Edsby Refines Learning Management System with Learning Analytics: Interview with Dallas Kachan, VP of Marketing
Is it possible for parents, educators, and the district to have real-time insight into their students’ progress? According to Dallas Kachan, Vice President of Marketing for Edsby, a cloud-based platform for K-12 students, the answer is a resounding yes.
“For the first time, teachers and district administrators and even school principals can understand exactly what’s happening to the children under them,” he said after announcing the introduction of learning analytics, the newest piece in the Edsby equation. Kachan explains the necessity of real-time evaluations of students’ progress, and how Edsby can help identify at-risk students by finding outliers.
Edsby seeks to revolutionize access to learning data, making it easy and efficient for parents and teachers to identify issues in the here and now. The successor to “First Class,” another widely-used platform for education, Edsby hopes to use the data collected by its predecessor in order to become both customizable and localizable. With the introduction of Edsby’s analytics, Kachan hopes to develop the role of the parent in guiding their children’s education.
“When you’re whizzing down the highway, it does no good to you to see a sign that says ‘cheap gas, ten miles ago,’” said Kachan. “You want to see, in real-time, risk factors.”
Listen to the full interview with Dallas Kachan:
EdTech Times: Hi, this is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times, and if you would introduce yourself…
Dallas: Sure, Dallas Kachan, Edsby.
EdTech Times: Nice. So, tell us a little about Edsby and what you all are working on.
Dallas: So, Edsby is a learning-management system built specifically for K-12.
EdTech Times: Okay.
Dallas: Most learning management systems come from the world of higher ed, or built for university use. Edsby was created from day one to give K-12 teachers and schools and districts exactly what they need, and a big part of that is parents, understanding parents and the role of the parent in guiding a child’s education. That’s completely absent in the world of higher ed, whereas parents are a very important part of the Edsby world.
EdTech Times: Right, so how do you get in contact with parents? How do parents give you feedback?
Dallas: Well, most districts offer a database of parents. When we start working with the district they usually know who the parents are of their kids, but not always. So sometimes we have to offer a self-service way to connect authenticated parents to their actual kids through an automatic way so the school district can build its database of parents in the first place. But most of them already know who the parents are.
EdTech Times: So, tell me about what developments you’re working on right now that may be released within the next twelve months or so.
Dallas: Well, I can tell you what we have to talk about today. And today we are happy to announce a new piece of the Edsby equation, we are introducing new, advanced analytics for—learning analytics—for the Edsby platform.
So, for the first time teachers and district administrators and even school principals can understand exactly what’s happening to the children under them and their progress, their academic status and progress, and find in real time the outliers, the “at-risk kids,” say, and take advantage of the full permissions and privileges system we’ve already built out in Edsby. So, today, districts usually have to use complicated, expensive data warehouses to try to assemble all their information once a quarter, say, and slice-and-dice it in creative ways and generate reports, and there might be one or two highly-paid people in the district that can use this system and understand how to make it work.
Today, with this new Edsby analytics announcement, we’re able to offer teachers in-depth insight into the kids they teach, right now, today, and as kids come and go, they can see information on these children as well. Likewise, principals that are give students can now understand what’s happening to kids in their school and only their school, whereas people at a district-level might have insight into real-time grades, assessment, and attendance on every child in the district without the six-month or three-month lag of the data warehouse approach. So, real-time insights.
EdTech Times: That’s incredibly valuable, and very much sought after in this day and age. No one wants to deal with the hassle of doing it the old way anymore.
Dallas: Well, when you’re whizzing down the highway, it does no good to you to see a sign that says “cheap gas, ten miles ago.” You wanna see, in real-time, risk factors. You want to see children that are struggling today as opposed to six months ago. And Edsby enables that now.
EdTech Times: Great. So, how long has Edsby been around? I know that, you know, it’s gained some traction, but when was it founded?
Dallas: The company got started in 2010. The company’s previous product… The management team has been together thirty years, and twenty-five years ago we released a product called “First Class,” which was an email and groupware system, very very popular in K-12 around the world, and eight of the ten top districts in the U.S. used First Class.
