INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
They’ve been around for more than 50 years, but a lot of factors were converging in recent years that led to some very significant changes for what was formerly PLATO Learning and is now Edmentum. First, they’ve significantly expanded their portfolio in recent years, acquiring Educational Options and Archipelago Learning. “This brought in proven learning solutions like EdOptions Academy and Study Island, growing our product portfolio,” says Jamie Candee (pictured), Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Edmentum. “Second, schools and districts have been subjected to the challenges of changing curriculum and tighter budgets right at a time when new learning technology solutions are exploding. Our expanded product portfolio that better addresses these dynamics called for a new way forward for us, and that’s Edmentum. As a single, unified company, we’re ready to redefine the 21st century classroom.”
Victor: How will Edmentum be different from PLATO Learning, Archipelago Learning, EdOptions, etc.?
Jamie: By combining these industry leaders under a single, unified brand, Edmentum will offer the same tested and proven products our customers know and trust. There will be no changes for our employees or our customers, and our operations will continue as they have been.
Victor: Can you provide a sense of where the company was prior to its major acquisitions in the last couple years, and where it is today in terms of learning solutions, employees, operations, etc.?
Jamie: Prior to the acquisitions, PLATO Learning was already providing learning solutions for kindergarten through adult learners, but probably was best known for providing courseware solutions for secondary credit recovery programs. These acquisitions allowed us to provide a more comprehensive portfolio for all learners and all learner needs.
Edmentum now has more than 600 employees, located in our Minneapolis, Dallas and U.K. corporate offices as well as field staff, providing learning solutions across the U.S., Canada and U.K. Nearly 1 million students and 60,000 educators are using our products every day to enhance their learning experiences and reach achievement goals.
Victor: Will this impact the schools using your learning solutions or impact any of your products, such as Study Island?
Jamie: We’ve launched a new identity and new brand names, but the product solutions, such as Study Island, that our customers have come to know and love remain the same.
Edmentum will continue to provide Plato Courseware and its proven, secondary online courses, as well as Education City, an online instructional intervention tool, and Study Island, which provides online instruction, practice, assessment and reporting to enable learners to master state and common core standards.
Our other brand segments consist of the new Edmentum Reading Suite, Edmentum Assessments, EdOptions Academy and Edmentum College + Career.
Victor: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for integrating technology in the classroom in the coming years?
Jamie: Young learners are helping lead the drive for more technology in the classroom. This is a generation that has grown up with technology all around them, from more advanced computers and TVs to tablets, smart phones and gaming devices.
That’s good news for teachers and administrators, because the capabilities of learning technologies, both in and out of the classroom, have never been greater. Computers, mobile devices and other technologies are changing how learners and teachers interact in the classroom, while online learning solutions enable learners to enhance their education at home.
As this wide range of solutions becomes more prevalent and makes its way into more classrooms, it will be up to learning solutions providers like Edmentum to deliver solutions across all platforms. That’s a challenge we’re taking head on as we redefine the 21st century classroom.
Victor: What are some of the most significant challenges facing schools and districts as they try to implement 21st century learning solutions?
Receiving the funding they need to bring in new technologies has been a struggle for some in the tough economy. Changing curriculum standards, such as common core, also puts added pressure on teachers and administrators, consuming both time and resources.
We see it as our responsibility to enable success in the face of these challenges with the understanding that the learning process truly is unique, from state to state, district to district, school to school and learner to learner.
Every state has a unique approach to education, and our learning solutions have been developed to accommodate those different approaches and standards, but we also tailor our offerings to blend individual teaching approaches with proven learning solutions for every kind of learner need, from pre-kindergarten through adult learner.
Victor: What do you see are the challenges and opportunities with the “Bring Your Own Device” trend?
Jamie: There’s no doubt more schools are shifting from laptops to iPads and other mobile devices. This will allow schools to take advantage of a technology that learners are increasingly more familiar with while also allowing learners to interact and engage with their learning in new ways.
Our portfolio of online learning solutions contains more than 20,000 hours of learning content, most of which was developed in Flash. Rather than push back or shy away from the challenge of adapting our content for the next generation of learning technologies, we’re embracing it.
Our learning solutions are being transitioned to HTML5 and other Web 2.0 technologies, enabling teachers and administrators to continue providing our trusted and proven solutions through next-generation devices. This is also redefining what teaching and learning can be. For example, we’ve developed a mobile teacher application that enables teachers to manage their Edmentum courses away from the confines of their desks while also expanding their abilities to support individual student interaction.
Victor: Do you see K-12 learning going more online in the coming years?
Jamie: Let me be clear – we strongly believe in both the value of the brick-and-mortar classroom and in-person learner interaction. We understand educators’ and administrators’ needs to enhance their school and district’s curriculum offerings and their need for flexibility and diversity in effort.
Virtual learning can have several benefits for learners with alternative needs. Fully accredited virtual learning programs with certified teachers offer solutions from credit recovery to complete diploma programs, and they can provide anytime, anywhere access for learners to learn on their own terms. We believe the districts are in the best position to deliver these virtual learning opportunities to students.
Victor: Anything else to add?
Jamie: In any given school or district, there are a lot of people who have a stake in learner success. There are also a lot of factors affecting decisions at the school or district level, and a multitude of learner needs. We understand this, which is why we provide flexible, individualized learning solutions rather than one-size-fits-all solutions.
Our new identity as Edmentum is all about supporting educators and administrators with the most comprehensive portfolio of online learning solutions possible. Today, we enable schools and districts to meet any learner need at any level, from pre-kindergarten through adult learners, with a wide range of solutions for traditional and next-generation platforms. There’s a sea change happening in the field of learning technologies, and Edmentum is redefining how they can be utilized to enable learner success.