Most of the focus on innovations in education--MOOCs, for starters, but also less formal online learning communities like Codecademy or Lynda--tend to focus on two things: the looming disruption of traditional education and the opportunity for just about anybody to sharpen their skills.
A sometimes overlooked element of the industry, however, is the access it affords employers and recruiters to the skills of the broader talent pool.
That's the driving force behind recruiting Aquent's MOOC program, Aquent Gymnasium. The recruiting company launched the program in 2012 with a business model that puts companies at the center of the movement.
Looking Through the Recruiter's Lens
Aquent polls its client companies, a roster that includes more than a few of the Fortune 500, about the skills they think are missing in the labor force. They then build their courses to address these deficiencies. Once students complete courses, theory has it, they are best equipped to fill the needs of the companies for whom they recruit.
"(Companies) are probably the best people to identify where the skills gaps are," says Aquent Gymnasium program director Andrew Miller.
Because it is open to the public, the system also offers Aquent access to passive candidates who are taking courses for their own benefit. While students who complete courses in, say, Java or HTML5 might be happy as a clam in their current job, Aquent can at least see that they might be qualified for a given position and contact them to see if they're interested.
While Aquent Gymnasium could be described as demand-side education technology, supply-side services are finding ways to serve employers.
For example, Piazza--the online community for computer engineering students and professors--launched a paid service for recruiters earlier this year. Companies are now able to create profiles to mingle with techies that represent some of the most sought-after college talent.
In an interview with Inc., Piazza CEO Pooja Sankar says the service isn't just about giving companies the chance to post jobs. It also allows them to interact and field questions with the students in a more informal setting, to sell their mission and their culture.
Asked if students on Piazza were interested in being approached by companies in what had previously been an education-centric network, Sankar said access to brands has always been one of the most in-demand features from Piazza's users.
The cases of Aquent and Piazza don't necessarily have replicability for small business owners. Aquent's courses each cost about $150,000 to set up--which is probably way out of your budget--and Piazza was already an existing community of talent before it decided to welcome recruiters in to the party.
But both instances highlight the idea that edtech doesn't just stand to bolster the credentials of candidates. It also has real value to companies looking to find those candidates, if leveraged the right way.