‘Impact investees’ help lead the way as colleges scramble to move instruction online
Lumina Impact Ventures

‘Impact investees’ help lead the way as colleges scramble to move instruction online

As colleges and universities across the country reschedule or cancel classes during the health crisis, some of Lumina’s Impact Ventures investees are stepping up to provide critical solutions and support to address the challenges students face.

Many students confront the loss of housing or struggle with a lack of reliable internet access for online learning. And for the more than 4 million student-parents, school closures and disruption to childcare may prove devastating. Against that backdrop, this is a critical moment for the education technology industry, which is moving to support online infrastructure and capacity building to help schools quickly migrate to remote learning.

Lumina Impact Ventures is the foundation’s impact investing arm, which leverages social capital to fuel companies with big ideas to help people benefit from education and training beyond high school.

Amid the challenges of this public health crisis, the companies in our LIV portfolio are delivering on their strong commitment to equity and efficacy in higher education. We see that play out as they:

  1. Facilitate new forms of connectivity and collaboration among higher education institutions.
  2. Leverage technology to disseminate critical information in ways that can reach everyone.
  3. Commit to an ethic of care and support for the most vulnerable.

Higher ed has never faced a crisis like this, but our innovating partners in education technology can help develop the tools that enable course-sharing and other ways of pooling resources and expertise. Acadeum, for example, has been working hard to help its partner schools leverage the company’s course-sharing platform, which helps keep students actively enrolled amid the disruptions to face-to-face instruction.

Education technology entrepreneurs are also well positioned to distribute critical information during the crisis. Many people lack reliable access to broadband service, and many grapple with language barriers. Cell-Ed, which supports skill-building for frontline workers, has developed a free guide on the coronavirus course in English and Spanish that is accessible via mobile devices with or without internet access. Such resources are a vital right now. And Upswing, which supports student success through tutoring and other engagement mechanisms, is hosting webinars to share best practices for delivering online student services.

Lastly, the mission-driven ethos of our portfolio is evident as these companies adopt new measures to support the acute needs of students and employees. The health crisis is even more devastating for students and others who lack access to safe shelter, food, health care – and wages, given the economic impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and other forms of employment. Our investee Edquity has quickly identified ways that its emergency aid platform can help institutions deliver remote emergency support for students. The company is reaching out to institutions that are moving instruction and services online and is offering its services free for under-resourced schools where possible. Edquity is also providing targeted support in regions like Seattle, where the company partnered with Rise.org and Believe in Students to launch the Student Relief Fund to create a centralized source for COVID-19 emergency aid donations.

We must prioritize care for one another and our collective well-being to make it through this difficult period. Companies such as Bitwise Industries are living out these values as they continue to provide normal pay for both hourly and salaried team members in spite of shifting to fully remote work. We must continue to adapt during these uncertain times, drawing on networked leadership models, creativity and care for one another. I’m inspired by the steps these companies have taken to point the way forward.

Do you have ideas for us, or want to collaborate with any of these companies? Please drop me a note.

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