Plug in the Classroom

TO:  University Presidents

RE:  Plug in the Classroom

A common misperception is that technology is not utilized in higher education today. The fact is, universities and colleges are awash in technology – they spend hundreds of millions annually on IT. But their technology spending is historically focused on automating back-office functions like purchasing, finance, and scheduling. Shockingly, almost none of it is around the main event of higher education – the learning process.

Almost every other part of society has been touched and changed by digital technologies – from how we consume media to how we shop to how we communicate to how we work. But the last technology that was widely deployed in the classroom was the overhead projector 50 years ago. It is time for universities and colleges to move the technology investment from the backroom to the classroom.

What does it mean to plug in the classroom?

A few companies (disclosure: including Echo360, a Revolution Growth investment where I am a director) offer a simple and inexpensive product called lecture capture. Simply put, it is like “TIVO for the classroom.” The lecture – along with materials such as Power-Points used by professors – are recorded and digitized and thus available to students to watch anytime, anywhere, on any device.

It would cost a university or college just $20 per student per year to capture, host, and stream every lecture in every class for every student. Although tuition costs on average $30,000 annually, students do not have access to replay “Psychology 101” when they are trying to grasp a tough concept or study for the test (though they can watch the TV show “Psych” on their iPads).

The current classroom is analog and one-time – nothing is captured or archived. The current classroom is stand-alone – nothing is linked or connected.  Plugging in the classroom is digitizing the lecture and the classroom materials. Hundreds of leading universities are experimenting with this today.

What is possible if universities and colleges plug in the classroom?  In a word: anything.     

Improving outcomes.  It is proven that reviewing the recorded lecture and captured classroom materials results in better learning and higher pass rates. Students can learn at their own pace.

Re-imagining the classroom. Recording the lecture for students to watch before they come to class allows in-class time to be used for higher-value discussion and interaction.

Extending the learning moment. Students only have 15 hours of class time a week. Lecture-capture extends that learning moment to any hour of any day and to the coffee shop and the dorm room.

Supporting Diversity. Research has shown lecture-capture provides those who need it the ability to learn at their own pace, and is particularly helpful for those for whom English is a second language.

Increasing efficiency. Once the classroom is plugged in, it can move beyond physical boundaries. From “digital overflow” to “distance learning,” institutions can build fewer expensive facilities and provide more students access to the necessary core courses without classroom over-crowding.

These are just a few opportunities. Once universities plug in the classroom, anything is possible.


Donn Davis

Donn Davis is a Founding Partner of Revolution Growth.

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