The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education launched the Jefferson Education Accelerator in early 2015, with a goal of helping growth-stage ed-tech companies compete for university eyeballs with their more established counterparts. After modest returns and sizable roadblocks, though, the accelerator’s focus has drifted toward addressing systemic issues in the broader ed-tech landscape.
“As we’ve started doing that work, we’ve just kept running into problem after problem, seeing that these companies had a hard time competing on the basis of merit, not marketing,” Bart Epstein, the accelerator’s CEO, told “Inside Digital Learning.”
College administrators and faculty members have proved even more reticent than expected to embrace new ed-tech providers, Epstein said. Even with endorsements and support from the accelerator, which aims to eventually become a Consumer Reports for all things ed tech, many prefer to avoid risks that come with banking on unfamiliar technologies and companies.
In general, university decision makers are overcommitted and underinformed about the technology providers and tech tools they encounter. Those factors sometimes make the prospect of switching midstream to a new ed-tech provider daunting, leaving new companies struggling to compete with established brands, Epstein said.