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How Edtech Entrepreneurs Can Make College More Accessible To All Students

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In November 2018, Michael R. Bloomberg announced a donation of $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University to create a fund that would help low and moderate-income group students complete their college degrees. Without a doubt, this is an incredibly meaningful initiative. However, it led me to start wondering if monetary support alone is enough for students with special accessibility needs or students who come from a variety of marginalized backgrounds.

When we think of college, the first question that often comes to mind is affordability. But affordability is not the only factor. Most educational institutions provide financial support to a few selected students in the form of scholarships and loans. However, students require much more than just financial support to survive four years of college and develop the skills and confidence they need to begin successful careers.

How Edtech Entrepreneurs Can Make College More Accessible To All Students

Most colleges fall short here. There are far more inequalities and biases embedded in the fibers of our society than what financial aid for tuition can bridge. I believe that real college access should open doors for students irrespective of race, gender, immigrant status, family income or physical mobility. A recent study revealed that at some of the best colleges across the United States, more students were from the top 1% than from the bottom 60% of income groups. 

Entrepreneurs building companies of the future should be concerned. The workforce, comprising of millennials driven by intellectual curiosity, moral obligation and exposure to humanitarian causes, is inquisitive about freedom, equality and inclusivity. An employer is judged by its commitment to society and causes. Especially in tech startups, graduating students have begun to consider the brand image of a future employer before saying yes to an offer. Therefore, it will be increasingly beneficial for entrepreneurs if they build brands that nurture an ecosystem where students are provided opportunities based on their merit and not simply their elite pedigree.

As part of their measures to diversify their student bodies, colleges often claim to support students by providing them with tuition fee waivers. But free tuition is helpful only when one is able to get an offer of admission. Moreover, there are indirect costs beyond tuition fee that financial aid doesn’t cover, such as food, housing, and supplementary course material. This forces many students to earn money during the time that they should be studying. Some incur large personal debt, others skip classes to work odd jobs, while a few succumb to financial stress and drop out.

The problem becomes even more complex when dealing with learners from diverse backgrounds who have special needs such as students who require accessibility considerations and students with learning disabilities.


Having worked closely with various state public schools with students from mid- to low-income families as well as accessibility services at various colleges, I’ve observed that students require a lot of support beyond classroom lectures. Unlike students from affluent families who get mentoring and support right from the start, less privileged students struggle to balance classes with part-time jobs. That’s where edtech entrepreneurs such as myself come in, by building systems that enable students to have access to higher education and study materials. Here’s how we can provide support beyond financial aid.

1. Increased Accessibility To Higher Education Even Before College

Tech entrepreneurs are in a position to influence change at the grassroots level. The pyramid leading to success in college is built on the cornerstone of early education in high school. Edtech entrepreneurs can help in two ways:

• Provide technology training for teachers in low-income neighborhoods. According to the Education Week Research Center, teachers in under-funded schools are less likely to receive technological training for teaching when compared to their counterparts in wealthier schools. Edtech companies can provide skills training for teachers on their platforms.

• Provide high school students with summer jobs/internships that give them access to an environment with technology and give them an opportunity to work in the tech-startup landscape once they graduate.

2. Corporate Network Support Circles

College is where the blueprint of the business world is laid down, and it’s important to inculcate diversity at this grassroots level. Change doesn’t start from top-down leadership; it happens from the bottom up. Currently, about 72% of CEO’s in top Fortune 500 companies are white males, and less than 1% are African-American females.

One of the key hindrances in diversity at the top level is that people tend to hire or favor candidates similar to themselves -- usually from the same schools. Students with special learning needs bear the brunt of this even more. Even if they manage to steer through their financial constraints, it is incredibly difficult to break through the glass ceiling without a supporting network.

Colleges should aid in creating corporate networks where diverse groups of students can get the right introductions. Tech entrepreneurs can help further by promoting diversity initiatives in their organizations that call for meritorious students from lower socioeconomic standing. Such initiatives should begin at the high-school level. Entrepreneurs can also support non-Ivey, state schools and community colleges that hold job fairs and employment drives.

3. Subsidized, Affordable Textbooks And Study Materials

The rising costs of textbooks add a significant burden on students who struggle to make ends meet on their limited financial aid. Even though there are a lot of services that provide secondhand books or online books, a college student still ends up spending over $1,200 on average, according to the College Board. Edtech entrepreneurs and colleges should join forces to provide subsidized books and online notes for a nominal fee. 

