Cultivating new pathways for digital learning and education entrepreneurship

A day-long hackathon to develop new ideas for increasing collaboration between educators and entrepreneurs


digiLEARN is a non-profit dedicated to accelerating digital learning for all ages. Their work increases personal learning options for students while expanding instructional opportunities for teachers.

In addition, digiLEARN focuses on cultivating an innovative economy for education technology startups and entrepreneurs. The organization was founded by former North Carolina Governor, Bev Perdue, with former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer serving as Vice Chair.

To further the organization’s mission, the digiLEARN team brought together a diverse group of stakeholders—including educators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs—for a day-long session to collaborate on the future of our education system. It was a rare opportunity to have so many leaders, whose work impacts educational outcomes, together in one room. We worked with the digiLEARN team to help plan and facilitate the session.

Seeing Possibilities

Our goal for the session was to generate as many actionable ideas as possible that the organization could use to increase collaboration between educators and entrepreneurs. The digiLEARN team knew the best outcomes would come from the collective knowledge of the diverse groups who care most about the issues.

So we decided to host a hackathon—an intense, coordinated effort to develop as many useful and innovative ideas as possible in a short amount of time.


Choosing Pathways: The Hackathon

In the first phase of the hackathon, we led an ideation session to generate as many ideas as possible for creating an environment that increases opportunities for educators and entrepreneurs to collaborate. Splitting up into table teams, the groups generated hundreds of ideas in under an hour.  Then they shared their top ideas from within their teams with the entire group.

During the next phase of the hackathon, the entire group voted on two areas that would be critical for increasing collaboration between educators and entrepreneurs. They used the ideas from the previous phase as a starting point. The group then split into pairs to do a deep dive discussion to generate actionable ideas for how to bring each area of focus to life.


Bringing the Ideas to Life

After the session, we created an action report to summarize the outcomes of the hackathon, including a detailed writeup of the critical areas for increasing collaboration.

The digiLEARN team shared the report with participants, and used it to inspire the organization’s next steps toward achieving their mission.

To learn more about digiLEARN and the progress they’ve made since the hackathon, visit EdNC and read their digiLEARN series.

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