As I eagerly anticipate the start of another school year, I realize that my enthusiasm this year is not only driven by the thought that my family will once again find our routine (I may get to bed before midnight!), but by the fact that many of the education startups we mentor here at MaRS are starting critical trials and pilots.

Ventures like ClevrU, Forward Vision Games, Twenty One Toys and Learning Bird are all gearing up to have students, schools and universities test their products. Projected outcomes have been negotiated and testing methodologies determined.

In conversations with all of these startups and educators, it’s evident that they share a passion and a motivation to improve education outcomes for all involved. It is really not about the tech but about what they believe the tech enables: more engaged students, better communication and assessment tools, better time management, collaborative and self-directed learning modules, and so on.

The startups are all following the tech industry’s best practices of lean customer development methodology. This enables rapid product iteration using customer feedback and is invaluable to their product development.

Educators are trying to test solutions to see if they are solving problems that they have or if they can help them do something new. This is exactly what they should be doing. The startups above are thinking carefully about how to measure the learning outcomes of their innovations. They’re also charting new territory.

Both sides are eager to measure if the proposed solutions actually achieve the learning outcomes desired by all, but this is exceedingly complex with no standard set of meaningful metrics.

The missing metrics

Engagement levels, user feedback and feature discussions are important leading indicators. However, what is missing from this landscape are the metrics to iteratively gain insights that would provide directional indications on learning outcomes.

A startup that masters the blend between user engagement and improved learning outcomes will be positioned to create huge value economically and in education transformation. What is missing from the ed startup toolkit is a “lean” model for measuring the learning outcomes of education innovation.

Send us your input!

We’re constantly looking for ways of assisting our companies and I wish I could end this blog with a description of a model that incorporates learning outcome measurement and analysis into the daily life of an education startup.

Instead, I’m going to end with a call for any examples, ideas, and opinions that you have on this topic. Please send your input to me at

Over the next months we hope to take all this learning and solve the case of the missing metrics.

Feature photo credit: Magnifying Glass by andercismo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Krista Jones

Krista is the Managing Director of Work & Learning at MaRS. Krista has been a passionate innovator and builder of technology-based businesses for over 25 years, and has personally advised and been actively involved in over 200 startups. See more…