It is said that teachers can’t geek and geeks can’t teach. EdTech, or Educational Technology, seeks to bridge this gap – but where is it headed?
In the modern digital age, education has experienced the same changes as the media and entertainment industries, undergoing nothing short of a tech revolution. By applying digital technology to the education market, EdTech is changing the way we learn and and teach. User experience and engagement is quickly becoming the primary component in educational options and investment is set to reach $252 billion globally by 2020.
EdTech promises to modernise the classroom by changing the way education is delivered, learned and practiced. In the past, teachers primarily conveyed information to students orally, however the digital technologies of tomorrow will provide a multitude of interactive learning opportunities that will tailor to student needs. EdTech, paired with artificial intelligence, will aggregate data and continually learn from each student to determine efficient sequential delivery of learning modules. More than this, by studying student patterns of the past, and factoring cultural and geographic learning differences, these systems will deliver the most effective learning processes unique to individual student needs.
EdTech has the ability to equalise standards and enable the democratisation of education across all social demographics. For those unable to afford private schooling, EdTech will assist those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, working with them to provide quality educational instruction, resulting in a richer educational experiences. By harnessing the social reach of the Internet, EdTech seeks to close the gap between home and school and provide parents ,teachers and possibly future employers with a greater access to students’ individual achievements across different schools and locations. This creates additional data, which is fed back into the system to update learning programs and fill any knowledge gaps that are lacking.
EdTech is an important factor in worldwide education costs, which have been rising constantly despite stagnant results in both reading and maths. It is estimated the 85 percent of the cost of education is spent delivering it, specifically on infrastructure and teaching staff. By drastically reducing these overheads, funds can be allocated to educational software updates and more effective interactive digital content. This, along with increasingly reliable broadband services and cloud technology, provides EdTech entrepreneurs with opportunities to thrive.
What about the teachers? Far from causing redundancy, it will be their job to work with students. They will assist by problem solving and acting as tutors, helping students with knowledge practice rather than download, and will provide encouragement and reassurance. In this way, learning processes will be optimised and teacher’s skill sets used more efficiently, which will, ultimately, see teachers retain their jobs in the digital workplaces of the future.
The EdTech landscape is made up numerous companies, both startups and prominent investors and ranges from preschool learning to higher adult education. Adaptive Learning Platforms (ALPs) like SpeakerBoos and Kidaptive use illustrations, animated characters and onscreen interactions to help children with early reading skills. By providing real-life reporting on educational concepts and reading times, parents have instant access to how their children are learning. Enuma provides similar learning programs in interactive maths.
Next-Gen schools offer replacements for the traditional school and university experiences. Key among these is AltSchool, which aims to improve middle school (K-8) education through a weekly plan that focuses on personalised learning. Founded by ex-Google employee Max Ventilla, AltSchool seeks to break down the gap between public and private schooling. It is worth around $133 million, the majority of it funding from Silicon Valley insiders including Mark Zuckerberg.
Learning Management companies focus on improving student-teacher-parent communication, tracking and monitoring growth between the three. Startups such as Edomo, Remind and FreshGrade focus on tracking performance through real-time messaging and schedules that are accessible to all three parties. Remind is currently used in 70 percent of US public schools. The largest Learning Management startup, HotChalk, is used from kindergarten through to higher education worldwide and has over $135 million in funding. Coursera has further broken down barriers by offering free massive open online courses (MOOCs) from some of the world’s top universities. With subjects ranging from arts and humanities to physical science, Coursera has over 15 million users from 190 countries.
Digital English Learning is an enormous section of EdTech, with a $2 Billion market worldwide. The Shanghai-based startup iTutorGroup has all-hours access to 10,000 tutors over 80 countries. DuoLingo provides similar programs for over twenty different languages including Russian, Swedish and Hebrew. Some of EdTech’s best-funded startups come in the shape of software development programs. Companies such as PluralSight and Udacity offer expert-led training in courses as diverse as game design, database administration and virtual reality. With a strong emphasis on career development, they have proven increasingly popular and are two of EdTech’s most well funded startups, worth around $2 Million each.
Of course, companies are more profitable when their ideas are more innovative. Ironclad patents help back this up. A patent published in January 2016 by Microsoft Technology Licensing (WO 2016014373 A1) allows a computer to classify videos to determine those delivered in a particular educational style. By using one or more computing devices in communication with each other, a pre-learned video presentation style classifier weighs up each of the video’s features and determines the presentation style. Further, PluralSight published a patent (US 20160148330 A1) in May 2016 that provides assistance in an embedded marketplace. After receiving an assistance request from a server, the method identifies a plurality of keywords and associated tags, routing the request to the mentor based on the match.
Future patents in EdTech
While EdTech is still in its infancy, the next five years will see a multitude of new technologies – augmented reality, interactive online learning and particularly artificial teaching intelligence– emerge and challenge the market. Those best able to anticipate and conceptualise the interconnectivity between these technologies will lie at the forefront of invention in the space and have the opportunity to seek patent protection where appropriate.