Andrew Herman navigates AI, growing pains, a new state, and more.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
He co-founded Alma based on the belief that schools deserve a modern, future-ready technology system that provides the core administrative and classroom management needs in one intuitive, flexible platform. As CEO, Andrew Herman sets long-term strategy and leads team development and collaboration to plan and meet product development goals. Under his and co-founders Elizabeth Long’s and Michael Oliver’s leadership, Alma has achieved optimum growth – and is now in 46 states and 54 countries. Alma is now widely recognized as one of the best-in-class SIS solutions available on the market, and has earned multiple Cool Tool, Leadership and Trendsetter Awards as part of The EdTech Awards from EdTech Digest.
‘Navigating these challenges, we have continuously fortified our technology and infrastructure, while expanding our teams to address the ever-changing, distinct needs of current and future customers.’
Before starting Alma, Andrew served in several financial and corporate management positions, including founding a successful analytical instrumentation company and leading numerous acquisitions for Danaher Corporation. As an early member of the Advertising.com team, he lead the venture investment raise for the company and helped lay the foundation for the company’s long-term success. Andrew’s passion for education began early in his professional career when he taught middle school at Link Community School in Newark, NJ. Andrew earned an MBA from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University.
In this EdTech Digest exclusive, Andrew provides commentary on top-of-mind issues such as AI, edtech growing pains, the nitty-gritty of features; current challenges, and thoughts on the future of learning.
How is AI, generative AI and more generally the acceleration of advances in technology impacting or influencing your work with Alma?
It’s essential to remember that while AI and emerging technology can offer significant benefits, they also come with challenges and responsibilities. Ensuring that AI is used ethically, responsibly, and for the benefit of all users is crucial. In today’s fast-paced technological environment, AI and generative AI have presented tremendous opportunities for industries across the board, including the education sector. At Alma, we see AI as a complementary tool that can enhance some of the functionalities of our SIS platform— from predictive analysis to helping in state reporting compliance. But while we’re always keen on smartly embracing technology’s potential, we have a profound respect for Human Intelligence. As almost everyone at Alma comes from a background in education, and we deeply understand that human insight, intuition, and experience can’t be replaced by AI. We may potentially utilize AI to simplify tasks and make our system even more intuitive, but always with educators and students at the center of our decisions.
With expansion comes growing pains – what have been Alma’s growing pains and how have you handled them?
Like any rapidly expanding company, Alma has experienced its set of challenges. One of our major recent milestones – and equally a challenge – was being selected from the industry’s leading platforms as New Hampshire’s state level solution. A significant validation of our capabilities, it also brought with it the onus of ensuring seamless integration at a state-wide scale. Adding that to Alma already catering to the specific needs of our existing wide audience (now spanning 46 states and 54 countries), means a continuous evolution in our offering to address diverse educational practices and standards.
Another pivotal challenge has been ensuring our infrastructure scales efficiently to support an increasing number of schools, districts, and regions without compromising on Alma’s performance. Navigating these challenges, we have continuously fortified our technology and infrastructure, while expanding our teams to address the ever-changing, distinct needs of current and future customers. The secret sauce has been a blend of adaptability and staying true to our core mission of championing students and educators everywhere.
Any highlights in terms of integration, implementation, or outcomes?
We’ve helped schools and districts of every size transition from outdated systems to Alma with remarkable ease, thanks to our easy data migration and onboarding processes. Our commitment to supporting both traditional and progressive educational practices means that schools and districts aren’t required to overhaul their systems overnight; they can transition at their own pace. As a result, Alma customers report a significant increase in community involvement, more accurate data capture, and improved student outcomes. It’s immensely gratifying to witness how a powerful, intuitive SIS tool like Alma transforms entire educational communities.
Any new features that are really leading edge, that you’d like to discuss?
One of our standout introductions has been Navigator. It’s a step-by-step onboarding tool we’ve developed, drawing from the wealth of experience we’ve accumulated onboarding hundreds of schools and districts of every size. This tool significantly streamlines the transition process, ensuring every institution can make the most of Alma from day one.
On a larger scale, Alma is not just a solution for individual schools but also at larger institutions and the state level. Our Data Infrastructure Solutions are empowering state agencies and K12 enterprises to significantly enhance the efficiency of reporting workflows and promote best practices in data governance. With features like advanced quality control checks, a dynamic data dictionary, and distributed data processing infrastructure, we’re empowering our customers to efficiently collect timely and accurate data from a variety of sources. Additionally, the secure cloud storage options we provide ensure that data integrity and privacy are maintained at all times.
I’m also particularly excited about Data Lab for Alma. Think of it as your personalized data team, integrated within Alma’s platform. It’s a real-time data and insight tool, diligently tracking daily data and flagging crucial indicators. This assists schools in deep-diving into their operations and making data-driven decisions. With its out-of-the-box graphs and insights, Data Lab offers an unparalleled perspective, helping educational leaders visualize and understand their school’s evolving story. The potential it brings to the table for educators is truly groundbreaking.
What lies just ahead—and what are your thoughts on the future of learning?
Looking forward, we’re excited about enhancing our tooling capabilities even further and expanding our reach to support more educational institutions around the world. We’re also exploring partnerships that can help enhance the Alma experience. For the future of learning, I envision an environment where technology serves as a seamless extension of the educator, allowing them to focus more on what they do best – teaching and inspiring. The convergence of traditional and progressive educational practices, supported by advanced tools, will create a dynamic, responsive, and enriching learning environment. Alma is and will remain committed to being at the forefront of this evolution.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: email@example.com