Online Learning Communities 🤝 Transcend Newsletter XX

How peer learning and software can help create "learning playgrounds".

This week we bring you our thinking around online communities, particularly learning communities. We sincerely hope you find it insightful: if you do, please take a second to share the newsletter with a friend!

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Also, Transcend Network is now on Twitter! 🐦

tl;dr: most online communities struggle to improve the member experience when they add more members; online learning communities have the potential to benefit from this (network effects), as the world gets increasingly interconnected.

First, what are Online Communities?

Let's start by looking at online communities in general.

Online communities are nothing new - they've existed for as long as the internet has been around (and arguably even earlier, through physical mail!). But something feels different this time around: while in the past these communities were an extension of physical circles, the nature of online learning communities of the 2020s are online-first, have deeper cultural ties among members, and are now exploring ways to become economically sustainable.

The depth and breadth of these communities are much stronger than previous online communities. What's behind this shift? As human life moves increasingly online (give Chris Nixon a listen), the cultural and geographical differences that once represented a barrier to cohesion for online members are falling apart - when "internet culture" is your primary culture, your online community is your nation and university.

We are going to dive deeper into the nature and future of online communities, and particularly those that focus on learning (online learning communities).

We believe there are two elements that define online communities: purpose (the goal of the interactions and group) and levers (the actions that members can undertake to interact with one another to achieve that purpose).

✍️Read about our thinking around Online Communities in our Open Theses.

There are communities for pretty much every purpose imaginable, and some are growing quickly, such as economic/professional communities (remember that a majority of jobs are still filled through personal networks) and learning (given the proven benefits in peer learning and the scalability of software).

Let's look at learning communities more in-depth.

Online Learning Communities

For online learning communities (whose main purpose is to have members learn) the main lever is peer learning methodologies in different forms, enabled by software.

How does software enable online learning communities? Let's start with this idea: successful learning communities transform "squares" into "playgrounds".

🚸A "square" is a place with some traffic, where you can choose to interact with people because they are passing by the same space as you.

🎢A “playground” is a space that also contains lots of traffic, but where new interaction types (levers, in this case games) appear to coordinate people.

Not only do playgrounds enable new types of interactions - they get better when more people join, a concept know as network effects. Software - in theory - is also able to drive network effects beyond the traditional dimensions of physical spaces, so it can drive even more profound gains for learners in this new online environment.

✍️Read more about Network Effects and Learning Communities

The Future of Online Learning Communities

There are a few key questions that will define the impact that online learning communities can have over the learning world in the coming decade:

  • Disciplines of study: some disciplines and skills require teachers and mentors to transfer knowledge in a more top-down direction: will Physics or Biology university students get to learn the content they need through communities?

    • What aspects of the teacher-student relationship can be integrated in a software application that enables learning in communities?

  • Engagement barriers: in the past, online learning, in general, has been limited by its inability to reach those who are not intrinsically motivated to learn (precisely the ones who should be the benefactors of new learning innovations)

    • Can online learning communities address this engagement hurdle?

  • Learner data quality: many are the edtech startups that promised better learning outcomes by using Artificial Intelligence, but so far all of them have failed (see Declara's epic demise).

    • What kind of new datasets can be captured and utilized to improve curriculums and pathways for online learners?

  • Technological advances driving new learning methods: just in the last five years, we can find initiatives like the Minerva Project, HBX or MashMe leveraging the decreasing cost of computing to increase the number of students that can attend a real-time facilitated class.

    • What are the increasingly effective and engaging learning methods that technology will enable in the coming decade?

  • Business models for communities: new communities are popping up everywhere - but there isn't a "dominant design" just yet for their business model. I expect many experiments in the next years around monetizing this work.

    • How will online communities sustain their work?

  • Product stack: software has made it incredibly easy to spin up online communities, with new tools for hosting, messaging, interacting and sharing. But online learning communities are missing a "learning stack" that enables them to ensure learning outcomes in a systematic way.

    • What are the tools that will be employed to run and grow these communities? What products will be used to ensure these are engaging learning environments?

✍️Read about our Request for Startups in this space in our Open Theses.

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts: please leave a comment or reply to this email!

📅As we enter a new decade, we recommend reading two resources for the next 10 years: “Review of the Decade: Ten Trends in Global Education”, by the Center for Global Development, and “Will the 2020s be the decade of Africa’s economic transformation?” by the Overseas Development Institute.

