Educational technology (edtech) gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, as various startups replacing in-class education were sprouting up since students and families had to study from their homes. Actually, the pandemic brought a tremendous surge in edtech investment: $1.1 billion in 2020, which is the highest-ever annual investment for the industry. This amount is four times larger than the pre-pandemic funding, and these numbers say that it’s no longer possible to pretend that technology doesn’t impact the way we learn.
The rise of edtech funding through years
However, with a massive vaccination of population and the return of in-class education, a flurry of crazy love for edtech startups is somewhat fading, thereby leading a rapidly growing industry to an uncertain end. If you’re going to launch your own educational technology company now, such a state of affairs may be a red flag for you: is it reasonable to start an edtech business today?
The short answer is “yes”. However, there are many pitfalls that didn’t matter during the pandemic, but now can place your edtech company in a difficult spot. That is why the JatApp team will slice and dice the current situation within the edtech industry and give you some ideas how you can run your edtech business without being worried that you’re betting on the wrong horse.
What’s going on with the edtech industry
The bump of interest in educational technology is decreasing because the pandemic is over and schools and universities returned to their usual way of educating students. As a result, the edtech industry appears in a situation when the pandemic isn’t a strong driver any longer. Thus, there are several issues that we need to discuss to show you the whole picture of the industry.
Too much focus on the pandemic
First of all, we would like to highlight that the challenges caused by pandemic forced edtech businesses focus on creating opportunities for learning under conditions of lockdowns and restrictions on social contacts. But with the pandemic coming to an end, many unsolved problems appear to slow the edtech market growth.
To start with, lack of equitable access to education hasn’t been solved with edtech. Consequently, governments and private educational institutions don’t see substantial benefits of adopting this or that technology. Almost 65% of teachers use educational technology in their practice from time to time, but edtech still didn’t get some “institutional” recognition.
Instead, educational technology can make a huge impact now. Although, the long sales process and lack of communication between industry players and governments make school principals and universities administration keep perceiving the digital future of education as some sort of a pipe dream. Once the sales process is such grunt work for edtech companies, it would be fair to say that coming up with more effective and flexible business models is what you need to consider before starting your edtech company today.
Traditional educational institutions are here to stay
The second issue, where many edtech companies are pivoting to, is an intention to send conventional schools and universities on the bench and play the game alone. We hear a lot about how edtech will make education turn tectonic, but schools and universities surely won’t come to a decline.
The reasons for dominance of traditional educational institutions are sound enough. The first and foremost factor is that conventional educational institutions are not just about getting a diploma. As a matter of fact, gaining various soft skills, going through some challenges of becoming an adult, and socializing are essential parts of mainstream education. On top of that, no technology will substitute a human teacher, that’s an axiom.
On the bright side, there are many opportunities that edtech businesses can grasp. Once teachers and professors are still the central players in education, various digital products can simply serve a purpose of supplementary instruments that enable schools and universities to make the learning process much deeper: providing more hands-on experiences as well managing accessibility, adaptivity, and equitability of classes.
There are many niches to tap, but reaching success will take time owing to the abovementioned reasons. You need to take the brunt of the current edtech industry situation to make your business prosper after all.
There are no rainy days for investors, but somewhat cloudy for company founders
If you think that we intend to pour a glass of cold water on you and say: “Hey, there’s nothing for you in the edtech business”, you’re probably getting us wrong. The matter is that the edtech startups investment doesn’t seriously wind down after the COVID-19 pandemic. We mentioned $1.1 billion in 2020, but it is $1.05 billion in 2021, which is why there’s no reason to panic.
The investment doesn’t decrease, but edtech companies face new challenges along with those that were unsolved during the pandemic. The first thing we need to mention is the digital divide that has become particularly visible within the entire period of lockdowns.
Families with low socioeconomic status had limited access to digital instruments in education, so educational technology didn’t bring access to this social group any closer. This tendency can get worse in the future, which means edtech businesses need to take extra care and give their solutions a social edge, otherwise technology will only worsen the problem of education accessibility.
Then, socializing becomes another hurdle. During lockdowns, social contacts were restricted, but today there are no such serious limitations, and edtech companies don’t bring much of a socializing aspect to their products.
Eventually, we don’t need Zoom this much when the majority of people are vaccinated and can meet each other as in good old pre-pandemic fashion. And everybody is sick and tired from these videoconference-like lectures, seminars, and lessons.
Lack of interactivity and a constant eye contact with the screen are the main problems of using video calls in edtech products. Moreover, Zoom-like edtech solutions are just another cookie cutter that don’t actually create any new value to students, parents, and teachers.
