Despite the well-chronicled collapse of many dot-com companies, the positive impact of these companies on the field of K-12 education already has been felt and will increase in the years ahead. Seen from this viewpoint, several promising trends are emerging, even as the dot-com retrenchment continues.
- First, the best web “portal” sites seem to be surviving, despite the failure of their initial strategy to subsist on advertising revenue while offering free information and services to individual teachers and schools. Those survivors who have created high-quality content will continue to be innovative forces in K-12 education.
- Second, the same venture capital that funded many of these dot-com portals and other education sites has not vanished completely. In fact, in the first quarter of 2001 education-related companies raised an estimated $310 million in venture capital funding. While they had raised $1 billion during the same period in 2000, the lower figure is still significant, and it will enable companies with good ideas and good leadership to develop their products and services.
- Third, education dot-coms–like the rest of the internet industry–are growing up. More executives and managers are joining companies at earlier stages, and recent college graduates are coming into these companies with more realistic expectations. Anecdotal evidence indicates that online education is one of the fields in which recent college grads are showing the greatest interest. Also, companies that are experienced in the education field–Kaplan Ventures, Sylvan Ventures, and Pearson, to name a few–are now making substantial investments in their web-based ventures. These developments indicate that education companies providing web-based services are more likely to have the expertise and the staying power to provide truly innovative and useful services to K-12 education.
- Finally, the Bush administration has made a clear commitment to education, saying that it considers the internet to be a key part of the education experience. This means federal funding of technology-related education is likely to continue at substantial levels.