Fred Singer, CEO of Revolution portfolio company Echo360 – the global leader in blended learning and lecture capture solutions – weighs in on MOOCs and growth in the online learning industry.
What does your business do and what makes it revolutionary?
Singer: The sad fact is that nearly all the technology on college campuses does not support either teaching or learning. Instead, education technology dollars are spent on administration, finance and record keeping. We work with universities to change traditional lecture halls into active teaching and learning environments where participation increases from 3% to 65%.
The news is full of MOOC stories but Echo focuses on the over 100 million students who are paying tuition in over 20,000 colleges and universities worldwide. We make theater size classes seem intimate and conversational and allow students to interact with professors. Our Active Learning solution allows professors and students to use laptops, tablets or phones as a two-way communication device and allows professors and students to access their classroom anywhere, anytime and on any device.
What is the biggest change going on in your industry right now & how do you think it will impact the competitive landscape?
Singer: The biggest change in our industry is the increased use of distance learning to increase efficiencies and improve learning outcomes. The challenge in this complex environment is how to strategically use technology to support teaching versus producing lessons that don’t include personalized teaching. Think of it this way…there are thousands of golf videos that purport to improve your game, but imagine if Tiger Woods could work with you personally on your swing? Instant improvement. Active teaching makes all the difference. Teaching and learning is hard – but a professor’s relationship with students and the ability to engage students is the key to improving learning outcomes.
If someone reading this is NOT in your sector, do you think there are any implications for them? Will your business have a ripple effect into any other industries?
Singer: Learning is everywhere. Government training, corporate training and K12 are just some the additional sectors that are affected by the new use of technology in delivering, training and testing personnel. Teaching and learning is global and Echo360 reaches over one million students in 30 countries so this movement is not just a US centric event. Done right, companies, governments and schools will be able to improve learning outcomes at a much lower cost structure. This is an evolutionary revolution in society.
Last but not least, what’s the biggest myth about being a CEO of a fast-growing company?
Singer: The biggest myth is that small fast growing companies are simpler businesses than large public companies. There are many parts that are simpler in being private but the issues I deal with are just as complex and strategic as when I worked in Fortune 500 companies. You have less data and time to make decisions so you need the experience to have pattern recognition to make important choices with limited data. Fast growth is not for everybody but there is nothing more chaotic and thrilling than trying to change industries and build new companies.