The new CEO of Glynlyon (and president of Odysseyware) discusses the future.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Beth Te Grotenhuis recently led the development and execution of the largest new product release in Odysseyware’s history and was instrumental in the development of Odysseyware’s industry-leading online Career Technical Education courses. Since joining Glynlyon (Odysseyware’s parent company), she has shared the company’s mission to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children and to be the best education partner in the industry. Today, as their new CEO (she’s also president of their wholly owned subsidiary Odysseyware), she is more committed than ever to that vision. The company is a leader in providing educational opportunities and online curriculum for a diverse mix of PreK-12 students. Beth has nearly three decades of successful leadership experience in the education and software industries. Under her leadership, Odysseyware has become one of the K-12 education industry’s most
We are a mobile society. The Internet permeates every aspect of modern life, especially for this generation of learners.
comprehensive online and blended learning curriculums. Completely web-based, they provide 21st century educational solutions by offering the core subjects of history and geography, math, language arts, and science along with enriching electives, CTE, placement testing, diagnostics and professional development. This curriculum is sold directly through regional education specialists. In this interview, Beth answers some wide ranging questions about changes in education and technology over the past few years, an epic voyage in itself — and what it takes to stay on the leading edge.
Victor: How has online learning changed in the past five years? What can Odysseyware do now that it couldn’t five years ago?
Beth: One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the overall adoption rate of online learning. For example, recent statistics show that over 80% of high schools now offer online courses. That is a dramatic increase from five years ago. It is also becoming more integrated with the overall curriculum. In the past, online learning was viewed more as a one-off or a specialized program, but it’s increasingly being used as another aspect of overall instruction, or in the case of blended and flipped learning environments, as the core instructional delivery method. The explosion of mobile technology and devices is also facilitating a shift to, and demand for, far more customized, personalized and interactive online learning experiences.
We’ve improved and expanded every aspect of Odysseyware in the past five years in terms of both functionality and in content coverage. We’ve improved our platform’s ability to customize courses to better provide districts and schools with the flexibility to align our content with their own and to individualize and target instruction. That flexibility also facilitates the implementation of blended and 1:1 initiatives. Our Teacher Authoring Tool is a resource teachers use to create and customize their own lessons. We now offer a complete middle and high school Common Core solution and are a leader in Career Technology Education, offering over 60 CTE courses.
Victor: How have you seen the paradigm shift now that educational leaders are putting on blended and/or flipped classroom initiatives? How can providers like OW continue to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate what educators need?
Beth: I think it is a work in progress. To be honest, schools are still all across the spectrum based on their technology capacity and infrastructure resources and instructional philosophies, with some having embraced blended and online learning and some just dipping their toes in the water or conducting pilots. At Odysseyware, we were involved with individualized and personalized learning before it was considered “cool” because we were able to forecast that trend in education. It’s been very helpful for us to spend a lot of time communicating with our partner schools to better anticipate and deliver innovative products that are meeting their current needs. There is no “one size fits all” approach. That’s why we focus so much on customization and flexibility. We also work hard to stay nimble enough in our development cycle that we are able to deliver those results.
Victor: How have 1:1 and BYOD initiatives presented challenges to solution providers, can you share some ideas on how your leadership has kept OW ahead of the curve?
Beth: One obvious issue is compatibility with a wide range of devices. We recently converted our 60 most popular courses from Flash to HTML5, which was a major, but necessary, undertaking. For example, a student can utilize Odysseyware on a tablet in the classroom and a laptop at home and a different desktop in a school lab setting without interruption or compromising the learning experience.
Victor: “And this too shall pass…” has become a staple in educators’ vocabulary, and in many cases it is a true statement. Will we be saying that about blended, flipped and 1:1 five years from now?
Beth: I think it’s likely in five years we won’t even be considering it in terms of an either/or scenario. We are a mobile society. The Internet permeates every aspect of modern life, especially for this generation of learners. If they encounter a device, they expect it to be interactive and engaging and responsive. What I think will pass is this thought that teachers somehow aren’t an essential part of the process or will be replaced by technology. I think that is shortsighted. If anything, I believe the need for teachers to facilitate learning and integrate these technology tools will only increase.
Victor: Under your leadership, how will you ensure that your company and your solutions stay relevant say in 5 years, or even 25 years from now?
Beth: A large part of Glynlyon’s success to date has been our commitment to customer service, product innovation and investing in the development of our employees. We’re a family-owned company and not beholden to corporate investors or stockholders, so we’ve been able to truly reinvest in our products and our employees and respond quickly to the changing educational landscape. So I will continue to make those investments. Our external mission is creating instructional curriculum and resources that empower students and teachers. My goal is to continue to do the same internally as well by offering opportunities for growth and development like those that I received throughout my career at Odysseyware.
Victor Rivero is the editor in chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]