Ken Hubbell: Redefining Education Through Technology-Driven Solutions

The Education Technology (EdTech) domain thrives on innovation. This constant push for advancements leads to this development of transformative tools that reshape learning experiences. Personalized learning platforms cater to individual needs while interactive simulations and digital resources make complex concepts more engaging. EdTech pioneers use technology to empower students, fostering collaboration and equipping them with the skills needed to succeed at the same pace as the world around them.

Ken Hubbell is a visionary leader with over two decades of experience at the forefront of EdTech innovation. With a keen eye for the future and a pragmatic approach to design, Ken is a quintessential futurist who navigates the complexities of tomorrow while building solutions for today. As the CEO of Soffos Inc.—a pioneering generative AI/ML company, Ken spearheads the development of low-code solutions that revolutionize knowledge management, learning, assessment, course content creation, and performance support systems.

Ken’s passion lies in crafting engaging and innovative products that harness the power of cutting-edge technologies like AR/VR/XR, AI, prompt engineering, and serious games and simulations. His track record speaks volumes, having collaborated with global giants such as Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, the United Nations, NASA, and the FAA, to deliver award-winning projects that redefine learning, performance, and impact.

Outside his role as a CEO, Ken is a mentor, coach, writer, and international speaker, dedicated to sharing his knowledge and giving back to the eLearning community. His journey exemplifies leadership in EdTech and a commitment to driving meaningful change and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in education.

Join in on a narrative of revolutionizing the future of education with cutting-edge EdTech innovations!

What initially sparked your interest in the field of EdTech, and how did you first become involved in the industry?

With a background in industrial design from NC State University, I quickly found my niche in EdTech, moving from animation and production design to creating engaging explainer videos for EPA site cleanups.

My journey took me from visualizing textile mechanical processes and building interactive training programs to developing cutting-edge 3D web tools with Virtus Corporation, partnering with giants like Intel and Adobe. I’ve built simulators for Caterpillar and the FAA, collaborated with NASA, and presently lead a team leveraging Generative AI to revolutionize EdTech, enhancing educator efficiency and program effectiveness.

As the CEO, what excites you most about leading a company at the forefront of generative AI and machine learning?

As the CEO of Soffos Inc., I work with some of the brightest and most innovative product designers, business developers, and programmers on the planet. We are taking revolutionary technology and applying it in a way that will transform the lives of teachers, students, instructional designers, employees, and organizations in ways that are just now starting to come to life. I have been speaking on talent disruption and the new workforce for over a decade. Last year I released my book, ‘There is AI in Team: The Future of Human, Augmented Human, and Non-human Collaboration’ on Amazon. Now I get to see this all emerge, and my team is making it possible.

How do you define success in the context of developing advanced tools and applications for knowledge management and learning?

My definition of success for EdTech is when it becomes invisible to the user. It will be so integrated into the workflow and educational process that the employee or student doesn’t see it as a separate piece, but rather a smooth transition from one type of learning to another. I also measure the success of these tools and applications by their ease of use, reduction of time to create new content and minimization of cost to ensure access for all.

Ultimately, it comes down to how effective is the solution.

  • Did it reduce the time to competency?
  • Did it improve the capability of the employee or team?
  • Did it increase the confidence of the individual?
  • And did all this result in better employee and customer experiences, and improve the financial position of the organization?

These are the goals we have for our platform.

What are some of the key challenges you’ve faced in integrating cutting-edge technologies like AR/VR/XR and AI into educational solutions, and how have you addressed them?

Over the years, I have faced my share of challenges in EdTech:

  • While developing a customer empathy virtual reality training program for Wells Fargo, the world experienced the COVID-19 epidemic. The training was well-received by the employees. However, HR forced us to halt deployment due to the sanitary restrictions on the headset devices.
  • Changing well-entrenched educational and training industry techniques forced us to discover we needed to talk less about technology and more about its impact. In the case of Soffos, our platform is a force multiplier for teachers, administrators, and EdTech developers. Based on benchmarking research we conducted with one of our partners this year, the study showed a 40% reduction in time and cost to develop new courses. We let the data tell the story of how instructional designers can meet the demand for new courses with the time and budget provided by their organizations.
  • The biggest and most invigorating challenge for the Soffos team has been the relentless drive to keep up with and exceed the pace of the AI technology itself. We have been fortunate to lead in several areas including retrieval augmented generation (RAG), document chunking, and long-term session memory, but with the scale of OpenAI, Meta, Google, and others, staying at the forefront is definitely a race. Fortunately, our focus is on creating a maintainable and useful platform for EdTech and, in this regard, we are well positioned.

What motivates you to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation in EdTech, even after two decades in the industry?

After over two decades in the field of learning and development, and more specifically EdTech, many have asked me what drives me to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation. My answer is simple, we have now reached many of the goals I set years ago. We have achieved automated content production. We are in the Metaverse. Augmented reality is a cost-effective training solution. And, access to learning is almost universal, at least in regards to technology.

My ultimate dream is to have an AI-enhanced system of continuous feedback and seamless performance support, and on the job training continuously augmenting my capabilities and enabling me to be the best I can be and helping others reach their full potential.

How do you approach mentorship and coaching within your organization and the wider eLearning community?

At Soffos Inc. my team is always learning—it’s a part of being in a leading-edge company. More than that though, we are a small company and wear many hats. As a leader, it is my job to ensure every one of my employees has the tools and training to perform at their best. This often means just listening to what is happening in their lives, understanding when we are stretching our boundaries (technically as well as physically; sometimes I must coach them to sleep), and supplying the tools they need to be successful. I also ask, ‘What do you want to be?’ Most importantly, I have a virtual open-door policy for them to provide me with feedback so I can be a better leader for the company.

In your opinion, what are the most crucial qualities for a leader in the field of EdTech to possess?

The field of EdTech is constantly changing, sometimes for the good and sometimes not so good. As a leader in this field, it is easy to fall prey to ‘shiny object syndrome’ as relates to other people’s technologies as well as your own. The key is to recognize when you have the syndrome. In most cases, this comes from lots of trial and error, heavy emphasis on the error.

Another vital quality is having a mind open to possibilities. The possibility there may be a better way. The possibility it may not be a training issue (it might be a process). The possibility EdTech is not the answer (a 2-page job aid might do the trick).

An EdTech leader must learn how to communicate with non-EdTech leaders and employees. In many cases, they just want to understand how you can improve their situation, not how you are going to create the solution. The most important quality is cultivating an environment where your team knows what they can expect from you and what you expect of them. And you ensure everyone is respected for the qualities they bring to the team.

How do you prioritize staying abreast of emerging trends and developments in technology and education?

With so many emerging technologies and trends in EdTech, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I manage my load in two ways. First, I use aggregators like Gartner and Edutopia along with LinkedIn to pull research and data from a broad spectrum of sources.

Second, I use the Soffos platform to summarize larger articles and research papers into a manageable pile. I also apply content filters to focus and sort these piles and then capture smaller pieces into One Note for future reference.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in the EdTech space?

My philosophy is to design for tomorrow and build for today. If you want to make an impact in the EdTech space, take time to understand K-12 and adult learning principles. Experiment and determine what truly affects behavioral change and builds skills. Find an area of technology you have a passion for – software development, hardware design, or content creation – and immerse yourself in it. Discover how it can improve the learning experience for students/employees and course developers including teachers and instructional designers. Finally, dream big and act on your dreams.

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