This post is part of our Future of Education series, in which we interview the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Christopher Klündt, CEO and Founder of StudyBlue.
1. What’s the history of StudyBlue? Where and how did you begin?
CK: Used by over 17 million students, with more than 500 million pieces of content, StudyBlue is one of the leading crowdsourced learning services to help students succeed in school and beyond. It all started more than a decade ago, when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin. I was frustrated with the lack of useful tools available to help students study and collaborate online. I envisioned an online platform in which students could easily study better, together. Since, millions of students have organically joined StudyBlue. StudyBlue continued to grow significantly in Wisconsin, but in 2012 the team recognized the need to join other EdTech companies in Silicon Valley, and relocated to San Francisco. In 2014, I stepped into the role of CEO and today continue to lead our mission to help any student learn anything.
2. What specific problem does StudyBlue solve? How do you solve it?
CK: Classically, the college students experience is represented as attending lectures and taking tests, but in reality, students spend the vast majority of their time studying on their own. And many students struggle when they study on their own. Lots of studies show collaborating with fellow students in study groups leads to a deeper understanding of concepts and better retention at test taking time.
StudyBlue creates a virtual study group that helps any student succeed by aggregating and curating student-generated study content that is class and professor-specific and providing great learning tools to study that material. Many students also learn better when creating or studying flashcards, and StudyBlue offers free, best-in-class tools to create, study and track progress towards mastery of study materials.
3. What’s the future of EdTech?
Prediction #1: Consolidation and bundling. Students, Teachers and Administrators don’t want to rely on dozens of services to help them achieve their goals. Multiple logins across multiple tools with different interfaces and purposes creates a scattered and inefficient technology sphere. EdTech will naturally gravitate towards consolidation and bundling of these technologies, led by services that already have strong scale, adoption, or usage. Much like the web evolved from dozens of search engines to dominance from Google, I suspect the same thing will happen across various areas of EdTech, including LMS, SIS, Required Materials, Study Tools, Communication Software, etc.
Prediction #2: There will be a rise of technologies that are primarily focused on the students. Most of the hype, dollars and resources are going towards companies that specialize in making life better for teachers or administrators or even parents. However, ultimately, it is the student that Education Technology should be serving. To learn effectively, students need to capture and internalize information. I suspect the demand for technology that enables better capturing and learning of educational content will increase faster than the demand for technology to teach the content. When we survey students about what technologies they use in education, the answer is always “Google” followed by “YouTube” followed by a smattering of random technologies. Students are clearly hungry for better tools to learn outside the classroom.
4. What are the top 3 technological trends you’re seeing in EdTech?
Trend #1: OER. The old textbook publisher model is truly dying.
Trend #2: Move towards the cloud. As long as each student has access to a device (their own or provided), the device doesn’t matter, as the technology and data are ubiquitous in the cloud.
Trend #3: AI (Machine Learning) will make an impact on how students learn.
5. Why is the EdTech industry ripe for disruption?
CK: It’s a really interesting time for disruption in EdTech. Once-entrenched textbook publishers and educational institutions now face stiff competition online from open educational resources, video, online courses, and crowd-sourced digital study materials, like StudyBlue. Education has been slower in its digital revolution from a classic brick and mortar industry, but that revolution is now well underway. Students are looking for the best selection of online services to drive or supplement their studies and the industry is ripe for companies to band together to form a compelling suite of study tools and study content offerings that promote student success.
About Christopher Klündt
Chris is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founded StudyBlue in 2006 while working as a securities analyst at a hedge fund. At StudyBlue he’s worn every hat, and stepped into the role of CEO in 2014.