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Top conference hosted by ASU sparks education innovation, investment

April 12, 2013

A super-charged atmosphere is guaranteed this week at the Education Innovation Summit 2013, hosted by ASU and GSV Advisors. A dynamic convergence of visionaries, entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders is sure to spark many new partnerships, bringing technology advancements to the marketplace.

The sold-out conference hosts 1,500 participants and 270 presenters, two-thirds of whom are companies pitching their ideas, at the Phoenician Hotel April 15-17.

Called "the can’t-miss education innovation event" by Forbes magazine, the event brings together avant-garde thinkers with deep-pocket investors, and top academics with start-up companies who have groundbreaking ideas for improving education through technology.

Each presenter has seven minutes to pitch his or her innovation. Think TV’s “Shark Tank,” with a more polite audience in which everyone is interested in education.

Keynote speakers include Steve Case, founder of AOL; Bill Campbell, former Apple executive who is a top advisor for tech startups in Silicon Valley; Gordon Crovitz, former publisher and current columnist with Wall Street Journal; Larry Summers, president emeritus of Harvard; and ASU President Michael Crow.

Other notable speakers include former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, former Senator Bob Kerry and former Yale University president Benno Schmidt. On the agenda Tuesday night at ASU SkySong is a conversation with Bill Gurley, tech analyst and investor known as one of “technology’s top deal-makers,” having backed Amazon, OpenTable and Uber.

Crow and the folks at ASU SkySong partnered with GSV to get the first summit off the ground four years ago, after realizing that ed tech companies were sprouting up left and right, wanting to partner with the university. Three hundred people and 50 companies participated that first year, and the event has grown exponentially each year since.

In the same way companies eagerly await the Consumer Electronic Show and the MacWorld conference to make groundbreaking announcements, companies select ASU’s annual conference to announce new product launches.

“This is really the one place where all the big companies and investors in ed tech come together,” says Matthew Pittinsky, CEO of Parchment, which is located in Scottsdale. “There’s tremendous value in the presence of so many key people. How lucky for us that the event is in Arizona.”

ASU has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most progressive institutions of higher education by making innovation part of its core mission. In addition to the university’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, the goal has been to drive the development and adoption of new technologies that will help students succeed and graduate.

Big ideas in educational innovation at ASU include:

eAdvisor. ASU is leveraging data and predictive analytics to map out courses for individual student’s degree programs, monitoring progress, enhancing student success and increasing retention. The New York Times referred to ASU as a “hotbed of data-driven experiments.”

Adaptive learning. By partnering with Knewton, ASU has introduced computer-aided instruction in entry-level math courses, helping professors adapt their presentations to the students’ learning needs, as indicated by their responses to questions and tasks. Last year, 6,523 students took Knewton-powered courses, with the pass rate jumping from 66 to 75 percent. The system is being expanded to six additional general education courses.

ASU Online. Almost 9,000 students are enrolled in one of 60 undergraduate or graduate programs available entirely online at ASU. ASU has implemented more than 40 cutting-edge learning technologies into its online programs. Enrollment grew by 287 percent last year. U.S. News & World Report ranks ASU No. 1 in online student services and technology.

ASU SkySong. ASU’s innovation center in Scottsdale helps grow the economy by launching and accelerating new companies and promoting use-inspired research, in collaboration with local communities, state government and business partners. According to a recent study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, SkySong and its tenants generate an annual economic impact of $113.6 million.

ASU discovered Knewton at a previous summit, according to Phil Regier, executive vice provost and dean of ASU Online. Other recent summit discoveries for ASU include EnglishCentral, an online platform for international students to learn English, and Parchment, a means of sending and receiving student transcripts electronically.

Alan Schwartz, CEO of EnglishCentral, says he met one of his most important customers at the summit last year. "ASU and GSV do a good job of facilitating networking," he says.

Jeff Lewis, chief learning officer of YouSeeU, has partnered with ASU Online to help students deliver video presentations and interact with each other, which is particularly useful in business, education and nursing classes. This will be his first year presenting at the summit.

“We’re very excited to have been invited,” says Lewis. “It’s a very selective process.”

In its fourth year, the high-impact summit has positioned ASU as a leader in educational technology by increasing national visibility and awareness among industry experts. It also has increased Arizona’s reputation as a fertile ground for entrepreneurs.

“Many companies have located to Phoenix as a result of the summit,” says Julia Rosen, associate vice provost of ASU Online. “Startup companies and investors are now looking at Arizona when perhaps they would not have before.”

For more information on the summit, go to