🖐️Two awesome education events are coming up in the Bay Area: EdSurge & Peak State Venture’s Innovators Meetup (February 12th) and CooleyED Edtech night (February 26th).

📖Imaginable Futures is a new fund that has spun out of Omidyar Network (leading impact investing firm) to fund both for-profit business and philanthropic initiatives.

👩‍🔬Ness Labs is our go to publication for all things productivity, mental models, and mindfulness. This week we are highlighting “The speed reading fallacy”, a great read!

🌎Our friends at Edutive (W20 Transcend Fellows) crafted an awesome analysis of the state of edtech in LATAM.

👋Looking for opportunities or want to say hi? Introduce yourself here!

EdConnective

Remote Business Development Consultant@ EdConnective

EdConnective's mission is to transform education from the bottom up by ensuring student success through transformative teacher training.

  • We wanted to flag another role the EdConnective team is hiring for: a remote Business Development Consultant.

  • Will Morris, CEO, recently talked to our Transcend fellows about his journey as an entrepreneur.

  • If you are interested, want to learn more or know anyone that could be a good fit, send an email to alberto@transcend-network.com

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Software Engineer and Head of Coaching - CareerCopilots

  2. Operations Intern - 256 Ventures

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hiredand check out our job board for updated openings.

We are starting a series this week where we’ll introduce you to our Transcend Fellows.

👀Learn more about our Transcend fellowship.

This week we’ll learn about Kevin Celisca, CFO and co-founder of Integrate.

What does Integrate do?

Integrate is a teacher and student engagement tool that captures LMS/SIS data for schools to understand: performance, graduation rates, behavioral analytics, and equity so schools can make informed decisions.

What stage are you at/what are you working on this quarter/year?

We are a seed-stage company that is focusing on beta testing, developing the best MVP, and working on our sales. This year is focused on making sure we create the best product for our end users and that we are getting as many sales as we can.

What is one trend/shift that you are confident will be a part of the future of learning and work?

As more and more schools adopt laptops for everyday use, one of the biggest issues has been to figure out what the best EdTech software applications are. Education is incredibly fragmented when it comes to software, on average schools balance a limited budget across 5 different programs that don't talk to one another, which leads to a loss of data opportunities. A very recent trend in the market is understanding that there is a need for an elegantly integrated solution to take care of education's core needs. You can see software like Clever, PowerSchool, and Schoology that attempt to be an all-in-one solution, but fall short as the majority of schools that use them have to supplement their lack of functionality with more software.  

What’s your call to action to the community?

If you are connected to K-12 schools that provide every student with a laptop for everyday classroom use, we would love to talk to you about getting connected to Integrate to make your school more efficient and affordable.


Thanks for reading another week! For any feedback, requests or ideas, reply to this email.

Special thanks to Megan Cho for her invaluable help on this issue of the newsletter!

Alberto(alberto@transcend-network.comMichael (michael@transcend-network.com)

Why Do We Work? ⌚ Transcend Newsletter XIX

The growing "hour inequality" you've never heard of, new series of featured fellows and jobs in the future of K-12.

Happy 2020 folks! This week we bring you a ton of interesting content we hope you enjoy: if you do, please take a second to share the newsletter with a friend!

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👋Looking for opportunities or just want to say hi? Introduce yourself to the community here!

tl;dr: for the first time in history, the rich are working more hours than the poor. This says a lot about our new relationship with work, and how it might evolve in the coming decades.

We are at an interesting point in history. For the first time ever, those who make more are also working more hours. Gone are the days of Downtown Abbey (as Arbesman put it), when neither the rich nor the poor could tell you what a weekend was, but for opposite reasons.

So what is it about work that makes people want to work?

I’ll give my overview after having talked to many people over the last few months, and explain how I see this affecting the future of work.

Let's dive in. How many hours are worked every week by the average citizen? In the US, that number is roughly 34 hours, per the 45 hours worked in Mexico, 48 in Turkey and Colombia, or the 29 worked in The Netherlands.

But how are those workweeks distributed within the labor force? Perhaps not so surprising, but as one works more hours, income rises, across all income brackets.

Makes sense, but here’s something interesting. While in 1979 the most likely workers to work long hours (50+ hours) were those in the bottom 20% percentile by income, this phenomenon had reverted by 2006, as top earners were twice as likely to work overtime as their lower-income counterparts. The raise in hours worked predominantly affected highly educated, high-wage, salaried, older men.

