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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Aug 24th 2014

Sramana Mitra: I get all these things that you’re saying. Let’s say there’s a rural school that can afford to manage the core and in the edges; they can’t afford that many languages or higher level mathematics and sciences. My question is how much does it cost them to include that in their curriculum? Given that they cannot afford teachers, can they afford to layer you guys into the mix? If they do, the existing teachers who are teaching the core, can they then supervise the learning of those accelerated courses?

Sari Factor: Some can and some can’t. It depends on the certification requirements in a given state. Back to your original question, what we’re finding is indeed some schools are interested in using us to augment their staff. If they do not have somebody who’s qualified to supervise a course, we can do it through distance learning.

Sramana Mitra: So you do have that as a facility? You have teachers who can supervise in a distance learning mode as well?

Sari Factor: Yes. We have teachers who are qualified in 41 different states.

Sramana Mitra: How do you price that?

Sari Factor: On a per semester enrollment basis. We contract the schools based on how many students they put into our courses. If they want to buy 300 course enrollments, it might be one price. If they buy 1,000 course enrollments, it would be a different price.

Sramana Mitra: If they need five students to go through advanced algebra, they can do that?

Sari Factor: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: They don’t have to pay for a full algebra teacher in that case?

Sari Factor: Correct.

Sramana Mitra: Given what’s going on in your industry, where would you suggest new entrepreneurs to look for opportunities in?

Sari Factor: I think one of the things that we see as an area of demand and where we’re working on a bit is helping teachers understand how to use technology. You need to distinguish between having a technology-rich environment, and really maximizing the student learning that the technology enables. A lot of schools have put in many devices without careful thought about how to use those devices with a focus on student learning.

When we work with a district, we really try to understand what they’re trying to accomplish from a student learning goals perspective. Which audience are they targeting? Which problems are they trying to solve? We consult around that. That is an area that needs to be developed in the marketplace along with the preparation of the teachers to use the technology effectively. We have a line of business that does that as well. It’s an area where we see a demand and a need for in the market.

Another one is data analysis. One of the things that we work a lot with teachers on is capturing a lot of data. We try to surface the things that are most actionable. What should a teacher do next? The potential for data overload is enormous coming from more digital tools in the classroom. What should a teacher pay attention to or a student for that matter? We spend a lot of time on our student dashboards helping students understand, so they can be more empowered themselves around their learning.

One of the side benefits, we think, of online learning is that students become more self-directed. This is one of the big challenges as students move out of high school and into college or into life. All their learning after high school is self-directed. There’s not a teacher telling them every day, “Do this. Do that.” There’s not a parent breathing down the kid’s neck either about getting your homework done. They have to become self-directed learners. One of the opportunities here is to help students become more self-directed.

Sramana Mitra: Design for gamification and more ways to psychologically draw kids in.

Sari Factor: Yes, it’s becoming more engaging.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity
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