Jake Schaufeld is the Chief Executive Officer of Curator Solutions, a company that specializes in delivering simple yet powerful technology for course content creation and content management, as well as off-the-shelf content for both Higher Education and Corporate Learning. Schaufeld co-founded Virginia-based Real Time Cases, which merged with Florida-based software company, Elearis, in January 2019 to form the new company and brand. Schaufeld holds a BA in Earth and Environmental Science from Lehigh University.
How did your education and previous professional experience shape your current work at Curator Solutions, formerly Real Time Cases?
Back when I was in college, many of the assignments I worked on in my business courses focused on case studies on problems concerning entire industries, single organizations, individuals, and leaders. Generally speaking, the role of the student in these assignments was to size-up the problem and then recommend an appropriate course of action. Most of the case studies were 20-30 years old and entirely text-based. It’s not that I’m against reading in any way, it just always seemed that the concepts of the courses and the real-world of business itself were so much more interesting and dynamic than being bogged-down in reading about situations that were solved decades ago. I just thought there had to be a more exciting way to bring more timely business challenges into the classroom.
I was also lucky enough to get to work at a venture capital firm. That exposed me to a lot of seriously exciting and relevant companies and leadership teams who were smart, charismatic, and passionate about what they did. As a student, I loved every chance I could get to watch them in action and listen to them speak about their experiences. That helped me to form an idea for a new type of case study that was not only relevant to the times but also put these people on camera, letting others see and hear what I did.
From there, my co-founders (friends from Lehigh) and I worked on a business plan that we presented to our entrepreneurship professor, and also approached some of the executives that I’d met while working at the VC firm. From the very beginning, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with amazing mentors and academic institutions and companies who believe in our team and in what we’re doing. We never would have made it anywhere without them.
What has been the response to Real Time Cases from students?
Luckily for us, the response from students has consistently been positive, which definitely feels good and keeps us going. Whenever we get the chance, we always ask students about their experience and gather any feedback that we can to improve the product. Generally speaking, they like the videos; they say they like the face-to-face connection and hearing directly from the executives themselves. Students also tell us that they like the chance to address problems that are happening right now, things that they can relate to, and issues where their work can really make an impact for a real company. Students have also explained that they appreciate the chance to dive into the real experience of having a job and getting a better sense of what to expect after graduation. We couldn’t exist without students who are eager to learn and prepare to enter the workforce. And on a personal level, to have them continue to validate our mission is incredibly moving and motivating.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
A lot of our work is focused on three key trends that we expect will continue to reshape learning and higher education, in particular. First, we believe that students will continue expecting and demanding better returns on their investment in higher ed. Based on what we’ve been hearing directly from students, they clearly value learning experiences that motivate them and are immersive, interesting, and personalized. We have an obligation to meet students on their terms and to give them a valuable education. Students consistently tell us that they value the opportunity to gain transferable experience that will better prepare them for their future careers, right down to firmly identifying the skills they’ll need to be successful. These requests from students align with the trend of competency-based education and the increasing acknowledgement of skills versus degrees as perhaps a more accurate indicator of value.
For instructors and professors, we believe that we will continue to see a growing desire to remain tech-savvy and multidisciplinary. In recent years, it seems that every conversation that we have with educators demonstrates a confidence that technology really can help them engage students and energize their classroom more easily. With that said, a number of people on our team were educators themselves, and so we can appreciate the fact that any change requires patience and guidance. So, we make sure that all of our products are supported with the right instructor resources.
As for the growing desire to be multidisciplinary, that stems from the fact that ideas from different fields are cross-pollinating and impacting new course areas and subjects. One immediate example would be the impact that technology is having on marketing analytics.
Finally, we also subscribe to the trend that institutions of higher ed will continue adapting to employer expectations. As students continue expecting their education to prepare them with practical skills needed for success in the workplace, colleges and universities will feel and react to the growing responsibility to connect the classroom and the professional world.
What, if any, are future plans for Curator Solutions?
We merged with Florida-based company, Elearis, in January 2019, which is when we launched our new brand and business, Curator Solutions. Our mission will continue to focus on making it easier for educators in colleges to create and deliver content easily and cost-effectively. Following the merger and thanks to the elearis® learning content creation and management tool, we now have the ability to serve the corporate learning market as well, which is tremendously exciting for us. As for the Real Time Cases product, specifically, we’ll continue working to grow our list of Partner Companies, expand the case catalog, and support the development of more comprehensive offerings (beyond individual cases) for entire college and university programs. This merger allows us to continue to provide educators with tools to help them meet students where they are.
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Image: Courtesy Jake Schaufeld