So if they were making a lot more money, why would they work so many more hours? And why would low income workers work less, if anything they should have worked more to climb up the income ladder?

There are a lot of potential explanations (Kuhn and Lozano focused on the unpaid or longer term benefits of working overtime, in the form of promotions), but one factor that has played a role is the increased presence of technology in the workplace as it has eliminated the need for many manual tasks.

As this fantastic article explains in the (context of the UK's stagnant labor productivity), employers face a fundamental question when it comes to increasing productivity within their companies: they can either invest in technology or hire and train human labor. Employers have started investing in technology at an unprecedented level, and while that took some upfront investment, it's starting to yield returns for the firms in the form of increased output: now robots can do some tasks infinitely more reliably than humans.

This is great... but there's one caveat - robots don't have wages, don't take days off, and can't organize. And they are owned entirely by the firms, which leads to this phenomenon:

So firms can now produce more output, and workers see none of the benefits of that marginal increase. Beyond conversations on robotaxes, what this generally means is that the shift towards a "smarter" economy is actually leaving behind low-income workers, and giving more opportunities to high-income workers - thus the increase in hours and increase in economic inequality.

Now back to the question of hours - we still don't have an answer to our question: since robots can do more work for us than ever before, why would top income workers more just as much or more? What this trend shows, to me, is that work (or at least "humane" work) is about more than simply exchanging labor for currency. In my opinion, the answer (at least partially) is threefold:

a) Work is about dignity

"I make sure everyone my town gets to work on time", "I ensure everyone is well fed", "I keep people happy by planting beautiful trees". These may sound like a CEO speaking corporate hyperbole at a conference, but these are real answers from bus drivers, cooks or gardeners when I've asked them if and why they like what they do. People take a lot of pride in their work, particularly in the things no other person can do, as this gives them a sense of dignity and purpose (Roy Bahat also mentioned this in his piece). If you don't believe it, watch these snippets from this awesome documentary (minute 4:07 43:09, 53:15).

b) Work is an increasingly personal matter

The way we work is increasingly embedded in our personal and social life - the (likely Anglo-Saxon) notion that work can be a defining element of one's life ("live to work" rather than "work to live") seems like it could be spreading (perhaps one's confirmation bias). Pew's research stated in 2011 already that: “home has invaded work and work has invaded home and the boundary is likely never to be restored”.

c) Creative, intellectual or personal care work is almost endless

When we look at creative, intellectual and personal care work that is produced within a society, the ability to expand it is almost endless: assuming there is some way to fund that increase in supply, the marginal utility derived from these services (how much more you like or dislike an extra hour of it) doesn't approach 0 like it would for a physical good like apples. If we were able to increase the societal demand for these services through increased funding, the supply could be increased to represent a large percentage of the workforce in the future.

These three factors contribute to making work about more than a simple economic exchange, and explain why it is that people work more when they have meaningful work, sometimes defying rational economic thinking. When people like their job (and we tend to look for reasons to like it unless it's a horrible job), they create a link that goes beyond its economic value - and this has important implication for the future of work.

Lessons for the future of work

One key lesson from this phenomenon is that work is going nowhere, regardless of the technological changes that may make some tasks redundant. You can count me in as a skeptic of the narrative that portrays a work-free society where everyone spends its Universal Basic Income in their creative endeavors.

Work is a fundamental source of identity and dignity (another great piece by Roy Bahat), and that's an important point to consider for the future of work scenarios. We'll find ways to create work, since otherwise humans will lose an important balance in their lives, and likely work that is creative, intellectual or related to personal care, since we excel at those tasks.

Since work is not leaving our lives anytime soon, this means societies will have to increase exponentially its upskilling and reskilling budgets and capabilities, a conversation that is already growing and present in mainstream media (see discussion on Canada's training vs US). We'll focus further on the upskilling and reskilling revolutions in another newsletter issue!

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts, please leave a comment or reply to this email! For more on our thinking, visit our Open Theses.

☀️Want to give back and build professional skills? Check out Empower Work, a national nonprofit providing a unique crisis text line for work, where workers across the U.S. connect with trained peer counselors via SMS or web chat, getting emotional and tactical support to help them tackle the challenge in a way that works best for them.

