The EdTech Evolution: How our Mission & Vision are Helping to Define the Future of Education

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By Jim Milton, CEO, Anthology  

Our team at Anthology recently attended and presented at the Global Trends in E-Learning event in Saudi Arabia hosted by the Ministry of Education and Saudi Electronic University. As they engaged with education leaders from around the world during the conference, one theme was evident across every conversation: A major shift is happening right now in education.  

According to Harvard Business Review, “Evolution in the higher education ecosystem happens through punctuated equilibrium: Long periods of relatively slow changes interspersed with occasional moments of rapid adaptation.” This quote captures exactly what we’re seeing today, and what we heard echoed at the event, particularly as the pandemic has punctuated one of the fastest periods of evolution in the history of the industry. Digital transformation has been at the forefront for nearly two years now and many leaders and instructors are questioning where we go from here.  

But to understand what lies ahead for global education, I think it’s first important to look back at where we’ve been. The history of EdTech has led us to the doorstep of a new era where data plays a larger role than ever before, and Anthology is leading the way into this next chapter through our mission to provide dynamic, data-informed experiences to the global education community.  

The History of EdTech   

We think of EdTech’s history in four phases:  

  • Retrofitting – EdTech’s first era spanned several decades, from the start of the Information Age into the late ‘80s. This period was characterized by technology created for use outside the education experience being retrofitted for use in education. Envision the overhead projector, audio recorders and even the first computers – developed for use in business, home or the military, but used broadly in schools. Innovative educators pioneering these tools sparked a shared understanding of the power of EdTech, ushering in the next phase.  
  • Emergence – In the late ‘80s we began to see a sharp increase in technologies purpose-built for education both inside and outside the classroom, launching the emergence phase. “EdTech” truly became an industry starting in the early ‘90s and the pace of invention was accelerated by the internet, which opened the door for widespread adoption of the EdTech solutions that are considered table stakes for many institutions today, including the Learning Management System (LMS) and Student Information System (SIS).  
  • Proliferation –Around 2010, the popularization of personal devices initiated the rapid period of innovation that began the proliferation phase, distinguished by single-use tools created at break-neck speed. The possibilities of EdTech seemed limitless during this time as the learner’s experience was enhanced and transformed through technology. However, the technologies invented during this phase did not scale well. Tools were disparate and created patchwork data stories that were nearly impossible to use for decision making. Administrators logged into multiple applications to find information, and learners had to maintain numerous log ins and accounts to access their education.  

I think we all know what happened next: The pandemic sparked EdTech adoption like the world had never seen before with the shift to remote instruction. It also catalyzed another burst of new product development to meet the needs of the moment. Suddenly, disparate data sources had infinitely more data points as each part of every single learner’s journey moved online.  

As a direct result, we saw the number of institutions actively engaging in digital transformation rise by more than 30 percent in just 2 years, according to a poll from Educause. This brings us to where we are today and for many of us, the transformation journey has not been without its challenges. While there are certainly lessons to be learned from the past, the most important question to ask ourselves now is, what’s next?  

Anthology’s Mission & Vision  

Today’s challenges call for a holistic approach, and that’s exactly what’s to come: the Holistic phase. This is why we created Anthology – to be the partner institutions need to lead them through this punctuation moment and into the future.  

Now as a combined company with Blackboard, we offer one of the world’s largest EdTech ecosystems, uniquely positioned to serve institutions and learners. We are breaking down data silos and unlocking learner success at an entirely new scale by considering every learner and your institution holistically. A learner doesn’t exist inside one system alone, but if you pull together insights from your SIS, LMS, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, virtual classroom and other technologies, you can tap into a full picture of who they are, how they are tracking towards their goals, and most importantly, how to support them. Similarly, your institution is just as complex and requires an EdTech stack that can help you reach your unique objectives.  

As a unified company, we will deliver on our mission to provide dynamic, data-informed experiences to the global education community through something we call “intelligent experiences.” By synthesizing data from across the EdTech landscape, we can create more relevant interactions and gain unique insights about learners to help drive better outcomes. For example, an advisor may be able to suggest an extracurricular activity to a student that’s struggling to feel connected to their campus if EdTech systems are intelligent enough to pick up on the risk and can tap into a repository of appropriate extra curriculars. Or an enrollment coach may know exactly when to reach to out a student because an intelligent experience identified the need for outreach and the best channel and time for a call. These moments may have been implausible earlier in EdTech’s journey, but it is the future and we are uniquely prepared to make it a reality at Anthology.  

All of this work is in service to our vision of an inspiring and infinite world of learning without boundaries – a world that EdTech plays a critical role in creating by providing the tools that the education community needs to reach and support every learner holistically. As we continue to pursue this vision, my expectation is that our clients, and institutions around the globe, will begin to see our mission coming to life across our products, services and every touchpoint we have with the education ecosystem. I look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead as “intelligent experiences” takes shape and becomes a tangible reality through Anthology.