Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about your business of working with a thousand universities and hundred thousand students. What does that business entail?
John Miller: That business focuses on supplying the lab kits that are required for STEM courses. What our company has done is develop a multi-solution package depending upon what experience the school and the instructors want to bring to their student base. Essentially, our scientists create the experimentation and intellectual property to fulfill the learning objectives that professors and instructors have defined for their courses. What historically has been done in the four walls of a lab now can be done in the students’ homes through the solutions that we provide.
We have three solutions that are in that area. The one thing that’s consistent across all of those is the rigor and the pedagogy that we utilize through this process. We have three different cloud-based content models that can be accessed through any kind of platform – be it a smartphone, iPad, or a desktop. What we found is that the bulk of the students today really want to learn from these devices on which they’re more comfortable, which is now becoming tablets and other mobile devices. Our solutions are able to leverage those platforms and deliver the content regardless of whether they’re taking the train to their office or want to do it after they put the kids to bed. They have the solution there.
We deliver them a kit that has all the components that are necessary to execute these experiments. The content, as I said, is cloud-based. We deliver it in that manner. We are able then to essentially start to develop analytics that helps the educators understand which techniques have the greatest success. We’re able to use that data within the guidelines that enable us now to share that information to the educator, and help better qualify the kind of content that has the greatest impact.
Sramana Mitra: Switching gears, what trends do you see in the market that are significant in your industry vis-à-vis online learning?
John Miller: The Bane Report shows us that as much as 30% to 40% of the existing institutes of higher education will probably fail in the next five years. That’s an impending crisis basically due to funding issues. The enrolments are dropping as tuitions increase. So the trend we’re seeing is that the four walls of the traditional educational system are shrinking and we can see that in the number of enrolments today. We can see that, from a financial basis, the schools are really struggling.
What we’re finding is that distance education will probably be a big winner because students can’t find a more cost-effective education through that mechanism to really fulfill their educational desires. In my perspective, I think there’s a significant shift that’s occurring and it’s all driven by the economics.