🖐️Fiveable just raised a seed round and shared its crazy last year with the world. Congrats to the team!

🤖How might technology change K-12 education? Here are some answers from a founder, a VC and a U.S. Department of Education professional.

🛠️Learn about the work Bitwise is doing around upskilling in this piece, as a part of a wider series by The Atlantic

💻Want to learn how digital credentials are redefining the world of education and hiring? Join this upcoming online discussion, with experts author Ryan Craig, on Tuesday.

👋Looking for opportunities or want to say hi? Introduce yourself here!

EdConnective

Venture Associate @ EdConnective

EdConnective's mission is to transform education from the bottom up by ensuring student success through transformative teacher training.

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Associate Education Designer, Micro-credentialing- EdDesign Lab

  2. Software Engineer and Head of Coaching - CareerCopilots

  3. Manager of Schools Partnerships - EdConnective

  4. Microverse - Product Management

  5. Operations Intern - 256 Ventures

  6. London Interdisciplinary School - Strategy and Operations Associate

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hiredand check out our job board for updated openings.

We are starting a series this week where we’ll introduce you to our Transcend Fellows.

This week we’ll learn about Vartika, CEO and co-founder of Stackraft.

What does Stackraft do?

StackRaft is a one-stop platform that helps to hire software engineers globally in the simplest way ever.

What stage are you at/what are you working on this quarter/year?

We are in open beta now. Companies hiring engineers can post jobs, start getting applications and candidate recommendations instantly. For the next quarter, we are working on the talent feed where top candidates will be featured, we will be partnering with many more boot camps and developer hubs to give them access to curated jobs.

What is one trend/shift that you are confident will be a part of the future of learning and work?

More & more companies will go remote and hire from a global talent pool. The future of work will truly become location-independent and free of biases in hiring.

What’s your call to action to the community?

If you're hiring or looking for a job, create a profile on Stackraft and share your feedback with us. This will really help us build a good experience as per your needs.


Thanks for reading another week! For any feedback, requests or ideas, reply to this email.

Alberto(alberto@transcend-network.comMichael (michael@transcend-network.com)

The Great LinkedIn Unbundling?🎅Transcend Newsletter Christmas Edition

What will happen to their 660M users around the world?

Happy holidays everyone!

We looked under the tree and found an insightful analysis of the future of hiring, how wonderful! This week we focus on the much-prophesied LinkedIn unbundling, whether it will happen anytime soon and what it might look like.

👋Looking for opportunities or just want to say hi? Introduce yourself to the community here!

tl;dr: Won’t happen anytime soon, though LinkedIn could transform itself and power the next generation of vertical platforms that are currently struggling to compete due to network effects.

1) What’s LinkedIn?

Oh, LinkedIn... You've been an invaluable product, but I can't stand you.

To anyone who doesn’t know about it, LinkedIn has become the world’s largest professional network over the last decade, with over 660M users and 30M companies listed all around the world. Here’s a breakdown by country:

While it was originally just a professional social media platform, the company has successfully transitioned into many other fields, like recruiting (20+ million open jobs), corporate education (LinkedIn Learning), marketing (its fastest-growing segment in 2019), sales (LinkedIn Sales Navigator) and industry data solutions (Talent Insights).

2) Why should we care?

To understand LinkedIn's core value proposition, we need to understand its user network.

The network was originally built on the promise of a "digital resume + professional social media" platform. While the interactions between users were limited (see screenshot of the original interface), it spread like wildfire as the network became more populated and valuable to its users (for a primer on network effects, read the NFX Manual).

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LinkedIn saw these emerging patterns and realized their future involved building more complex and varied social interactions among users, so they could bring their professional networks to LinkedIn, and start building a new set of connections on their platform. Thus came “shared connections”, company profiles, user followers, the content feed and tools, strong search capabilities and stronger recruiter and industry data capabilities.

3) The Great LinkedIn Unbundling?

Tech analysts have long prophesied a great LinkedIn unbundling, mostly because the dominant professional network for tech professionals is instead Twitter, but will this happen anytime soon?

I’ll argue it won’t, though LinkedIn’s dominance may look very different in just a few years.

Let’s dive in. LinkedIn had built a massive professional network that is highly defensible and positioned it to explore the recruiting space - one where their main strategic leverage is having a robust labor supply. As they leveraged their professional network to compete with Indeed, Monster or ZipRecruiter as large, industry-agnostic recruiting platforms, they focused on decreasing hiring complexity for employers and employees, building features like one-click applications and recruiter tools.