It’s easy to get access to reading lists of various subjects and provide materials to students accordingly in the form of study guides, notes, homework help, etc. In fact, many startups, including my own, are already doing that.

Edtech companies currently exist in their bubbles -- creating products that are redefining education. However, it is becoming increasingly important that policymakers and entrepreneurs work together to steer the discourse of higher education. It surely will be a long journey to effect change, but it will be worth starting today. 

posted Feb 11, 2019 by Khean

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1. Alternative input devices. These tools are designed to allow students with disabilities to use computers and related technology easily. Some alternative input devices include touch screens, modified keyboards, and joysticks that direct a cursor through use of body parts like chins, hands, or feet. Some up-and-coming technology in this area is sip-and-puff systems, developed by companies like Microsoft, to perform computer functions through the simple process of inhaling and exhaling. On-screen keyboards are another area of input technology that is providing K-12 learners with disabilities better use of computers and mobile devices for learning.​

2. Speech-to-text options. This technology is making mainstream waves through its use in popular cell phones like the Android-platform Razr M. While it is a convenience tool for people without disabilities, speech-to-text provides a learning advantage for students who have mobility or dexterity problems, or those who are blind. It allows students to speak their thoughts without typing and even navigate the Internet. speech-to-text options can also “talk back” to students and let them know about potential errors in their work.

3. LAMP. Language Acquisition through Motor Planning, or LAMP, connects neurological and motor learning in a way that makes communication easier for students with autism and related disorders. These principles have proven especially helpful for students who do not speak or have very limited verbal skills. Paired with technology, LAMP principles empower a growing student population with autism to effectively communicate and reach higher academic achievements. LAMP is present in technology – from specially made computers to learning apps.

4. Sensory enhancers. Depending on developmental patterns, children may need to learn differently than their peers. Instead of ABCs and numbers first, a child with language delays may benefit from bright pictures or colors to learn new concepts. Sensory enhancers may include voice analyzers, augmentative communication tools, or speech synthesizers. With the rapid growth of technology in the classroom, these basic tools of assistive technology are seeing great strides.

5. Screen readers. This technology is slightly different from text-to-speech. It simply informs students of what is on a screen. A student who is blind or visually impaired can benefit from the audio interface screen readers provide. Students who otherwise struggle to glean information from a computer screen can learn more easily through technology meant to inform them.

6. Mobile learning. Tablets and smartphones in the classroom are no longer a matter of “if,” but “when, and how quickly?” Administrators and educators can tap into the convenience of mobile technology in the classroom and the potential for student learning adaptation. Over half of school administrators say there is some form of mobile technology in their classrooms and that they plan to implement more when it is financially feasible. School districts should keep in mind that the purchase of mobile devices for K-12 use is only one piece in the learning puzzle. There must be funding for teacher training and maintenance of the devices too.

7. Learning analytics. This evolving concept in K-12 classrooms is different from educational data mining. It focuses on individual students, teachers, and schools without direct implications to the government. Learning analytics are the education industry’s response to “big data” that is used in the business world for improvements and redirection of focus. Learning analytics show students what they have achieved and how their achievements match up with their peers. If implemented correctly, this technology has the potential to warn teachers early of academic issues while keeping students more accountable. Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences.

8. Open content. The rise of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, has trickled down from college learning to K-12 education. Increasingly, K-12 educators are also coming to believe that all information on any given topic already exists. In effect, a growing number of people believe that content does not need to be re-created or purchased, and the idea has gained steam among K-12 educators specifically. Within the next three years, expect more shared content available to teachers and to students. Open textbooks, resources, and curricula are not the only benefit of an open content push; shared experiences and insights are also valuable teaching tools.

9. 3D printing. Also known as prototyping, 3D printing will allow K-12 students to create tangible models for their ideas. Many fields, like manufacturing, already make use of this technology to determine the effectiveness of ideas on a smaller, printable scale. In education, this technology will bolster creativity and innovation, along with science and math applications. The STEM Academy has already partnered with Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company, to start integration of the technology in programming classes.

