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Human Learning #34 — Staffing and recruitment firms are the new gang in the Edtech playground

Edtech sees vertical integration as staffing and recruitment firms see them as a way to augment their value proposition

Human Learning is a newsletter written by Chris Fellingham. You can signup for it here and find other Edtech articles by Chris Fellingham on his medium page

Welcome to Human Learning #34! This time it’s different, no really. First and most importantly, I’ve stepped down from the crow’s nest of the Good ship FutureLearn and taken up a new job. TL: This bad boy is independent. That will mean some changes to the newsletter. Firstly it will be shorter aiming to be less a scan of the news and more commentary and analysis pieces on the key trends. Secondly, I’ll be focusing more on longer article pieces. It should be noted that these changes were in the pipeline all along so in some respects, switching jobs has simply expedited that process.

My article arguing that Bootcamps represent a critical threat to MOOC platforms for the professional learning market

Top story

Adecco Group (the world’s largest recruitment and staffing firm) have acquired the bootcamp General Assembly for $412.5m. General Assembly initially launched in 2011 as a Coding bootcamp in the US but now have 22 branches covering subjects across digital such as Product Manager, Design and Marketing with a year on year growth of 30% in revenues and 300 corporations on their partner list. The move is also eminently logical and fundamentally points to vertical integration of those in the job market space — or to use the education term in a manner that ought to alarm MOOC platforms — this is about re-bundling. In this context, it’s not about Education being unbundled from universities to platforms, rather it’s about prising the professional learning market away from universities and towards those with the operational capacity to directly help the students get into jobs. WeWork’s acquisition of Flatiron was the same logic at work and Adecco are no different — the latter have a business that understands how to get people into jobs and now they want to go deeper and train them to get them into jobs — here

State of the MOOCS

Class Central’s on How MOOCs have hit the money — Dhawal Shah of Class Central argues that MOOCs are now hitting big revenues. Udacity have hit $70m in revenue, Coursera have put 1,632 students through their degrees (yielding $9.6m in tuition fees — I appreciate it’s cheaper but note the irony of a MOOC platform boasting tuition fees :-s). Shah is right, online degrees are pushing impressive revenues for MOOC platforms and evident in their figures are their advantages. Firstly, Coursera have a 93% retention rate — that suggests the obvious — money on the table is overwhelmingly the key factor in retention — making a mockery of 2U’s claim their platform sophistication was behind their higher retention numbers. Secondly, Coursera recruited over 50% of students from their platform, suggesting they have successfully leveraged their MOOCs for student acquisition and one that should see more universities go with the platform rather than a traditional OPM — here

Coursera is formally expanding into Brazil — While the Brazillian market is nominally very attractive — 207m people with a median age of 31, a strong school system but a weak university system — it has a low level of English language penetration (around 5% at a university study level) making localization a prerequisite for entry. Coursera are beginning with 24 courses — here

Coursera make happiness free — That’s nice of them isn’t it? More specifically they made Professor Laurie Santos’ Yale Course ‘The Science of Well-being’ free. Like ‘Learning How to Learn’ (optimising), it fits a consumer niche (angsty millenials) and serves as an excellent lead generator for the rest of the platform — here

Saudi Arabia sign a partnership deal with Coursera — It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a kingdom in possession of a large (but of diminishing value) amount oil must be in want of a post-oil growth strategy. Such is Saudi Arabia’s dilemma. De facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is making up for lost time with a strategy focused on growth industries such as Cybersecurity and AI and is looking to build the workforce to do this. Udacity, always one step ahead of Coursera, have already put down roots by signing up to the One Million Arab Coders initiative. But the pie is large with Saudi Arabia clearly willing to splash cash for both companies and educators who can help them with their goal — here

Udacity to launch Cybersecurity Nanodegree — Eating my words, it’s baffling it took Udacity this long given the very clear market opportunity ($165.2bn by 2023 according to one report and with huge skill shortagesdriving wages up) . Either way, it’s the usual Udacity model — RSA Security are the sponsor and will provide $50K in scholarships — here

Ed’s Tech

Credly acquire Pearson’s ACCLAIM — New york credentials startup Credly have acquired ACCLAIM, Pearson’s badge effort. ACCLAIM was a digital badging system, it gained a few notable adopters such as IBM but evidently Pearson don’t fancy it as core business and have thus sold it to Credly who will use it to gain some lucrative market share in an attempt to make their own credentials the currency — here

Global Education

Should all business schools be shut down? — That’s the provocative conclusion of Professor Martin Parker, a Professor of Management at Bristol University who’s taught at a number. In a Guardian Long Read (to his credit he knows his market), Parker argues that all 13K Business schools globally should be shut down. His central criticism is that Business Schools teach a particularly narrow form of rapacious capitalism — finance is taught without reference to the impacts of inequality, humans are treated as …resources and everyone is assumed to be an egocentric rational agent.

Parker’s critiques are interesting more because they are part of a wider trend, one that has seen Business schools see a decline in MBA provision both through switching to 1 year MBA and through Business schools not even offering an MBA. Yet the crisis Parker points to is actually deeper — that of Neoliberalism (defined in terms of the narrow pursuit of profit, removal of trade barriers and deregulation). As Parker sees it, Business schools are churning out the officer class in a now-defunct ideology. But the likely outcome is not the end of Business schools but rather a pivot (and possibly some painful restructuring for the lower and middle order schools). Some of this is technical — such as replacing the rational egocentric human with one informed by behavioural science, some is about teaching students to consider the role of business more widely such as social enterprise and more responsible action — such as that urged by Laurence Fink’s (CEO of Blackrock investment) letter on the need for more responsible capitalism and some may just be a blip, after all, Business Schools were always more about the networks and the signal rather than the content — here

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Agree, Disagree, have something to add? Following on a recent surge of comments, I’d like to invite everyone to do so and where possible I’ll feed discussions into the following edition.

As ever if you enjoy it SHARE IT! For the permanent home of these newsletter and articles GO HERE. If you have any thoughts please write back to me

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Chris Fellingham

To stop himself dying of boredom in a former job Chris discovered MOOCs. It was a short hop to working in Strategy and Insights for FutureLearn from which he was inescapably drawn to to trying to understand the macro forces at work. Otherwise Chris is a policy wonk, a political geek and a long suffering fan of Tottenham Hotspur.

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