Meet Tera Ryan and Cindy Schurr, Sales Executives for AB Connect. Tera and Cindy have nearly 30 years combined experience in edtech and education publishing. As sales executives, Tera and Cindy demonstrate the benefits of AB Connect to new and existing clients, helping them to understand learning standards, the power of machine learning, and the importance of content discoverability. Read on to learn more about their work with edtech providers and content publishers.
What is the most common problem your clients are trying to solve when evaluating AB Connect?
Cindy: Accessing the most up-to-date standards and aligning their content to multiple states, to extend their product reach and address new markets. Content providers are also looking for ways to make their content more searchable in platforms and applications so it can be more easily discovered by end users, like teachers and students.
Tera: Change management and the ability to efficiently and accurately keeping track of hundreds of learning standards across dozens of states and authorities. With learning standards continuously changing and evolving, it’s difficult to keep up with not only new learning standard releases, but also (and maybe more importantly) with edits and revisions that occur with little or no notice. Product managers at education companies are tasked with keeping track of learning standards in addition to informing their product strategy and driving their product roadmap, and it’s a cumbersome task for them.
Can you share a client success story?
Cindy: I worked with a client that had their content aligned to Common Core, but no state or international standards. Their goal was to extend their reach to new K-12 markets, but their content team did not have the time or expertise to manually align the existing content to new learning standards. Their development team maintained their platform, and they needed technical assistance to help support the initiative. When they started evaluating partners, they didn’t know that there was an offering that provided up-to-date learning standards, helped them accelerate their alignment process, and made their content more discoverable. AB Connect’s recommendation engine – powered by learning standard relationships and taxonomies – coupled with our stellar technical support and subject matter expertise, made AB Connect a clear choice to meet their needs.
Is there a significant trend or topic in education that comes up most often when speaking with current and potential AB Connect users?
Tera: Change, change and more change. There are so many shifts continually occurring in education that staying one step ahead is key.
Cindy: I definitely agree. For example, Florida made an announcement that they are doing away with Common Core within two years. Publishers and content providers will need to be ready when the new standards are published – and in some cases they may only have four months to realign their content to new standards before the next state adoption is underway. Providers risk losing millions in revenue if they fail to have their content aligned in time.
Tera: Another topic we are hearing more about is Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) give states more flexibility with federal funding, and a growing number of states are using the opportunity to strengthen SEL-related programs. In response, content providers are exploring how to align to SEL standards. With our recent support of SEL standards, we can meet that need.
What advice would you give to a client just starting out with AB Connect?
Tera: Take the time to learn not only about learning standards, but also the power of the AB Connect machine learning algorithms, learning standard relationships, metadata and taxonomies, and how impactful they can be on your alignment process. Also, take full advantage of our consultative services; our specialists have deep expertise with learning standards, content tagging and alignment and industry best practices.
You’ve both worked for multiple edtech providers over the course of your careers. Can you describe how you draw on that experience when helping your clients evaluate AB Connect?
Tera: The providers I have worked with in the past offer a wide range of solutions to school districts. Working directly with school districts for many years has allowed me to provide a different perspective to the product teams I now work with. My background provides an authentic lens for consulting our clients on the needs of school districts and the best approach to learning standards management.
Cindy: Based on my previous roles, I know first-hand that content needs to be aligned to state and national standards to win business. I’ve been in adoption meetings and listened to customers evaluate solutions based on learning standards alignments, including teachers picking books based on standard coverage. I can completely relate to these providers and can confidently share with them that I have seen how AB Connect helps our clients succeed.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Tera: Helping content providers become more efficient in their processes and with their resources. School districts are looking for the best solutions to help them meet their goals and initiatives and impact student success. AB Connect allows our clients to streamline learning standard alignment and management so they can focus on their core mission – to create and provide relevant and engaging content to districts.
Cindy: I truly love working with education companies and find their plans, initiatives and goals fascinating. As a former teacher myself, education is a passion and something that changed my life, so I’m happy that I can still be involved in the education field even though I’m no longer in the classroom.
Thank you both for sharing your experiences. Let’s wrap up by getting to know each you a little more.
If you didn’t work in edtech, what kind of career would you have?
Tera: I love education and mentoring children, so definitely teaching and coaching. I enjoy being connected to the education world through my role at Certica, and I currently volunteer as a youth lacrosse coach.
Cindy: It’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else! I started in education as a high school teacher – teaching PC repair and web design. I loved being a teacher, but while I was teaching and working with a textbook publisher during an adoption, I thought that would be an interesting role for me. I left teaching to work for that textbook publisher and that eventually lead me to edtech.
What are you currently reading?
Tera: “Viral Parenting” by Mindy McKnight. It’s a guide to helping kids be responsible and safe in a digital world. As a mom of two daughters (10 and 12), it’s a really relevant topic for me and I’m trying to stay informed and one step ahead!
Where is the most interesting place you’ve traveled?
Cindy: I recently spent two weeks on a private 60-foot boat touring the Abacos, which is a chain of 100 islands and barrier cays in the northern Bahamas. It was incredibly beautiful; from the crystal-clear water to the white sand beaches to the small island towns. What was even more interesting was driving that boat from Key West to Miami to some of the many islands of the Bahamas – Bimini, The Berry Islands, and many of the other Abacos islands – and then back to Key West again. Every day of the 2-week trip was an amazing adventure and one I will remember forever!