Image result for linkedin jobs matching

Their approach of global, sector-agnostic matching is opposed to more specialized hiring connections, as they doubled down on that vision of the "digital resume” by limiting the dimensions in which a candidate is assessed. For example, if you are hiring a social media manager, LinkedIn can give you 100 candidates all over the world that are generally qualified for the role and give you some hints as to what skills they actually have, but they won’t give you highly country or sector-specific matching variables since they choose not to over-specialize in specific roles or sectors.

This is exactly where the platform falls short for many today, as LinkedIn may not be well suited to serve the increasingly complex world of work and hiring.

As a response to the larger horizontal recruiting platforms that appeared in the last decades, a new player emerged: the vertical platform. Many of these new sector-specific hiring platforms were not initially hiring platforms at all, but they found a niche in which they could find the most relevant matches for industry-specific candidates and employers.

These new platforms have appeared in design (Behance, Dribble or even Figma, which now allows for public sharing of your work), software engineering (GitHub, StackRaft), sales (Bravado), specific communities (GirlBoss, HireClub), and many more examples (these often being largely informal, such as Twitter).

While these smaller platforms can focus on match relevance (for both employers and employees) over sample size, one of the main issues is user adoption (labor supply): it is quite difficult to get job candidates to move away from the largest professional network (LinkedIn) to a more niche platform. Who wants to fill out yet another profile with professional experience, skills and job preferences?

This is where LinkedIn could ride the current wave of vertical professional networks, by establishing itself as the key player at the identity level: LinkedIn could integrate with all these new platforms that focus on the application level, and ultimately connect them to the employee's professional identity. If LinkedIn focused on the identity layer, the growth of these vertical-specific plays could blossom, and surpass its main bottleneck of adoption.

LinkedIn has entered every single market there is to enter, which is arguably its biggest strength and strategic moat, however, it cannot cater to the needs of every employment market and vertical: allowing other players to build "on top" of that identity layer should benefit both LinkedIn and accelerate the growth of these vertically more relevant platforms, which will be better for everyone.

Ultimately, I see LinkedIn enabling millions of hires through other platforms built at the application layer that can truly redefine hiring for the modern economy, by specializing in the niches they understand best and integrating with the main identity player in LinkedIn.

What will these new vertical hiring platforms be in the next decade?

For more on our theses, visit our Open Theses.

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts, please leave a comment or reply to this email!

☀️The Transcend Fellowship will be kicking off in January and we will announce our Fellows to the world next week. Follow Transcend Network (@transcendnet) on Twitter to learn about them!

🛠️In Meet the Low-Wage Workfoce, Martha Ross (Brookings Institute) gives an overview of the demographic profile of the average US low-wage worker, one that is often overlooked by analysis of the future of work!

📖Different perspectives on edtech’s role in higher education: in a criticism of OPMs (private online course providers), one of edtech’s fastest growing sectors, TCF argues colleges should take greater control over their online course offerings.

🔥My Hope for the Future of Work is a great read on the most promising directions work might change over the next decade.

🎥Missed the Data Science roundtable? AWS data scientist Mustafa Waheed talked to Transcend Network and friends about how to break into the field and more. Check out the recording here.

📈Old but important analysis on how labour productivity growth has stalled, and how firms have changed their incentives to invest in technology vs training.

🤖Saturdays.ai, a global community of AI students, had a Demo Day in Madrid you can check out here to learn about their projects.

👋Looking for opportunities or want to say hi? Introduce yourself here!

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Growth Lead | Customer Support Lead | Partnerships & Community Lead - Eva Tech

  2. Associate Director for Energy - Deep Science Ventures

  3. Microverse - Product Management

  4. AngelList - Venture Financing Operations

  5. London Interdisciplinary School - Strategy and Operations Associate

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hiredand check out our job board for updated openings.


Thanks for reading another week! For any feedback, requests or ideas, reply to this email.

Alberto(alberto@transcend-network.comMichael (michael@transcend-network.com)

The Future of US Higher Ed 🎓 Transcend Newsletter XVII

How universities are moving from learning "factories" to platforms, data science roundtable and our Fellowship applications.