10. Outdoor/environmental learning. In short, more schools are looking for ways to get students and teachers outside. We are in an era of experiential learning, so environmental education fits the bill for many students. Lessons in this field teach children an appreciation of the earth and of its resources that the human population is quickly depleting. A better, hands-on understanding of nature also helps with science comprehension and gives students practical learning experiences.

Research has also found that teaching outside, even for short stints, improves student attitudes, attendance, and overall health. In many schools, teachers have always had the freedom to take students outside if they deemed it lesson-appropriate. Look for more official outdoor-teaching policies in the coming year, though, that encourage teachers to incorporate outdoor and environmental learning in all subjects.

As you can tell, many of these technologies have the power to change dramatically the learning experiences of students with learning disabilities, impairments, and other challenges that traditional learning methods have been less able to address. It is likely that we will see more use of these ten technologies and concepts in the next few years. In another article, I will focus on five more of these technology concepts every teacher must know.

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Global Citizenship is described as the rights and responsibilities which come with being a member of a global community and whose actions support the community’s purpose and values.

These rights, responsibilities and values are consistent with the concept of humanity.

In this area, it is vital for the institutions to understand why teaching global citizenship in the classroom is a critical component of 21st Century education. The TEDx Talk mentioned below highlights such in great detail.

First Thing FirstPreparing Teachers for Global Citizenship Education

We all know the power of education has no boundary. Through education, one gains knowledge and skills to enhance our lives and environment. Education has the power to mould an individual’s thinking process and assist them to act towards building a more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive society.

Going by what, the Incheon Declaration on Education 2030 lay upon, institutions are responsible to not only provide foundational literacy, numeracy and technological skills to students but develop the skills, values and attitudes which enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives. Education should not be reduced to the production of skilled workers. It must empower students to make informed decisions and respond to local as well global challenges through meaningful education.

Thus, it clearly explains why we say, the first thing institutions need to do is prepare teachers for global citizenship education. The United Nations had launched the Global Education First Initiative in 2012. Research studies under this program identified the lack of teacher’s capacity as a major barrier to Global Citizenship Education. Thus, the global organization is working towards empowering the teachers with knowledge on this subject. This will lead educators nurture the same skills and relevant knowledge about global citizenship to their students.

3 Action Steps for Educators to Teach Global Citizenship

There is no prescribed way to help the students achieve global citizenship. However, what educators can do in this case is plan discussion sessions and activities which help students acquire knowledge and think upon the global issues with greater insight.

1. Leveraging Technology to Connect Students with the Rest of the World

Due to technology advancement, teachers have good number of options to use digital tools and projects that can connect students to the world in ways that promote a mind-set of taking action and applied learning. Many of these can even be learned together with students. Through technology, students can even understand what’s going on in the world as well as collaborate with other students and organizations abroad to become digitally connected.

Some of the schools and projects that aim at offering students with global exposure are- Adobe Youth VoicesGlobal Nomads GroupGlobalSchoolNet.orgReach the World, Skype in the Classroom and others. Schools may connect with these schools and projects to connect the class.

Further there are platforms such like Creatubbles which help students upload as well as share projects, invite others to join in and connect with collaborators from all around the world. This platform gives students the option to discover and be inspired by activities and creations which students abroad are sharing.

2. Using Human Rights Issues as a Platform for Discussion

One of the core tenets of global citizenship education is to encourage and help students make professional commitments to human rights literacy (knowledge), empathy (concern) and responsibility (action).

Students of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds or geographical locations can find human rights relatable on some scale. It is a great starting point to spark discussion and awareness. Educator and UNESCO Delegate for Education, Mareike Hachemer is on a mission to connect education and the global goals. One of the core principles which she enthusiastically backs is education that fosters intercultural competencies and active citizenship.

With discussion as a means, students’ curiosity towards social developmental issues can be ignited. Eventually, teachers can also start working upon utilizing the global goals as a basis for students to start becoming global citizens and also involve them into working upon projects which relate to human rights topics.

3. Making Use of Learn-Think-Act Process to Encourage Global Citizenship

The maxim of Oxfam’s learn-think-act works great for the teachers to introduce global citizenship to their students:

By ‘Learn’ pathway, students will be able to explore the issue, process information and consider it from various perspectives. While exploring, they will also try to understand the underlying causes and consequences of the issue.

