Iowa could position itself at the forefront of global educational technology development, but officials will need to adopt a “strategic focus” to do so, a state-commissioned report says.
In the report, completed in August and released Thursday morning, researchers with Columbus, Ohio-based TEConomy Partners found that Iowa could leverage its “significant base” of larger in-state companies such as McGraw-Hill and ACT plus noticeable research-and-development assets at area universities.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, during ACTNext’s Education Technology and Computational Psychometrics Symposium Thursday at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, described the document as a road map for integrating EdTech into Iowa’s economic development.
“This EdTech strategy is about using that advantage to create jobs in this thriving and dynamic sector,” Reynolds said. “It’s a natural next step that further complements efforts already in place through the STEM Council’s STEM Best program and the Future Ready Iowa Initiative.”
Among the EdTech activity that hold promise for economic development in Iowa are assessment and testing providers, STEM content in textbooks and courseware, content visualization and virtual-reality systems, the report said.
Iowa also has “robust assets” for developing adaptive learning systems, which adjust teaching methods and how students are presented material by monitoring their performance in real time. Adaptive learning is projected to become a $2.85 billion market in North America by 2022.
The report’s broad “focus areas” for getting the technology developed include collaboration facilitation and cluster networking, enhancing Iowa’s piloting and adoption environment, entrepreneurial ecosystem development and workforce development and access.
Iowa has the potential to become a world leader in addressing K-12 and higher education challenges that transcend state boundaries, said Adam Keune, co-chairman of the Iowa Innovation Council’s EdTech work group and co-founder of Higher Learning Technologies.
“From the rising costs of higher education to the ever-growing sizes of our K-12 classrooms, the education system has a clear need for new ways to teach and learn,” he said.
“By developing an ecosystem that supports and nurtures innovative EdTech companies, Iowa can simultaneously grow our economy while improving the lives of millions of learners all across the world.”
As an early step outlined in the report, the Iowa City Area Development Group will partner with state officials in housing an EdTech incubator.
“We don’t know what shape” the incubator will take, ICAD Group President Mark Nolte said, though he added that approach likely will help officials pursue their EdTech efforts in a more “nimble” manner, compared to financing and starting a brand-new entity up front.
According to the report, early steps officials could consider include identifying institutions — educational or otherwise — to collaborate with in piloting and testing EdTech, conducting needs assessment surveys to identify “pain points” the technology could address and develop a training and exposure program for teachers and school district superintendents.
Later on, the report advised, the group could partner with interested investors, develop an Assessment Integration Lab in Iowa City and help create a transdisciplinary EdTech graduate degree program.
The report identified 28 EdTech companies across Iowa, ranging from start-ups to larger companies, which employed 3,126 people in 2018.
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Iowa could add more than 1,000 high-paying tech jobs over the next five years if it capitalizes on the EdTech business sector, which is poised to grow into a $110.9 billion global market by 2022, the report determined.
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