This week we are looking at the Higher Education world in the US - there’s been a lot of analysis of this sector, so we focus on unpacking where it’s going and interesting projects to follow.

👋Looking for opportunities or just want to say hi? Introduce yourself to the community here!

tl;dr: Higher ed’s long-promised unbundling is still in the works, but the actual student experience has already changed greatly. Universities are becoming platforms > factories.

1) Defining Higher Education in the US

Higher Education in the US (defined as the post-secondary education that awards academic degrees) is one of the pillars of the country’s economy: having some of the world's top universities and attracting millions of students, the US has made of higher education a great economic asset. However, higher education is undergoing a massive transition, which will change the way we see college in the US:

The cost of US Higher Ed has skyrocketed...

The overall price of higher education increased 600% between 1980 and 2010, double the rate of inflation in that period (per Ryan Craig's "College Disrupted"), with student debt rising to $1.5T (the size of South Korea's economy).

Despite this financing crisis, attending college still has a significant effect on future student incomes ($17,500 yearly income difference for millennials), especially among top programs, which turned students to loans in order to cover tuition and living costs. This effect on post-graduation income varies widely depending on the program, school and major. 

Image result for cost of us higher education

The effect of these loans on students has been widely studied: they affect their financial health for extended periods of time and puts pressure on graduates to get an income earlier in their career (as opposed to building skills for the long run).

... yet student outcomes have not caught up.

Underemployment among college graduates is a rising issue and is affecting higher ed’s perception as a vehicle for social mobility. According to this report, 40% of US recent graduates experience it. Dropout rates, employment readiness, and other alternative measures also account for student outcomes.

2) Why should we care?

This large gap between cost and outcomes is affecting the US economy, even in a time of general economic growth and full employment. 

The Kauffman Foundation states that 86% of high school students are "left behind" as they don't set to achieve their educational goals or are underemployed at the end of their education.

The long tail bubble is starting to deflate

The bubble of low-performing schools in the US is starting to deflate.

The first ones to suffer are for-profit schools, which show an alarmingly low effect on income among students. To top it off, an investigation around unethical financing options offered by colleges (aggregating 98,868 complaints) found that for-profit colleges received 98.6% of these complaints.

How long can low-performing universities stick around? There are some answers to this: a study estimated how long it would be before the following colleges are at risk of closing, counting seven colleges (comprising a massive student body) with only 4 to 7 years of runway.

What about college alternatives?

With these market inefficiencies at play, many have argued that alternative education pathways will replace college (“the great college unbundling”), some arguing high schoolers will go directly to work.

However, these closings are still a minority, and among predominantly low performing schools in the country: top schools are going nowhere since they have established strong moats and an accreditation system that acts as a gatekeeper (see #2 in this awesome article).

3) The future of Higher Education

While the long-promised college unbundling hasn’t yet fully realized, the actual student experience has, and technology has played a massive role in that process. To understand the future of higher education, we must understand the role technology can play in solving the existing bottlenecks moving forward, both on the supply and demand for education.

On the supply side, online college is finally a reality in the US: more than 3 million students study fully online (and 29% of graduate students). Additionally, 61% of hiring leaders see credentials earned online as equal to or better than those completed in person. On the demand side, employers seem to be doubling down on educational credentials, which universities are uniquely positioned to offer: 64% of employers agreed that the need for continuous lifelong learning will demand higher levels of education and more credentials.

These are future opportunities for higher education in the US and project in the space.

1) Better online learning environments and experiences (coaching, experiential learning, pathways)

  • Our thesis is that online, self-directed learning hasn't fully substituted colleges (even though all the content is out there!) because college actually provides great learning environments

  • Better learning environments will be both physical, like the Shift_Up learning gyms, but also online, like Speckbit’s exploration of community-center learning.

🚡2) More integration of work and school through skill-centric learning

🏫3) Universities as learning platforms > learning factories:

  • Universities will move towards solutions that allow them to provide education at lower costs, and provide everything the learner needs through an open platform solution, rather than a closed factory (creating the content and centralizing the learning).

For more on our theses, visit our Open Theses, and check out University, Redefined.

I’m incredibly grateful to Transcend Network friends Tara Baumgarten and Taylor Stockton for their contributions to this analysis!

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts, please leave a comment or reply to this email!

☀️We are closing our applications for the W20 Transcend Fellowship, and are excited to announce we are reviewing applications from 20+ countries! The next newsletter will include details on the exciting projects we’ll be working with.

