Sramana Mitra: That’s true in general. Part of the error that the venture capital industry is making is to fund a lot of free stuff. This hides all the problems of whatever product or service they’re trying to sell. Entrepreneurs think that they’re doing great by offering something for free. Eventually, it doesn’t monetize. I’m more interested in companies that can deliver enough value so that they can actually charge for it.
Sari Factor: I agree.
Sramana Mitra: This whole MOOC thing, I don’t think it’s going to work.
Sari Factor: Good content costs something to develop. When you put a lot of free stuff out there because somebody had time to put something together, the ability to keep that up is dependent upon the flow of revenues. The other thing that I would distinguish between is sometimes we get lumped in with organizations that amass open educational resources. Again, mostly free. There’s a difference between content and curriculum. Little snippets of things, anyone can do and find. But to really build curriculum is an art and a science. It’s challenging.
Sramana Mitra: I imagine you have to contend with Khan Academy in that sense all the time, right?
Sari Factor: We do. We were doing Khan Academy-type stuff back in 1998. We passed that. Those video lessons are one little piece of what we do.
Sramana Mitra: Khan Academy is content, and you guys are doing curriculum. That’s what you’re saying.
Sari Factor: Correct. There’s a lot of content out there. The question is what content is part of the curriculum and what’s really driving student learning gains. That’s where we spend our time on. Our platform provides data to the teachers and lets students know every step of the way where they are in that curriculum, and provide data to parents for the first time in a transparent way.
One of my favorite stories out of Henry County is every parent in that district now is getting an email every day about what their kids finished for the day. It really changes the conversation at the dinner table. When a middle school kid would come home, they’d be asked, “What did you learn in school?” Now the parent has got real data about how far they got in their algebra course, and they can have a conversation about how they didn’t do well in the assessment, why not, and what they learned from that.
Assessments become less like an event. It’s really a learning experience. It’s intended to drive the learning forward. There are some exciting things going on when you start to think about the whole platform with curriculum.
Sramana Mitra: That was a good conversation. Thank you for your time.