Daniel Yahel, VP of Development, Jolt

Daniel Yahel, VP of Development for Jolt (a GUS entity). For the past 16 years, Daniel has been working in the space between Education, Technology, and the Workforce. He is a 2 times Founder of startups and has worked in cutting-edge technology startups in the world of Augmented Reality and Autonomous Vehicles. As the Head of Global Business Development, he leads partnerships between online academies and universities around the world and has witnessed the market going up and down over the past decade. He is digging into university challenges and strives to maximize the pathway between learning and earning for students.


Amidst latest financial crisis by online academies, a tragedy in 4 parts.

Part 1, the hero tries to get something that is missing

Ten years ago, I began my quest to destroy higher education. The time was ripe, the atmosphere was that iPhones, YouTube, Massive Online Learning, and the gig economy were teaming up together to build a real pathway that would help young adults avoid four years of college and gain practical skills that would help them enter the workforce.

I buckled up my knowledge, my expertise, and my all, budgets, motivations, and family, and founded a startup which was a marketplace for teenagers who want to graduate high school with a real work experience resume (not just a diploma) in different freelance occupations, like design, coding, social media managers and more, and jump straight into the job, without any academic experience, as long as their employers deemed them eligible.

It seemed to me that a billions-dollar industry that is heavily regulated, like Universities and colleges, could be transformed if this initiative is scaled up and more like-minded companies would come on board.

In 2019 I remember hearing an online academy CEO giving a notable “soy milk” presentation at a large conference for economic and social development. The CEO, claimed milk alternatives were the new and better way to consume dairy (milk as a metaphor for higher ed). That was the time, when money was cheap, and many companies raised funds to pursue this exact mission.

Part 2, the hero embarks on his journey but finds out that there is no return

When the pandemic tsunami hit online learning and digital tools and brought the market to an historic highת usage was skyrocketing and everybody jumped on the wagon, but not too long afterwards, that momentum was stopped, and not only, but the sentiment for online learning is decreasing and settling where it should be in the market. Screen fatigue has taken over and the market was over flooded with solutions that not necessarily worked. money has run out and reality has taken place.

Online academies that wished to survive and take practical steps towards growth, partnered with Universities, as an external supplier of an entirely different kind of learning. This helped Universities outsource processes that would have taken years. It is very common that in other industries, corporates acquire startups, and annex departments they never thought of building. This is just because they can, and because it is the fastest way to end rivalry. How can such different organizations live together without eating each other up? Depending on the people involved, of course, but, most of the time, the big will eat the small, and so it was and is.

Universities that felt the ground shaking underneath them, due to the same momentum that started 10 and 15 years ago, also reached out for help to survive the winter of higher ed, but no more. Although some Universities adjusted, some just bought external education vendors and services and increased their offer. But, it was never enough, and we arrived at the final stage, into the world we are living in at the moment, the commercialization of education and the death of online academies as a result.

Part 3, a battle for a piece of paper (guess who wins?)

Three major hundred millions USD worth acquisitions in this exact context took place in 2021, 2022, and 2024, showed the future to be. By lowering sales and marketing costs to possible shared crowds, the acquisitions signaled the same trend toward preferable profitability, thus, the commercialization of education. This a lot of times comes to less pedagogical leadership. On a smaller scale, what can other online academies learn from this? Is this underlining online educational institutions as lead providers (students has become registrars in a profitable Excel sheet), and not learning authorities? In my opinion yes. If you take a look at a lot of the personas running educational institution today, you will probably find sales and marketing professionals and not educational leaders.

Although the movement against educational institutions is on the rise, the numbers in the US show that there are more chances to earn more if you hold a bachelor’s degree from a student perspective. That has been the joker for Universities over online academies. The battle for the piece of paper, again, against social media hype, is for a degree, preferable something you can hold or hang on the wall. The old-fashioned way is still dominant, and if not on social media, wages data say exactly that (Bachelors degree equals to more earning). Skilled-based hiring might be something you hear your friends talk about, but the number of employees without a bachelor’s degree doesn’t grow.

Recently, an Online program director at a US College, discussed publicly about a board meeting at one of the largest organisations catering online education for Universities. He stated that opening another online program is not a strategy. This shows how poorly Universities consider the holistic results of acquiring or working with online education vendors. Keeping up with my recent paragraphs, online academies die alone, in the dark, and student say nothing.

Part 4, the nightmare stage

What does it say about companies developing online products for the educational ecosystem? How does this effect companies creating learning for young adults on streaming and social media platforms?  For companies that utilize AI content for teachers? For newly born online academies, that has just recently raised capital? Is the grind of the world’s most powerful University system going to smack them on their heads as well? Would online learning evolve into something else?

Should we continue to encourage new EdTech startups, and online education providers to spend their lives on an effort that eventually fails? Maybe things will change in the next ten years.

Or maybe, in the end, it is all out of our hands?

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