Greg Fenton is co-founder and CEO of RedShelf, a Chicago-based edtech company helping to improve education. RedShelf collaborates with hundreds of publishers and colleges to make education both more affordable and more effective by providing dynamic digital course materials and an end-to-end Content Delivery System for effortlessly distributing those materials. Fenton co-founded RedShelf after graduating from Miami University in 2012. Since 2012, RedShelf has successfully completed a Series A, B and C, received recognition as one of the fastest-growing businesses by Inc. Magazine, and grown the company to nearly 90 employees.
How did your education and previous professional experience shape your current work at RedShelf?
While I’m fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had through my formal education, some of my best learning experiences were self-taught outside of the classroom. When I was in high school I started several of my own small businesses, everything from flipping houses to building a landscaping business to creating a classifieds eCommerce website. For me, starting a business from nothing seemed more normal than scary. Both the positive and negative experiences I had as a young entrepreneur helped shape my perspective to make it easier to jump in and build RedShelf to where we are today.
How has been the response to Redshelf from the higher ed community?
When we started the business back in 2012 there was still a lot of hesitation around adopting digital course materials in the higher ed community. We had to knock on a lot of doors and work on building trust in the mission, but it ultimately became clear to our partners that digital was a win-win-win solution. We realized early on that we wouldn’t be able to "disrupt" this industry as most startups set out to do. Instead, we took a collaborative approach that engaged all of our bookstore, university and publishing partners to ensure we were working together. Because of this collaborative approach, we’ve developed a reputation that sets us apart in the industry as a collaborative partner helping the industry evolve from print to digital.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
I believe there are two primary trends that will be changing how we learn over the next few years, the first being an increased focus on the collaborative classroom. We’ve already seen institutions testing the flipped classroom setup and I believe we’re going to continue moving in that direction. The integration of the student voice into the classroom is going to be even more important than a singular professor.
The power of analytics and data in the classroom is the second trend I see morphing the way students learn. As we continue to advance the way we track, aggregate and analyze data, we’ll be able to determine not only how students are interacting with content, but also how they’re engaging with their peers and professors and how well they’re understanding the information. This type of insight will allow universities and professors to adjust their teaching methods in real-time instead of measuring results at the end of the semester based solely on a grade output.
What, if any, are future plans for RedShelf?
Over the last year we made some huge strides, including a $25 million series C funding and recognition on the Inc. 500 list as the second fastest-growing private education company. With that momentum, we’re going to continue driving our vision forward through the expansion of our end-to-end Content Delivery System as a more affordable and efficient way to distribute digital course materials. We anticipate that the Content Delivery System (CDS) will become as commonplace in higher ed as an LMS or SIS.
Image: Courtesy Greg Fenton