Connecting Silicon Valley and the Ivory Tower

Since 2005 Columbia University’s Teachers College has been quietly developing their EdLab which internally incubates some promising ideas and in their words, “engages in work that has the potential to contribute to the improvement of educational institutions today and the broader evolution and reconfiguration of future educational services.”

One of their projects that recently caught my attention is ResearchBroker, a tool to connect startups to skilled researchers who are passionate about validating new ideas in industry. While these efforts can be applied to multiple verticals, I think the edtech implications are extremely exciting. (Perhaps because I’m always drawn to efforts that bring together edtech founders with education practitioners in hopes that this exchange will lead to better product development and implementation.) In case you missed it, EdSurge just wrote their own profile on the product and team.

I recently spoke with Megha Agarwala and Janice Joo, Innovation Fellows at EdLab who created this tool, to learn more about their progress & vision and help engage users in the Bay Area.

What problem is ResearchBroker trying to address?

A number of educational startups are looking for researchers who can help validate product ideas and determine the effectiveness of their product for different users, including instructors, students and program administrators. The startups need researchers to identify metrics to track and collect data, design and conduct studies, analyze data and also potentially publish the results within their community.  

On the other side are Doctoral and Masters degree researchers who are looking for real-world projects where they can gain valuable experience collecting and analyzing data and also use that experience towards their academic pursuits. ResearchBroker is a free platform that has been designed to connect these two parties. Instead of waiting for introductions, startups can directly connect with researchers by creating their research projects on ResearchBroker.

ResearchBrokerHomepage

What has been the response from early users? What are you looking for from your next set of users?

So far, users on ResearchBroker are educational startups in New York City and researchers at Teachers College Columbia University. Startups have shown a commitment to using the ResearchBroker platform to define their projects and bring a researcher onto their team. EdLab has been offering guidance to startups on how to define their research questions, and will create learning resources to help startups leverage existing research.
Because EdLab is uniquely positioned within Teachers College, we have been able to plug startups into a network of researchers. We were able to connect the founders of the language learning platform, Instreamia to a researcher and they are already discussing their research direction.
 
Moving forward, we would like to expand beyond the New York City tri-state area to include Silicon Valley educational startups and researchers at schools beyond Teachers College.  We would also like to organize events to bring researchers, startups, teachers and learners together to brainstorm and solve research problems and share their work.

How can people learn more or share feedback?

Please feel free to contact us directly at researchbroker@tc.columbia.edu if you have any further questions.

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