Education Opinion

Smart Cities: Salt Lake City Is a Growing Innovation Hub

By Tom Vander Ark — May 14, 2015 4 min read
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Didn’t know Salt Lake City was becoming an EdTech hot spot? It’s still news to some well informed locals. Here’s a baker’s dozen of the EdTech companies on
the western front of the Wasatch:

  • Agilix
    (Provo) is a leader in personalized learning. Check out the Buzz platform and watch for an exciting update in July.

  • Canvas by Instructure is the fastest growing learning management system in higher education (and powers
    the HigherEd institutions in Utah), with just as many K-12 users. See a platform review and watch for possible IPO later this

  • Imagine Learning
    (Provo) and Truenorthlogic (Sandy) were both acquired by Weld North last year.

  • MasteryConnect
    is the leading formative assessment platform.

  • School Improvement Network
    is a leading provider of online professional development.

  • Education Directions
    , a Cicero company, provides professional development and planning.

  • eLearning Brothers
    (American Fork) provides e-learning assets and software training.

  • Waterford Institute
    was an early leader in game-based adaptive early literacy.

  • Management & Training Corporation
    (Centerville) runs Job Corps sites and correctional facilities.

  • Achieve Today
    (Provo) provides experiences and apps that support personal growth.

  • Assessments.com
    provides behavioral screening in juvenile justice and education.

  • Knod
    partners with employers to provide students with real world experiences and a degree for a total of $13,000.

Lumen Learning
, which raised $2.5 million last month, is a Portland-based company that helps colleges and
schools replace commercial textbooks with open content providers. Co-founder David Wiley is still based in Utah.

Utah is home
to almost 4,400 technology companies that raised nearly $1 billion in capital last year. There are few EdTech investors so most startups need to work east
and west coast networks.

(SLC and Provo) is a lean startup accelerator founded in 2010. More than 40 companies have graduated from the program and have raised more than $15 million
in seed capital.

The Eccles School of Business at University of Utah has a particularly strong entrepreneurship program with a
focus on value creation.

Schools to visit. We’ve profiled a couple great SLC area schools.

There are a variety of online high school options including Mountain Heights Academy, which launched
in 2009 with a commitment to open content.

Smart Cities Summit. Last week we hosted a small gathering of EdLeaders at the Leonardo, a science, technology
and art museum on Friday to discuss Smart Cities that Work for Everyone.

Participants noted several things heading in the right direction:

  • The state is well served by broadband. Utah Education Network is a statewide broadband and broadcast network
    established by the Utah Legislature in 1989.

  • Utah scored one of two top grades on the recent Digital Learning Now state policy report card.

  • More than a third of Utah students are engaged in personalized learning thanks to the leadership of Sen. Howard Stephenson.

  • Despite (or as a result of) the lowest funding in the country, there is a can-do attitude and a focus on efficiency among educators.

“We’ve been able to grow Instructure from a handful of employees in 2011 to more than 550 employee this year because Utah has many smart, interesting,
talented people,” said Mitch Benson, VP of K-12 at Instructure. “The challenge Utah faces is to keep up with the demand since many tech companies are
expanding their presence and drawing from that same pool. This is why the STEM Utah program and others are vital to the future of success in Utah.”

Energized by the convening, Agilix CEO Curt Allen (photo) said, “Together we can help make Utah a model.”

EdPolicy. Twenty years ago Governor Mike Leavitt Leavitt proposed competency-based Western Governor’s University. It
opened in 1997 and I joined the board in 1999. Leavitt was also an early leader of the early college movement. We launched a network of early college high schools together on September
11, 2001.

Having left the Smarter Balanced testing consortium, Utah has the opportunity to lead the way on a next generation state assessment system.

With Florida, Utah received top marks from Digital Learning Now in the most recent state policy report card. Utah’s 2013 Student Achievement Backpack (UT SB 82) is
featured as an example of a portable student record. To learn more, read the DLN State Policy Profile for Utah.

For more on Utah, check out:

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.