💻How do remote workers make friends? Cadence is the key, says HBR.

🌆This report provides a full cost comparison for startups building a Series A team in Europe and SF. Engineering talent and lower cost of living are the keys to cities like Madrid having a growing startup ecosystem.

🔧Want to break into data science? Looking for interesting projects in the space? Join us on Thursday 5PM PST for an online Data Science roundtable with Mustafa Waheed, from AWS.

Sari Azout

My Background: “I'm an early-stage consumer tech investor passionate about building brands solving important problems. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business. If you know a founder rethinking an outdated industry with a combination of design, technology, and brand, hit me up!”

👋Looking for opportunities or want to say hi? Introduce yourself here!

Transcend Network Job Board

  • We’ve launched our new Job Board (on Notion, where else would we?), and want to share it with the rest of the world.

  • Here you’ll find openings at some of the most exciting startups building the future of learning and work.

  • If you have any questions about the roles or see something you are interested in, feel free to let us know!

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Growth Lead | Customer Support Lead | Partnerships & Community Lead - Eva Tech

  2. Associate Director for Energy - Deep Science Ventures

  3. Microverse - Product Management

  4. Creative Lead - Dalberg Design

  5. Community Manager - Notion

  6. Impact Investing Intern - Kiva

  7. AngelList - Venture Financing Operations

  8. Briter Bridges - Community ManagerAssociate; Expansion and Research

  9. London Interdisciplinary School - Digital Marketing Manager

  10. Laconia - VC Intern

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hiredand check out our job board for updated openings.


Thanks for reading another week! For any feedback, requests or ideas, reply to this email.

Alberto(alberto@transcend-network.comMichael (michael@transcend-network.com)

The Future of Learning at Work 🌇 Transcend Newsletter XVI

The way we learn at work has been dreadfully boring for way too long.

This week we are looking the way the world learns at work, a growing part of the world of education.

Find more about our work at Transcend Network and read about our Fellowship for early-stage founders in the space. Looking for a job in the space? Check this out

NEXT ISSUE - The future of Higher Education in the US

tl;dr: The world is increasingly learning at their workplace; the solutions are changing by focusing on meeting the learner where they are, creating virality and killing ugly LMS platforms (thank god).

1) Defining Learning “At Work”

Learning At Work is a broad definition that includes Corporate Learning, Learning & Development (L&D) and any other type of Learning benefits companies provide to their employees in order to learn and grow. All of our thinking around this space can be found in our Open Theses.

The market is super fragmented, and generally can be sliced in 3 main categories: Training, Learning & Development, and Benefits (a small fraction of which is assigned to learning)

There are some areas of overlap, but the categories are important because they usually involve selling to different stakeholders within the organization.

2) Why should we care?

The world is increasingly learning at the workplace, and using more technology in that process.

Let’s just look at the numbers: the L&D space is roughly valued at about $350b globally: $160B of the market is in the US, with ~$80-100B market in both the EU and Asia. The benefits sector is about the same size (~$300b). Combined, that’s roughly the GDP of Turkey or Switzerland!

From our analysis, there are three important aspects to understand this sector:

🔍Most of L&D spend is not learner-friendly, but management-friendly: most of the platforms used in the industry optimize for the manager experience over the employee and learner, as the latter is not the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to product purchases.

👀Employee usage is the key bottleneck: taking the Learning as a Benefit market as an example, about 90% of employees in the US are eligible for some sort of employer-funded learning benefit, however, only a minority of employees ever use it. When it comes to LMS, LXP or L&D platforms, the utilization rates also vary but engagement is generally pretty low.

💻The workforce is changing: the workforce of the future is much more dependent on contractor/freelance work (which will reach 50% of the US in a decade). Benefits are growing in importance as gig economy players face regulatory and social pressures to extend to their contractors.

3) The future of Learning at Work

This space is undergoing massive change over this decade, as employers continue to take on more aspects of their employees’ education, during and after university.

From our research, these are the 5 major trends that will shift the future of Learning at Work:

  1. Employee/learner-centric solutions will ultimately win: players tend to centralize the consumption of learning content through their own apps, but this often results in low engagement. We are going to see new teams focused on learner outcomes that will actually push out these low-engagement solutions.

