Video transcript

Stephen Sheldon: As any family with kids in school would likely attest, it's been a challenging couple years in the education ecosystem. During the early portions of the pandemic, the whole ecosystem had to shift online immediately, and with varying levels of quality and success. As we emerge from the pandemic and as classrooms return to more normal operations, other challenges have become more prevalent. In higher education I think the biggest challenge has been the consistent downward trend in total enrollments in recent years. There have been growing questions about the ROI of pursuing higher education, especially as tuition rates continue to increase and with more opportunities for learners to pursue non-degree pathways that can lead to high-paying jobs.

And there typically has been some counter-cyclicality in enrollments where more people pursue higher education as unemployment rises. But unemployment still remains near record lows. I think there will be more focus in the coming years on bringing down the total cost of higher education to support a stronger ROI from a learner's perspective and in our view online and hybrid programs will have a big role to play in that. In the corporate and workforce development landscape, trends have been strong in recent years, supported by more structural adoption of online, scalable learning pathways for employees and prospective employees, and it seems like this may be a more permanent shift away from in-person learning that represented the vast majority of corporate learning spend pre-pandemic. However there are also some growing questions over the near-term about the way corporate learning budgets could fare in a period of macro weakness.

From an investor standpoint, the education sub-sector that I'm most optimistic about over the next few years is K-12. On the funding side, this is usually the most stable portion of the education market as K-12 budgets historically haven't fluctuated much based upon macro trends. Additionally there is a significant amount of stimulus funding, close to $190 billion that is just starting to flow through the ecosystem and should increasingly over the next three to five years. This should reduce funding friction and a good portion of these funds have been earmarked for ed tech investments, for addressing pandemic-related learning loss, and for areas like social and emotional learning. The pandemic has also driven some structural changes that should be beneficial for players operating in this market. As one example we believe that individual device access for laptops and tablets increase from about 50% of students pre-pandemic to almost 90% now.

Additionally learning management systems or LMS usage spiked during the pandemic as classrooms shifted online, but importantly, usage and engagement remained at similar levels, even as classrooms shifted back to in-person instruction. So this seems like a structural change in using more software and technology in the classroom. And there are clear pain points that I think can at least be partially addressed by K-12 software and content providers, with high retention rates once a solution is adopted. For teachers, burnout has been a major issue and industry-wide retention rates have been dropping. More software adoption isn't going to solve the problem on its own by any means but could reduce the administrative burdens faced by teachers, especially with more integrated end-to-end software platforms. And for the students, there has likely never been such a massive disparity from a learning progression standpoint, as some students learned as they normally would during the pandemic and others didn't progress at all. We believe this is what's driving such strong demand for high quality learning management systems and formative assessments within them that can quickly determine which students have learned specific concepts and come up with remediation plans for those that are falling behind. And the hope is that the K-12 ecosystem can provide much more personalized learning pathways for students, whether it's students that are learning at an above-average rate or helping those that have fallen behind to catch back up with their peers.

So I see an attractive setup in the space and especially for the tech and content providers supporting the K-12 ecosystem over the coming years.