How can we realistically expect to transition away from a factory model of education when we’re still using factory measurements of success?

How can we realistically expect to transition away from a factory model of education when we’re still using factory measurements of success?

Although historically students have been evaluated heavily based on their GPA and test scores, a 21st century education can no longer be measured by what begins and ends in the classroom. Today’s standards of success require the capacity to measure students by a host of new criteria, including their ability to problem solve and navigate their own skills, talent and career development.

Portfolio of Skills and Experiences

Student records should become a personal portfolio with both quantitative and qualitative measurements of educational accomplishments, emphasizing the skills and experiences that are of the greatest interest to potential employers and postsecondary schools:

  • Internships (real-world experience)
  • Leadership Roles
  • Research (using the scientific method)
  • Communication Skills (writing and public speaking)
  • Community Service
  • Innovation/Critical Thinking (adequately addressing a real problem and building a solution)

So how do we measure these critical skills and experiences?

This is the question we are asking and answering at WorkReadyGrad, an EdTech startup in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

Proactive Education System

Increasingly, educators can take a much more holistic and longer-term view on student success, thanks to the availability of longitudinal data, professional social networks and big data analytics. To elaborate, here in Georgia we have at least eight years of student longitudinal data, much of which was collected under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As we have transitioned away from NCLB and toward the Common Core Curriculum, educators have increasingly asked, “How do we actually use this data to enable a proactive education system?”

Phase 1:  Content Delivery Speed & Method

Phase 1 of answering that question by education technology resulted in tailoring the content delivery speed and delivery method to the learning style preference of the student.

Phase 2:  Personalization & Portfolios

Phase 2 within education technology is just now ramping up where personalization of a student’s educational experience will be more encompassing to include what the student accomplishes outside the classroom as well. Rather than simple report cards with letters A-F, students will be developing portfolios of work that can highlight experiences achieved and skill sets developed as they relate to real world applications.

Phase 3:  Educational Ecosystem Map

In Phase 3 we will be able to both measure this holistic picture of the student and map his or her entire educational ecosystem both inside and outside the school. Eventually with big data analytics, we’ll be able to write algorithms that provide personalized recommendations on which:

  • books to read for class,
  • professionals to engage in the student’s local community or professional online community,
  • internships to pursue,
  • classes to take in person or online (i.e Massively Open Online Courses like Coursera, EdX, and Khan Academy),
  • clubs to join, and
  • alumni to engage who will maximize chances of success at achieving the student’s aspirations.
Technology Adoption for Continuous Improvement

If we look at the restaurant industry in the past, knowing where to eat dinner on a Friday night was largely based upon word-of-mouth among friends, though there were always far more restaurants out there than friends. Now with social media and the Internet, our methods for restaurant selection have changed. Within sites like Yelp, we can map out the whole culinary spectrum of a city—the location of Southern Brunswick Stew, Thai Masaman Curry or Chinese Dim Sum and then within these categories of food, which restaurants have the best versions of these dishes. These data then influence where we eventually decide to dine.

Just as social media and big data have enabled us to map the culinary digest of a city, so too will they in time enable us to map the educational resources of a city.

Just as social media and big data have enabled us to map the culinary digest of a city, so too will they in time enable us to map the educational resources of a city. What makes mapping educational resources a more challenging task is that there are so many educational resources out there, and the existence of each is not always as permanent or obvious as a stand-alone restaurant.

From my perspective as an EdTech entrepreneur, the challenge we now face isn’t so much a technological one. The challenge we now face involves societal adoption of existing technology and societal transfer of responsibility for a “good education” away from solely our teachers and instead more onto the shoulders of the students themselves and their entire community.

With these advances in technology comes greater responsibility on the part of students, because the cause and effect between their efforts and future success become more apparent. Professional social media networks expose a student to dozens of careers and also can inform them of the required skills and experiences to achieve those careers. Future platforms then will go a step further and pinpoint where exactly in the community or online to acquire those specific skills and experiences. It is this facilitation of more direct and frequent connections between students and professionals that generates a virtuous cycle: it’s going out of the classroom that will then enable the student to actually be comfortable and self-motivated in the classroom.

Within the pioneering EdTech startup, WorkReadyGrad, students are creating digital portfolios of their accomplishments within a feedback loop of continuous improvement. They receive insights from employers regarding the real world skills they’re seeking, and they learn from alumni what they’re now doing with their degrees, how they gained employment, and what skills and experiences distinguished them from other job candidates. Our Fall 2013 pilot is underway, so we invite you to join us to address the issue of truly enabling an entire community to empower their students in a support system that both motivates and rewards. 

Brian Srikanchana is the Founder and CEO of, an EdTech startup out of Georgia Tech’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). WorkReadyGrad has a STEM focus and seeks to address the U.S. skills gap while improving graduation rates. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. Prior to WorkReadyGrad, Brian worked as an analyst within a macroeconomic think-tank, forecasting how world economies would expand or contract.