  2. Moving towards more freedom for employees to choose how to learn - lightweight solutions that simply give access and support the learner might be much more successful

  3. Learning-as-a Benefit is the next wave in corporate learning: benefits are exploding as a category - they drive employee retention and happiness, and can be very flexible and varied. These also give much more freedom for employees to choose how to consume their learning, which could be a key intervention to address the low engagement levels experienced globally.

  4. New flexible work solutions require new solutions: 2019 is marking an inflection point in the relationship between contractors and employers, as California is forcing them to extent them the benefits of full-time employees. Learning as a benefit is well-positioned to take on this, given its flexibility as a category, fiscal advantages and investment into the contractors -

  5. Vendor partnerships as the new distribution channels for the numerous enterprise SaaS solutions: there's more coaching marketplaces or leadership training platforms that enterprises can realistically adopt - and often there is a large gap that keeps technology startups from selling to brick and mortar institutions. These, however, already use companies like SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce... who can be the way for startups to sell to new enterprise customers.

These 5 trends are opening up opportunities for startups globally to address gaps in Learning at Work.

4) Projects in the space

Below is a map we’ve created in our research with all the largest players in the space.

On the left, the internal content platforms, most of them are legacy enterprise solutions. On the right, external content platforms, most of them have been around for less than a decade.

The emerging platforms of the early 2010s (Learning & Development Platforms and Learning Experience Platforms), are consolidating their business as the market becomes more established. These include Udacity (project-based courses with employer certificates), Coursera for Business (online courses designed by universities + employers) or Degreed (lifelong learning platform to carry credentials through your career).

The new learning platforms are being built in two spaces: Learning as a Benefit (using benefits budgets to allow employees to learn what they want) and Coaching/Training Platforms (building systems around training that were previously done manually).

🎁Learning as a Benefit

  • Guild Education (employer-funded college access for employees), InStride (similar business model), Sunlight (platform to access micro-growth opportunities - such as conferences, books, courses - using employees’ learning budgets).

🤝Coaching/Training

  • Strive and Cultivate (management & leadership training platforms), BetterUp and Torch (enterprise coaching marketplaces), Junto (leadership content through podcasts).

For more information on the space, feel free to reach out to us, and follow our Twitter list with thought leaders in the Future of Learning at Work.

What do you think? We’d love to get your thoughts, please leave a comment or reply to this email!

☀️Applications have been rolling in for the W20 Transcend Fellowship for early-stage founders shaping the future of learning and work, and we are really impressed by the startups we are seeing! Don’t forget to share and apply here before Dec 1st.

📦HolonIQ published this insightful taxonomy to map out all education projects globally.

🔧Curious to see what the inside of a startup looks like? Buttondown is opening up its costs for the world to see!

📊The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab published some new insights into the future of work in this fascinating report

Shen Gao (San Francisco, CA)

Positions I’m looking for: Product Manager, Product Operations, Business Analyst

My Background: Over the last two years, I’ve in product design, product management, strategy, & web design roles at startups in San Francisco.

I’m currently exploring consulting as an option and would love to connect with anyone who currently works as a consultant to learn more about what it’s like.

Let me know if you would be open to a 30min chat! (hello@shengao.me)

👋Looking for opportunities? Introduce yourself here!

Strive Talent

  • Our friends at Strive Talent are hiring a Product Designer.

  • Strive helps people achieve their personal and professional potential through personalized and practical leadership development, and they have a top leadership team, great culture and some of the best investors in the space.

  • If you have 3-6 years of experience working in user experience research and product design (from user flows/journeys to pixel-perfect designs), apply directly here and let us know!

All the updated job opportunities can be found on our Job Board!

  1. Growth Lead | Customer Support Lead | Partnerships & Community Lead - Eva Tech

  2. Associate Director for Energy - Deep Science Ventures

  3. Microverse - Product Management

  4. Creative Lead - Dalberg Design

  5. Community Manager - Notion

  6. Impact Investing Intern - Kiva

  7. AngelList - Venture Financing Operations

  8. Briter Bridges - Community ManagerAssociate; Expansion and Research

  9. London Interdisciplinary School - Digital Marketing Manager

  10. Laconia - VC Intern

Fill out this form if you are looking to hire or get hiredand check out our job board for updated openings.


Thanks for reading another week! For any feedback, requests or ideas, reply to this email.

Alberto(alberto@transcend-network.comMichael (michael@transcend-network.com)

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