US education technology provider STS Education has added the role of Chief Academic Officer to its C-suite team, an unusual move for a company that is not in the business of providing education directly. The new CAO is Elliott Levine, formerly director of education for HP in the Americas, who has about 25 years’ experience in education technology.
In academia, the Chief Academic Officer is a part of the higher education management team, responsible primarily for maintaining the school’s academic system. They are frequently assessed on their success at raising student achievement and academic performance levels, and may even be expected to have hands-on experience as teachers.
STS, as a corporate that works with academia but is not part of it, has a slightly different take on the role: according to the company, Levine will be responsible for developing new edtech solutions and “counseling schools, districts and state/national leaders on making impactful change with technology.”
The company has not commented on whether Levine will work with its customers on student academic performance, as the Chief Academic Officer of an actual educational institution would. However, it is possible to predict what the role might entail. Research has repeatedly found that merely filling classrooms with devices, without proper evaluation or support from educators, actually harms students’ ability to learn. However, with the right approach, educational technology can significantly improve both academic and social outcomes for the students.
For example, a review of 126 studies by the North American branch of J-PAL, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, indicated that the most effective approach involves the use of rigorously evaluated software, technology-based nudges, and using technology to streamline administrative support processes. Getting such services in place requires not only the willingness of the school to implement them, but also the capability of edtech providers to educate the school on how to get the most out of them--which ideally would be the role of an edtech company’s Chief Academic Officer.