Back at my desk, I am desperately looking for an upbeat story to kickstart Autumn, or, if you prefer, The Fall, though that sounds more like an advertising or newspaper story than anything else. If you seek a growth market then look at educational publishing (, within which the best that the industry can offer is in ELT (English Language Teaching). A succession of reports from Outsell underlines this, both in terms of whole marketplaces like China (, or sectors like distance learning ( Sections on India and Brazil will help complete the map in due course, and then my erstwhile colleagues at Outsell (my daughter in this instance) will be under great pressure from people like me to return to their pathfinder ELT report of November 2010 and update it completely.

The economic reasons for all of this are fairly obvious, but my feeling at the moment is that the traditional coursebook ELT publishers are not going to inherit the Earth. In fact, quite the opposite. They will get an uplift but the real prizes will go elsewhere. The BRICs winners will be assessment-led, mobile platform driven, self-diagnostic learning systems controlled by the user (in terms of learning process) and by accreditation/certification in terms of content. In fact, I am still where I was last week when writing about strategies for integrating automated marking into learning processes, and events this week have driven the point home for me in a very emphatic way.

The announcement that ETS bought Edusoft Learning three days ago ( suggests to me that the theme of assessment driven learning is alive and well in the most important global assessment factory, the not for profit Educational Testing Services outfit in Princeton, NJ. Home of TOEIC and TOEFL, the most important American English examinations on the planet, ETS have long nurtured ambitions to move into a broader engagement with users than simple certification. In earlier years it might have seemed appropriate to buy a publisher and produce course materials that supported examination candidates, but those were shark-infested waters, with heavy competition from Pearson, OUP, Macmillan, Cengage (on the move, as I noted last week), CUP and a host of local others. Now the dramatic influx of heavy technologically driven platforms has stretched out the competition, from Pearson, with a host of implanted acquisitions and a great deal of contingent technology clearly in the lead. Pearson, however, plainly lack the ability to integrate branded certification in the ELT sector. The only other publisher who really could do that is Cambridge, but there the inhibitions are organizational (why Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessments, the foremost source of British English accreditation cannot work together defeats understanding), and, apparently, psychological – having made a capital start on learning platforms with English 360 they are apparently allowing their best shot at a competitive positioning to go its own way).

Which leaves ETS with a real opportunity to make the English Discoveries Online platform a vital part of the delivery for mobile and fixed English learning activities, in special purposes English as well as certified competency. And in the process this answers a question which is becoming more important to every educational publisher who has spent a decade in a halfway house called Blended Learning. What do we do after Blended Learning? We do Integrated Learning, where the workflow around the qualification, and the ability to concentrate skills acquisition, diagnose problems and ensure that acquired skills are embedded can be delivered on the output device of your choice, with full integration of voice, image and text. In other words, real blending of real learning, not just a convenient reason for keeping comforting old courseware/textbooks in the mix!

And why will this work first in ELT? Crudely, because teachers often work alone, and find it easier to adapt to a mentor role. And because commercial teaching outfits want low cost (less people) solutions. And because more and more students want to study alone and control their learning processes. Edusoft know the structure of these markets very well. For 20 years the Israeli software house has had to turn itself into a local/global presence, and its contracted activity with universities and schools, public and private, in every important ELT market, whether or not this represents the hard to measure global leadership it claims, certainly indicates a penetration close to that point. The 19 education ministeries with whom they have contracts do not quite map yet to the 180 countries and 50 million examinees claimed by ETS, but growth is the objective. Edusoft have distribution in 30 countries, and have localized their platforms in 30 languages. All this represents a high degree of success for owner Soly Kanes and current CEO, Rafi Moran, who was formerly the marketing man. The critical European, Asia Pacific and, above all, Latin American markets are well invested.

I had the pleasure a few months ago of speaking to the senior executives of one of the competing players in this sector. One of the questions from the floor was “What relevance does workflow have to an educational experience?”.  I am aware that my answer was not as coherent as it might have been: I hope this note makes it clearer that educational processes are a form of workflow, and that we seem to be moving towards pure demonstrations of that in software terms at a very fast rate.


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