The 4 Biggest Ed Tech Stories of 2015

As expected, ed tech continued to be a hot topic of discussion in 2015. Because of its increased coverage, The Edvocate decided to create a list of the top 4 ed tech stories of 2015.

Are MOOCs the biggest ed tech story of 2015? With a steady stream of reporting that the price of college is quickly becoming too high for many Americans to afford, an alternative form of higher education seemed to be how some future students would learn. MOOCs, or massive open online classes, offer free lectures and web-based courses by some of the world’s best universities.

But according to, MOOCs’ popularity never really took off. But because the courses are free and open to anyone with an internet connection, many believed that this type of offering would soon be the death of college.

Not so, or at least not yet.

According to a paper produced by Harvard and MIT on MOOC courses that both institutions offer, more than one million participants entered a HarvardX or MITx course between 2012 and 2014. While those numbers may seem high, it is important to remember that each course is free, though participants may choose to purchase a certificate of completion at the end.

The paper also found that nearly 40 percent of those surveyed who took one of the MOOC courses had a teaching background.

Overall, the study showed that MOOCs are growing at a steady pace but not enough to pose a serious or significant threat to brick and mortar institutions.
That doesn’t mean that these free courses will soon be de-funded or go away; this simply shows that more time is needed to figure out and cultivate their appeal.

MOOCs may still represent a new wave of how students will digest education in the future. Free may be good, but quality has to be attached to it. As long as institutions offering MOOCs continue to give valued information through these courses, our future workforce and economy may be better because of it.

Is online education affordable? According to U.S. News and World Report, online higher education options aren’t necessarily cheaper than the traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

The report attempted to “debunk” the myths surrounding the theory that online education may be a cheaper option for some students.
According to, tuition costs for online courses, or degrees in some cases, are more expensive due to technology and faculty costs.

“Even if tuition for an online program looks appealingly low, students should be sure to look into whether they will be paying any additional fees, says Vickie Cook, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois—Springfield.”

Depending on the type of school the student chooses, the cost of attending varies. Selecting a private higher education institution that offers online programs will certainly trend higher than a public university with controlled costs.

It’s also worth mentioning that many for-profit schools offer online programs. The costs associated with these programs and schools will sometimes rival that of some of the country’s best schools.

The importance of researching the type of school a student wants to attend and what costs may come with attaining one’s degree will be paramount.
The U.S. News and World Report’s article also suggested that students qualify for student loans and Pell Grants even for an online education—a myth that needs to be busted.

Is course customization the future of instructional tech? In an ever-changing online environment, course customization may soon reign supreme. As online education continues to grow and evolve, so will demands on the industry and one area in which this is especially true is course design — or specifically, the creating of courses that fit each classroom just right and move away from the “one size fits all” approach to curriculum.

It’s why Blackboard Inc., the once-popular company that provides software solutions and tools for learning for higher education, high school, and k-12 classrooms, is up for sale.

According to, the company’s growth and revenue have slowed due to upstarts and changes in higher education.

Those “changes” are coming mainly in the way of customization options.

Recently, Odysseyware, an up-and-coming software company that provides curriculum for online institutions, announced alterations to its system that will make teaching and learning much more personal.

The company’s software will now allow educators to completely customize standard courses, giving them the ability to “rearrange, add, and delete content, including assignments…and search curriculum by topic and standard.”

There are more changes, like the creation of search engines that give educators the unique ability to search and save content as well. More than anything, this shows how nimble and proactive Odysseyware is being in the face of a rapidly evolving education environment. For students to reach their full academic potentials, teachers must tap resources that best fit each individual class structure and customization options facilitate this.

I believe the way teachers create lesson plans will look much different in 5 years than it does today, thanks in part to the upsurge of customization technology.

Obama to invest $3 billion in ed tech. President Obama announced nearly $3 billion in education technology commitments from various private technology companies and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), according to U.S. News & World Report. The resounding goal is to “close the technology gap in our schools.”

The Department of Agriculture will provide more than $10 million in distance-learning grants for rural schools, according to documents shared by the White House. The FCC committed $2 billion that will act as a down payment for providing high-speed broadband Internet access to 15,000 schools, fulfilling part of the President’s promise to expand broadband access and wireless Internet.

Among the donations is an investment of $1 billion’s worth of Microsoft products, according to the software company. Microsoft also pledged to deeply discount several of its digital devices for all K-12 public schools. In addition, the company has offered more than 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office to students at low-income schools.

Teachers will also receive professional development to guarantee they know how to properly use the technology in their classrooms. Verizon pledged to provide increased professional development opportunities for teachers, says Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation.

In a statement, she told U.S. News, “One key result we found from training teachers on mobile technology in the classroom is that their students learn better problem-solving skills. These skills are essential for 21st-century-education and an ability to compete internationally.”

During the announcement, President Obama stated that the commitments would help “put the world and outer space at every child’s fingertips, whether they live in a big city or a quiet suburb or rural America.”

Can you think of any ed tech stories that we missed?

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