"There's a belief in particularly the American schooling system that when it's not working for a student, that student feels like they're not made for school when really the school is not made for them. And that that's a fault of the system, not of the student. Probably the best answer to that is more options, more personalization, other ways to do things. And technology is an incredible lever for that because it gets rid of major constraints. Geography being probably the biggest one of them, structure being another. And so now we know that's possible, people have experienced it by necessity, so I think they'll do it in far greater numbers than they did before." - Rebecca Kaden
Our guest today is Rebecca Kaden. Rebecca is a Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures. She has a particular interest in education and an extremely deep understanding of the evolving EdTech landscape. Rebecca began her career as a journalist and prior to USV was a General Partner at Maveron, a consumer focused early stage fund.
In this episode, we talk about how new technology can decentralize many aspects of what school is today, so that the learning experience can really feel individual for each student.
Some thoughts from our discussion:
Rebecca and I talked about how schools will get decentralized, especially when enabled with new technology like Web3 (the decentralized internet). She quotes Garret Smiley, Co-Founder of Sora Schools, saying that schools are not about content any more, but about the architecture of learning.
11:21 - The person who I like speaking about this the most is Garrett from Sora Schools because he thinks about schools as not about content, but about architecture basically, right? And that what a school is, is the structure of how a student should learn. And for Sora, that's a about student led learning, right? Project-based learning, the idea that you should follow your interests and school can help make it complete, but you learn best when you're going down roads and kind of pulling threads that you're most interested in.
For the likes of Sora Schools, the 'job to be done' is not creating all the content, instead it's putting in place the structure & incentives, via project-based + student-led learning techniques. Then Outschool and others will plug in the content over time.
11:50 - And his attitude is that at Sora, his job is not going to be to create all of the content for all of those different threads, it's going to be to create the structure that allows students to do that. And things like Outschool and many others are going to plug in the content there over time. That's super interesting because what you're basically seeing is kind of the decentralizing of schools, right? And the idea that to make schools feel individual for every person, you have to look at it and components: 1) is what you learn, 2) is how you learn it, how you learn best, and 3) is the community and kind of support system around it.
But how can you create true network effects in education that drive up value and drive down costs in interesting ways? If it's possible, now's the time. Learners' appetite to compile their education has increased just as the decentralized tech is becoming available.
03:21 - Fundamentally education looks the same way it does today, as it did many decades ago, even though the rest of our lives look really different. And so what we've thought a lot about in the category is how can technology be leveraged to change that? Where are there opportunities to create networks that drive up value and drive down cost in interesting ways.
Rebecca points out that education is one of the best use cases for a community-based structure. It has a network already, creators with common goals, you just need to incentivize them in the right way. That's a great basis for decentralized architecture.
21:22 - In many ways, education is one of the great use cases for this. It has a fundamentally community-based structure, right? So it has a network already, whether it's a school or a school district or a platform like Outschool, which is a marketplace. And so has networks of teachers with common goals that should be incentivized around the collective growth versus the individual growth. That is a great basis for decentralized architecture.
In decentralized education, users will be teaching other users. Everyone in a network has some kind of knowledge to unlock. To maximize utility of a knowledge network, you unlock every single node and figure out what that knowledge is and how best to share it.
34:08 - The most decentralized system of education would be users teaching other users, right? Education is still somewhat of a top-down system based on credential and teachers and things like that. And what we know is that everyone in a network has some kind of knowledge to unlock. And to maximize utility of a knowledge network, you would unlock every single one of those nodes and figure out what that knowledge is and how best to share it. If you think about the spectrum of executional difficulty of building things, it's way, way, way, I think on the far end of a spectrum. But I see us getting closer to it. And you have to incentivize that network correctly. I think Web3 is pretty interesting in that. You have to make that something people want to do and care about even outside that kind of monetary incentive structure, and you have to make that an acceptable mode of learning. But I think over time, we're going to get closer to that.
Here are some resources we mentioned:
- First episode with Sora Schools - https://blog.enrollhand.com/have-you-heard-of-sora-schools/
- Second episode with Sora Schools - https://blog.enrollhand.com/roadmap-club/
- Redesigning School for Students To Thrive with Rebecca Kaden of USV and Garrett Smiley of Sora Schools - https://soundcloud.com/venturestories/redesigning-school-for
- 420 Learning Guides Coach Learners Towards Mastery, with Kelly Smith, CEO at Prenda - https://blog.enrollhand.com/420-learning-guides/
- Will the Consumerization of Education Continue, with Jennifer Carolan - https://blog.enrollhand.com/consumerization-k12-education/
- John Danner on Twitter about Web3 & Education
Where to learn more about the guest:
- Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-kaden/
- Twitter - https://twitter.com/rebeccakaden
- Website - https://www.usv.com/
Where to learn more about Enrollhand:
Our webinar: https://webinar-replay.enrollhand.com
Our free Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/schoolgrowth/