Edsby is the next generation of First Class, it is a successor to a very very popular, widely used platform of education. And so, the team that brought you First Class has spent a lot of time, over twenty years, learning what educators need, and what will make things simpler in the classroom. And, has, introduced with Edsby, a brand new way, a brand new killer application for K-12 education that teachers and administrators live in the whole day, doing everything from assessments to report card work flow to parent-teacher meeting/conference scheduling to attendance.
Edsby’s the application that teachers in a given district that use Edsby will spend their whole day in this application.
EdTech Times: Great. So are there any other points that you would specifically like to address for our audience?
Dallas: Well, there are three big things that separate Edsby from similar systems. The first, our platform does a great job with tacking to whatever a district happens to use in the way of back-end systems, whether it’s a custom SIS, student information system, or whether it’s an HR database where some employee information lives, or database of IEPs, or potentially standardized test results. Edsby connects us to all this information, in places that teachers and administrators haven’t normally been able to access.
Second of all, Edsby has been written specifically for K-12, so it understands what a parent is, and the parent’s relationship to students, whereas other learning management systems that come from higher ed don’t necessarily.
And thirdly, Edsby’s extremely customizable and localizable, so school districts all do things very very different than the next district. One district’s terminology may not apply to another district’s terminology; they all have separate assessment schemes and grading schemes. Edsby recognizes this and can be customized to work the way a district works today as opposed to the other way around. A district doesn’t have to change its policies and processes to fit Edsby. Similarly, whatever grading scheme your district happens to have standardized and blessed can easily be implemented in Edsby so that the parents see the kids graded the way the district needs them to be seen and so the report card can use the same mechanism your district uses today.
EdTech Times: Wow. So that’s really interesting. You’re a part of the original founding team? And then you left and came back?
Dallas: That’s right. And so it’s the same core group that brought First Class to the world that’s bringing Edsby to the world. And we’re all in our 40s and 50s with gray hair and we’ve done this before, so in theory that means something. We’ve had a chance to work in this market for many years and learned what it takes to build a piece of enterprise software that’s sold at the district level, and maybe that’s a useful distinction that many other management systems offer a free login—an easy way for teachers to log in and kick the tires to the system—because Edsby relies on the back ends systems of a district we’ve got no way to let the teachers create a free account and poke around. A district has to deploy this from the top down and push it out to everybody in the district before it will work. Our system doesn’t work unless it talks to the district’s back ends systems. So what that means—
EdTech Times: It can be a little bit difficult relying on the districts to give all the teachers access.
Dallas: Yeah, and that means that we have to do the traditional software sales process. It means we can’t throw open the doors and let people try it out for free. It means we have to talk to the people that hold the purse strings of the district and sometimes that takes a year or two for them to make that decision.
EdTech Times: Right. Which is a common hurdle in K-12.
Dallas: Some Silicon Valley Venture funded companies have been trying to rethink and reinvent that process by offering a “free-mium” model, so to speak. And with mixed success, as you’ve seen, there are more and more carcasses of companies that have failed to monetize their models. So I think time will tell whether this is a sustainable way to build a company at EdTech, but my suspicion is that companies that charge upfront fair price for a fair product will continue to be the way that this is done in K-12.
EdTech Times: Well, let’s hope so. That would be great to see more companies that offer the value that you really are looking for.
Dallas: Yeah, and that boards and districts and teachers continue to pay for that value rather than expecting that that is going to come for free.
EdTech Times: Well, thank you for speaking with me today, Dallas. I have learned a lot about Edsby. I would normally ask you a lot more questions, but I feel like everyone has a million people to talk to today. I would love to stay posted with everything that you guys are pushing out in the upcoming months. And it was great meeting with you.
Dallas: Yeah, likewise.
Jocelyn is a freelance writer originally from sunny South Florida, where she was the Managing Editor of Axis Creative Arts Magazine and a Senior Academic Mentor at United Mentors. She is currently a student at Emerson College, where she spends her time refining her writing skills when she isn’t preparing for the famous New England winters.