(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)

These are indeed “interesting” financial times (interesting, as in the curse, “May you live in interesting times”).

Stocks are down. Newer alternative investment options like cryptocurrency are down. NFTs may be moving permanently into the rearview mirror. There’s increasing talk of a recession. Oh, and there’s still a whole host of “unknowns” related to the persisting pandemic.

Investors are admitting that it’s not business as usual. Companies are preparing for an economic downturn. On the tech side of things, layoffs are trending. It should probably come as no surprise, then, that publicly-traded edtech companies are struggling.

Phil Hill posted this informative chart last week, showing just how turbulent the financial waters have been on the edtech side.

I think Phil is right in saying that we should expect more acquisitions as bigger companies and PE groups with money swoop in to take advantage of depressed company valuation is the space. I also like Michael Feldstein’s take that the current disruption may force a much-needed focus on “quality.” The challenge, of course, is that education and edtech have always been somewhat messy and complex.

Quality EdTech companies show a deep understanding of how their customers work and the obstacles preventing them from achieving positive change at an inflection point for their sector. And this quality of thinking isn’t necessarily going to come through in a pitch deck because it requires a conversation about the context that the investors often don’t have. 

In the “interesting trends in higher education” department, it’s worth noting that full-time enrollment in online MBA programs has surpassed that of in-person programs. We’re also seeing a continued decline in net tuition revenue from first-year students and private colleges.

The story in K-12 this past week was about grade inflation. ACT released a study detailing the rise of student GPAs since 2016 and showing that things got even worse during the pandemic. While some see this as a big problem, others question whether rising grades necessarily point to something negative.

Something else that caught my eye last week was the discussion about millennials not finding good jobs until they were in their 30s. According to two recent reports from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce:

Most of the oldest millennials didn’t settle into good jobs until their early 30s, the reports found. In contrast, older members of the baby boomer generation mostly found good jobs by their mid-20s.

As they aged, the share of millennials with good jobs started to outpace that of boomers when they were the same age, according to the reports. But the longer transition period can still mean consequences for the younger generation, like not being able to pay off student loans, buy a house or chase new dreams.

The fact that young adults are taking longer to gain financial independence has consequences for the way they live their lives and how many will make decisions about the value of a college degree. One thing making things easier for young adults is the increasing number of companies offering education as a benefit. Count Lowes as one of those companies, now offering 300,000 full-time and part-time employees a chance to pursue college degrees, certificates and high school diplomas for free through its  Lowe’s Guild Learning Marketplace. Also interesting is Walmart’s new careers program pilot aimed at giving degree holders experience running Walmart stores. Through this College2Career program, recent graduates can take fast-track route to management and have a chance to earn up to $210,000 within two years of joining the company. 

Finally, I really liked Noah Smith’s exploration of the type of asset Bitcoin really represents. He suggests four theories.

  1. Theory 1: Bitcoin as the future of money
  2. Theory 2: Bitcoin as a worthless fad
  3. Theory 3: Bitcoin as “digital gold”
  4. Theory 4: Bitcoin as a tech stock

In case you were thinking of Bitcoin as the future of money, you might want to check out recent comments from Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the digital asset exchange FTX. He said that the proof of work system of validating blockchain transactions, which underpins bitcoin, was not capable of scaling up to cope with the millions of transactions that would be needed to make the cryptocurrency an effective means of payment. “The bitcoin network is not a payments network and it is not a scaling network,” he said.

Further Reading

Higher Education

Private colleges’ net tuition revenue from first-year students declined in 2021-22, study finds

Survey: Students want connections with professors but may not initiate them

Full-time online M.B.A. enrollment surpasses in-person programs

A strategic reset: micro-credentials for higher education leaders

Lessons Learned From Launching a Micro-Credential Program

K-12 Education

The Education Exchange: “Extremely Large” Learning Losses for Students Whose Schools Went Remote for Many Months

ACT Says Grade Inflation Is a Serious Problem. It’s Probably Not.

PROOF POINTS: New evidence of high school grade inflation

Education, Educational Technology, and Learning Design

A Flight to Quality in EdTech Venture Capital?

The Market Fall of EdTech Will Have Non-Financial Impacts

It’s Been A ‘Brutal’ Year for Public Education Companies

The Next Generation of MOOCs 

The Metaverse in Education — How ’bout No?

About the Class Technologies Acquisition of Blackboard Collaborate

How Blockchain Can Encourage Learning

The corridor of uncertainty: AI-generated essays – time to rethink written assignments

Incorporating AI and learning analytics to build trustworthy peer assessment systems

Framing and Designing the HOW

So you want to create an online class independent of a school

Update on Choosing an LMS @BryanAlexander

Assessment in the age of artificial intelligence

How to Ensure Learning and Employment Records are Designed With and For Learners


Unlike boomers, millennials didn’t find good jobs until their 30s. Here’s what it means for colleges and employers

Young adults today are slower to gain financial independence

Digital Promise Launches New Learning Community of End Users of Learning and Employment Records

Lowe’s joins in on debt-free college trend

Walmart Fast-Tracking College Graduates Into Managers Earning $210,000

How to Ensure Learning and Employment Records are Designed With and For Learners

Technology and Culture

Don’t expect large language models like the next GPT to be democratized

It’s not business as usual (and investors are admitting it)

Recession 2022: Companies Prepare for a Possible Economic Downturn

The same phone for 25 years? iFixit on right to repair’s remaining obstacles, hope

Facebook News payments at risk? Journalism’s $1bn question

Tech company layoffs tracker shows cuts across the board

Blockchain Technology is Revolutionizing the Real Estate Industry

Why Build in Web3

How to Move Your Crypto Off Coinbase to a USB-Like Hardware Wallet

Crash of the crypto titans

Binance’s LUNA investment, which peaked at $1.6 billion, now worth just $3,000

Collapse of Luna cryptocurrency leads to $11 million exploit on Venus Protocol

Bitcoin Has No Future as a Payments Network, Says FTX Chief

16 May 2022. Fashion | Bitcoin – by Andrew Curry