularly if the company’s focus is educational technology, have become very clear to me over the past few months.
This summer I joined the board of MedU as an external director.
MedU is a nonprofit edtech company that develops and hosts web-based and mobile clinical case studies used in medical education. MedU’s more than 125 interactive virtual patient cases have been authored by consortium of medical educators, a community based approach to curriculum development that closes the distance between the creation and use of learning materials.
Over 150 medical schools subscribe to MedU’s virtual patient cases and the integrated educator’s toolbox that enable the virtual cases to be integrated into the curriculum.
This translates into over 25,000 medical students a year interacting with MedU’s courses, courses that span 5 disciplines within medical education.
Over 3 million cases have been completed by medical students since 2006 on the MedU platform, interactions that have created an incredible source of data that has enabled continuous refinement and innovation in how student’s learn online.
MedU was founded by Leslie Fall and Norm Berman, a pair of medical educators and docs at my institution. The way I ended up on the board of MedU is that I have been working closely with Leslie and Norm over the past few years in various digital learning initiatives, and through some shared edtech work (Leslie co-led the med school’s one-to-one iPad program), at our college.
The fact that every U.S. medical school uses its virtual cases means that the company has an enormous potential to influence how medical education will change going forward.
MedU is at the center of nationwide efforts to transform medical education away from the traditional methods of lecture, memorization and testing.
New curriculum designs, coupled with the integration of advanced technologies such as adaptive learning platform, simulations, and virtual patient cases, are bringing about a system of medical education that has the potential to be more active, flexible, and effective.
As a board member for MedU I have been able to glimpse the role that edtech companies may be playing in the transformation of postsecondary and graduate education.
The biggest surprise about joining the MedU board has been how much of the energy and discussions of the company are about how to effectively partner with medical faculty to contribute to systemic changes in how doctors are trained. The discussions, at least ones I witness at the board level, are about having an impact on the larger system of medical education.
I had thought that board members in an edtech company, even a non-profit edtech company, would involve work that is more inward focused. More about the logistics of running an edtech company - from technology to content to development to marketing to financials.
The board does participate in those discussions, but the real energy and focus of MedU’s founders and management team is how to make medical education as a whole better for the students, better for the faculty, and ultimately less expensive for everyone involved.
This is the first board of directors that I’ve participated in, so I don’t know if work on the MedU board is representative of this sort of experience.
What I do know is that I’ve felt that I’ve been able to make a real impact on medical education via my work on this board, and the experience has motivated me to seek out other board level opportunities.
What are some edtech companies founded out of higher ed that you know about? Startups whose mission is to leverage technology to improve learning?
What do you think are the enablers and barriers for taking the edtech innovation and projects that you are working on on your campus and spinning this work off into a company?