If you talk to anyone about education and learning, the standard answer is that our education system in broken. If the education system is broken then why do people go to universities? I think the real answer why people go to Universities or seek higher education is not the learning. If you look at the data the reason why people get a bachelors degree is to get a 3x Return on their education investment. However reality is that data lies. The average data says that a bachelor degree should earn about $71,033 (seventy one thousand and thirty three US dollars) in 2018 according to the US Census Bureau and the cost of acquiring a bachelor degree is about $24,623 in 2018-19 according to the US National Center for Education Statistic. It also paints a picture that if you get a degree you will get a job. All those assumptions about the job market have and are being constantly upended by some major macroeconomic shocks, mostly due to technology and now because of the pandemic.
I think we need to radically rethink how we learn, if we are to create new jobs for all of us. The education system has been evolving for over a century and we need to change some things. The education system does not create any jobs other than those who work in the system. There are some innovations happening in this space but most fundamental aspect about education is the learning and the applying of the learnt skills to create value. Our education system is not really aligned with what is needed for the future or the value creation part. I believe the best way this can be enhanced is if we move the focus of control and learning closer to the learner. If we make better learners then the problem takes care of itself. We need to decentralize education. I am by no means suggesting that we do not need universities or the education system as we have it. We need to enhance it with technology.
I have known Hinrik Jósafat Atlason for a long time now and when he approached me about how he has been using voice technology to customize learning for the course that he is teaching in Reykjavik University, I got intrigued. He also informed me that he is building a startup and wanted to partner with Iceland Venture Studio. He answered Iceland Venture Studio’s 7 Questions and articulated his vision of how he is building the technology to decentralize learning. We invested in Atlas Primer.
For a more detailed look at why he is building Atlas Primer, you can read his blog post here. Atlas Primer is built on top of the Voice technologies of Google and Amazon today but will be available in any of the voice platforms of your choice in the future. It leverages technology to make it easier to build educational material and also to personalize learning. These are early days for technologies like this but we are believer in the future where this is one of the channels of learning and education.