In Boston, EdTech Start-Ups Offer Ways to Counsel Students, Manage Coursework, and Even Instruct on Birth Control

Kirk Carapezza / WGBH

College administrators and IT geeks are descending on Boston this week to discuss how the expanding role of technology in education is changing teaching and learning on college campuses. The 21st annual Campus Technology conference opened on Tuesday at the Hynes Convention Center, giving young start-ups the chance to push products that could shape the next generation of high-tech in higher education.

In between sessions exploring what’s new on the education technology horizon, faculty and IT staff walked the floor where more than 150 companies were hawking their software and gadgets. On display was everything from a virtual exam proctoring service to the latest in 3-D printing.

One start-up generating significant buzz was Fidelis Education, which is using social networking software to reduce attrition through online mentoring. Fidelis CEO founder Gunnar Counselman characterizes his product as a learning relationship management system.

“It’s basically a way for schools and companies – any teaching and learning organization – to make sure that every single person has the assets they need to be successful,” Counselman tells WGBH’s On Campus.

The software program helps faculty and administrators monitor students’ goals by tracking their coursework, extracurricular activities and mentorships.

“People are the most important but least talked about part of education,” Counselman says. “Each student gets a coach through the platform and that coach then guides you along the total trajectory of your education to make sure you don’t just graduate but you graduate ready for whatever the heck it is you are in school for to begin with.”

At a time when many families want a return on their investment, Counselman says Fidelis is meeting a real demand in today’s higher education marketplace. The start-up, which launched in December, has 15 customers so far, including Stanford, Arizona State, American Military University and Lipscomb University in Nashville.

Counselman says his product is geared toward college administrators who are struggling to maintain enrollment and produce graduates ready for the workforce. “There’s a bottom-line element to it, but there’s also a delivering-value-to-your-students element to it,” Counselman says.

Fidelis also allows companies to recruit directly from college and universities. It uses digital badges that show what students know and know how to do. Counselman thinks a college degree is a massive credential that doesn’t effectively tell employers what they need want to learn about potential candidates. “We’ve got a way for schools to issue badges and a way for students to be found by employers.”

Excerpt from article by Kirk Carapezza for WGBH News

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