Adopting the ‘Think’ pathway, students will exercise their critical thinking ability to bring forth ideas through which the issue can be resolved, relate such to values, think it from global perspective and figure out the nature of power and action.

The ‘Act’ pathway is most crucial component. It allows students to make use of their productive thinking to resolve issues of global concern. Further, through act pathway, students learn to take ownership of their steps and simultaneously also get an opportunity to work on the collective footsteps of the team to resolve any issue.

If this exercise of Learn-Think-Act is routinely practiced, it will soon become a second nature of students- finally resulting to a class of amazing, young global citizens.


Thus, institutions have to understand that the initial motivation concerning global citizenship has to come from internal commitment and not from external pressure. As responsible professionals and well-wishers of the society, educators indeed have a significant responsibility to make students understand the complexity and the interrelated place in the world to help them become global citizens. These citizens are going to be the change makers of the society so building their skill sets in that direction is not only necessary but a mandatory aspect of meaningful education.

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Earning a degree takes a lot of hard work and focus, but getting through college in one piece is all about finding shortcuts to maximize and manage one’s time effectively. Edtech life hacks let clever applications and websites do the technical work, allowing students more time for learning and studying.

From scheduling and reminders, to study and presentation tools, there’s an edtech solution to almost any college assignment. To start your school year off smart, here are ten tools you just have to use to make your life easier.

10 Edtech Life Hacks for College Students

1. Quizlet

This site makes cramming for midterms and finals easier, with millions of searchable study guides, flashcards and games. If you can’t find a topic you need, you can customize your own study tools. Quizlet is also a great resource for teachers and can be an engaging alternative to paper study guides.

2. Google Voice Typing

Regardless of your major, every college student can use a reliable voice typing app. From drafting an essay to outlining notes, letting a computer do the typing can alleviate carpal-tunnel-inducing assignments. There are a lot of expensive and flawed transcription and voice recognition services online, but Google’s voice typing function within Google Documents is perhaps the most accurate one you can access for free. To use it, you must open a Google Document in the Chrome web browser. Then, you’ll find “voice typing” under the “tools” drop-down menu.

3. If This Then That(IFTTT)

Have you ever wished you had a genie who could schedule an event, remind you to do your laundry, or organize your email with one command? IFTTT connects multiple devices and applications through a free command, or “recipe,” service. For example, if your FitBit records a sleepless night, Google Calendar will remind you to go to bed earlier. Other recipes connect social media accounts, update you on news alerts, and track online sales.

4. Canva

Unless you’re in art school, the design is probably not your forte. But that doesn’t mean your class presentations and Facebook event invites have to be drab. Canva gives you all the graphic materials you need to create appealing visuals, including free stock photos, filters, icons, fonts, and layouts.

5. Doodle

Between-group assignments, student government meetings, work shifts, volunteer hours and coffee breaks with friends, college students have a knack for filling up their agendas. Doodle is a handy website that helps you find the best time for everyone and schedule meetings without conflicts. It also easily integrates with Google Calendar so all of your appointments are coordinated in one schedule.

6. Top Documentary Films

When studying notes doesn’t seem to sink deep enough into your brain, watching educational documentaries can be an effective method to prepare for an exam. This blog-turned-community houses over 3,000 documentaries to watch for free, most available in full-length. With 25 categories to browse, this can also be a useful site to search if your professor assigns a documentary for homework.

7. Flipboard

Switching tabs between the news, social media and academic articles take up a lot of time. Not to mention, it slows your computer down. Flipboard simplifies your media consumption, so you can quickly access your favourite outlets and save stories for later.

8. ZoomNotes

If you prefer taking notes on your tablet or laptop, ZoomNotes is a great application that’s full of comprehensive tools. Sketch with eight different pens and draw diagrams with unlimited zoom capability. You can import and write over PDFs, photos, videos and other documents.


This site collects data quickly for easy spreadsheets and charts. Simply copy and paste a URL that contains a data set (search results and Wikipedia charts work well) and will turn it into an organized table. You can then export the table as a CSV file, saving hours of pasting and rearranging figures into your own spreadsheet.

10. Kiosko

View the front pages and headlines on major international newspapers dating as far back as 1945. Use this historical archive as a starting point for research and fact checking or download the images for more creative projects and presentations.