Online Education

6 Companies That Are Teaching Educators What Good 'Disruption' Means

6 Companies That Are Teaching Educators What Good 'Disruption' Means
Image credit: Kim Cofino | Flickr

Teachers, parents, and kids across the world are using a variety of technology tools to facilitate the learning process both in and out of the classroom. And for good reason: The technology tools available today can help kids (and adult students) connect in class, assist parents with managing their kids' schedules and provide benefits to teachers and administrators alike.

Related: This Is Bill and Melinda Gates' Prediction for the Future of Online Education

Of course not all schools or educational technology tools are equal. Some provide advantages that others lack. And then there is economic reality: Often, only schools with more money (private schools and those funded either by the government or through philanthropy), can get iPads and other devices into the hands of students. 

But despite these problems, companies offering high-quality ed-tech tools are "disrupting" the education industry in a good way. They let people take class from home and allow teachers, kids, parents and all other participants in education to interact and learn with one another as never before. Here are six of them:

1. Edmodo

Edmodo is perhaps one of the most comprehensive educational networks on the market today: a global educational network for education. The website brings millions of teachers, parents, and kids together in an easy-to-use online setting to collaborate on and discuss anything from student assignments to parenting-related issues with schooling.

Using Edmodo, teachers can structure and maintain complete control over their digital classrooms by allowing access to invited students only. Once admitted, students can interact with one another, view upcoming quizzes, discuss classroom topics and stay connected in a paperless way. Teachers, meanwhile, can take advantage of Edmodo’s 48 million-user database by enlisting help from colleagues worldwide Whether ideas are needed for a Spanish, science or math lesson, a teacher can find instantaneous help from Edmodo’s wide community of educators. Excellent backing is also available from those who know about networking, including Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.

2. Teachers Pay Teachers

Rarely would anyone consider educators in the United States to be overpaid. Yet in reality, while teachers command fairly meager salaries, they are obviously responsible for our future generations’ education. Fortunately, a new education technology tool is allowing dedicated teachers to earn additional money for their hard work through the process of sharing it with educators throughout the world. Teachers Pay Teachers, a program that (as of this writing) had well over three million users, is an online marketplace that connects educators worldwide and lets them buy and sell their own self-created educational materials.

Ultimately, this system provides massive benefits for teachers on both sides of the spectrum. Specifically, educators who have developed highly useful lesson plans or other materials can post them to the site and make additional profit outside of the classroom. This is especially valuable to newer teachers who need new materials to work with, or those who simply need extra assistance in a given year, for a small fee.

Related: The Latest – and Unlikeliest – Man to Reinvent Online Education

3. Udemy

Taking education out of the classroom and traditional learning environments, Udemy is an online bazaar for learning anything from coding to how to overcome blushing. Instead of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that go hand in glove with traditional universities, Udemy lets anyone with the proper skill sets and knowledge teach a class. The site offers the most ambitious instructors the opportunity to sell their knowledge and skills to anyone in the world able to pay. Classes are available in a wide variety of disciplines and subjects, including basic computer skills, coding and all aspects of marketing and advertising. In May, this aggressive start-up managed to raise $32 million dollars, telling TechCrunch that it planned to further grow its course-creation tools and boost its mobile presence.

4. Fedena

Anything that can help institutions ease the load on administrators is invaluable in education. That’s why the technology offered by Fedena is particularly functional and practical: It's an enterprise resource-planning (ERP) tool designed for teachers, support staff and all administrative personnel throughout an entire school. Users have access virtually to every function necessary to run their institution efficiently and effectively. Categories include attendance, exams, grades, school schedules, campus news, library and dormitory information. The system is interactive, and comes with a built-in messaging program that offers quick communication with other administrators at the institution. A finance component offers help planning for issues such as student fees, as well as a way to manage employee pay. 

5. Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard, founded in 1997, is one of the oldest learning management systems and holds one of the better environments for managing an institution. Blackboard Collaborate provides a comprehensive online learning and collaboration platform for educational venues spanning K-12, high school, college and even corporate in-house training. Collaborate also combines mobile online-learning collaboration tools and internal-learning management apps into a simple real-time solution. Web conferencing is available via Android, as is built-in audio conferencing for students and teachers, useful specifically for online classes and long-distance learning. Experts in any field can be brought in to share their expertise or deliver an online seminar. And the Blackboard instant messaging system lets students and teachers see who’s online and discuss educational matters in a more immediate manner. This facet also helps teachers potentially avoid the classic student excuse: "Oh, it was too late to get you on email." 

5. Khan Academy

What began as a set of YouTube instructional videos on algebra for the niece of Salman Khan has evolved into making people rethink their options in education and technology. The nonprofit, online-only Khan Academy, now about nine years old, has blossomed into a comprehensive catalogue of free tutorials on everything from cryptology to classical music. Its free-for-all cost structure comes thanks to funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other NGOs. One example is the Academy's quality SAT online tutoring, available in the past only to wealthier families. But now, with the ubiquity of broadband access, Khan Academy offers anyone with an internet connection a quality education in many fields. The institution has grown further through support from other companies, such as Google, which is helping to translate a variety of lessons into several of the world’s primary languages. In many senses, Khan Academy is on its way to becoming the Wikipedia of academic learning. 

While the education industry has been slow to take significant advantage of technology, it is now becoming consistently "disrupted" by programs for students, teachers, and administrators. While many of these programs provide benefits, the six described here are making a massive global impact and rapidly improving the education industry worldwide.

Related: 4 Ways Technology Is Making Education More Affordable and Available