Ed-tech product research is a 'circle of gridlock,' says man who aims to change it

Incubator will devote one year to understanding challenges and solutions

Bart Epstein is on a mission to help colleges get more information about the ed-tech products they buy and use, Goldie Blumenstyk reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Procurement decisions are complex—it can take a high level of skill to compare products and select the right one for your institution. Complicating the issue, it can be difficult to find the information you would need to make an informed decision. Neither the colleges that use the products, nor the companies that make them, nor the philanthropists who often help fund them, believe they have the resources to conduct efficacy research.

"It's a circle of gridlock," says Epstein, chief executive of the Jefferson Education Accelerator (JEA). "Everyone thinks it's not their fault or not their problem," says Epstein. 

MOOCs: The expectations vs. the reality

Over the next year, more than 100 professionals from all angles of ed-tech—including professors, entrepreneurs, administrators, lawmakers, and more—will work with JEA to better understand barriers to researching and comparing ed-tech products.

The participants will break into 10 groups, each specializing on its own topic. For example, when in the process do administrators research and compare products? And how do people responsible for purchasing ed-tech products balance the needs of various stakeholders and users? Epstein's own group will explore practical models for conducting the kind of research that is currently missing.

To find the answers, each group will interview the people who design, sell, buy, and use ed-tech products. Participants plan to present their results and suggestions for acting on them at the Academic Symposium on Education Technology Efficacy in May 2017 (Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, 7/21).

Give academic decision makers the tools they need to make informed decisions


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