On a warm spring evening, hundreds of investment bankers, venture capitalists and geeky tech entrepreneurs gathered near the pool of the Phoenician, a luxury resort outside Phoenix. The occasion? A high-profile gathering of education innovators, and as guests sipped cocktails and nibbled hors d'oeuvres, the mood was upbeat.
Major innovations — forged by the struggles of the Great Recession and fostered by technology — are coming to higher education.
Investment dollars are flooding in — a record-smashing 168 venture capital deals in the United States alone last year, according to conference host GSV Advisors. The computing power of "the cloud" and "big data" are unleashing new software. Public officials, desperate to cut costs and measure results, are open to change.
And everyone, it seems, is talking about MOOCs, the "Massive Open Online Courses" offered by elite universities and enrolling millions worldwide.