Online education in K-12 has had very few ventures survive or scale. Apex Learning is one of those rare birds. We first covered their story eight years back. This is a catch up conversation with their CEO Cheryl Vedoe that steps us through the ongoing evolution of the K-12 online education sector.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with giving our audience a little bit of an update on where you are and where Apex is. We did an Entrepreneur Journeys story on you and the company about eight years ago. A lot of things have happened in the industry and in your company since. Give us a bit of an update.
Cheryl Vedoe: I think there is a lot that is very much the same when you compare with where we were eight years ago. There is also a great deal that is very different. Our focus remains digital curriculum with an orientation towards personalizing learning and increasing the quality of educational options available to students through schools of all sorts. I’ve been here almost 15 years. It’s been a long period of time. I’ve seen a lot of change.
It’s a bit of a challenge to think back to exactly where we were eight years ago. I would say, eight years ago, we were very much in the midst of the transition from being a company that initially was focused on online courses in a virtual model to serve advance placement students or high-achieving students. We were in the middle of a transition where we’re still serving those students. But now, even more of the students benefiting from our digital curriculum are students who have not experienced success, and for one reason or another, have struggled with the traditional classroom model of instruction that is generally available to them.
Eight years ago, we were very much in that transition from advanced placement to serving the full spectrum of students, in particular, those who are struggling.
Sramana Mitra: That’s a pretty significant transition. Can I probe a little bit to understand this transition a little bit better. Advanced placement students are highly motivated students. They’re the best of the lot in the entire student universe. Whereas the ones who are struggling are on the other side of the spectrum.
In general, what we have been learning over the years is that online learning does very well with highly self-motivated learners. When it comes to learners who are struggling, it doesn’t do as well. Help us understand what your experience has been in making that switch. What have you learned and what is your experience being in the market with these students?
Cheryl Vedoe: You ask a very good question because I do always think that it’s interesting that we serve the students at the two ends of the spectrum. The way in which we serve those students is actually quite different. When we were serving advanced placement students initially, and it is still the case today, those students are taking our online courses in a virtual situation where the teacher is not local with them.