Before we start the main discussion
As we’ve driven all the points home, we can conclude that the issues we’ve discussed can prompt you to turn them into long-term opportunities. We don’t want to call them trends, as it takes time before your edtech business will break the market. Therefore, we are going to discuss opportunities that require your long-term commitment.
But don’t worry, you have a wiggle room here. Many well-known edtech companies were something entirely different in the beginning before they became the industry’s giants. If you want to get more inspiration in this respect, read our dedicated article.
With this being said, we are ready to discuss the opportunities for edtech business in the post-pandemic era. There are many ideas that will tease your entrepreneur taste buds, enjoy!
Edtech opportunities rather than trends
Making education more accessible, equitable, and inclusive are the main challenges that the education sector faces in general. That’s why educational technology can come here and bring its digital touch to the concept of adaptive learning.
Adaptive learning is an approach to education, which takes into account a learner’s strong and weak aspects. People do learn in different ways, and the main aim of adaptive learning is to adjust the learning process in a way that hones a learner’s strong skills and helps to work on weaknesses, thereby making learning more effective and profound.
Needless to say, digital solutions perfectly fit in adaptive learning. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data can be extremely effective. By the use of these technologies, it’s possible to create learning platforms that will be maximally personalized for every single student.
Again, no artificial intelligence will replace a human teacher, but AI can take into account a myriad of factors that impact the way a person learns. Schools and universities can use adaptive learning software to make education more resulting and engaging for every single student.
Example of adaptive learning app
It’s also possible to create a smart chatbot who will guide students through various subjects and courses to help them orient themselves amongst tons of information. Likewise, knowledge AI chatbots for assessment and tutoring are solutions that will be in demand.
How adaptive learning chatbot works
In general, we would like to emphasize that you need to take into account two main things for this kind of edtech, adaptive learning principles and AI, as the most effective way to accelerate the efficacy of these principles to a maximal extent.
Even though schools switched back to in-class lessons, many families nod towards homeschooling of their kids. The pandemic was a major factor in this regard, but it wasn’t the only one. The reasons why families prefer to take full control of their children’s education are numerous: a child’s special needs, living far from schools, desire to be more immersed in a child’s learning process, and so on.
There are two ways you can pursue this opportunity: the easy way or the hard way. The easy way means that you just create an online platform and fill it with educational content that follows a standard school curriculum and complies with legal regulations. Basically, you build an edtech product that brings learning material in digital format, while parents can track the progress of their kids.
The easy way doesn’t mean that it is the most profitable one, though. Because building an edtech solution this way means to step in every single trap we’ve discussed above.
That’s why we seem to have only the hard way to discuss as a viable opportunity. Aside from creating standardized and engaging learning content, you should take socialization into account. This idea has come to founders of Primer, the edtech startup that creates a platform for homeschooling. The company doesn’t offer a dedicated curriculum to follow, but provides various learning resources and guides on how to stay compliant with regulations at the same time.
The main value of this startup is that it includes out-of-class activities like chess, drawing, baking, and such. These classes are arranged as interest-based communities, where parents and children can find users with similar interests and engage in fun activities together.
Activities communities in Primer
Together with homeschooling, arranging classes for small groups has become popular. So-called learning pods include both digital and in-class education but for groups of 4-5 children. Families can be confident that their children have a more personalized learning and don’t lack social interaction as they study together with several peers.
Nonetheless, learning pods raised a concern about the harm of the digital divide and equity in education. Hiring several teachers to educate small groups of children, arranging and supporting relatable infrastructure, and marketing the services properly require substantial costs. The price for the service is respectively high enough to be affordable by affluent families only.
We can’t stop you from opening a similar edtech company, but we can recommend you make your learning pod a more equitable business. One of the ways you can do it is to allow your clients to sponsor the education of children from families who can’t afford it.
Digital-first is a strategy that many publishing houses are running today, so doing the same may not be a good business idea because students can buy or rent a textbook directly from the publisher. Perhaps, you have some interesting business model in mind, but the current situation with digital textbooks requires you to find your own way to go.
The edtech startup Newsela came up with a full replacement of textbooks with various third-party educational content. The company strings together primary source documents, National Geographic articles, video courses, and other content to deliver the same textbook knowledge in a more interactive fashion.
Newsela content example
A similar approach is taken by the startup Sketchy: the company creates Pixar-like videos with educational content for medical students. Again, the idea behind this business is an intention to get rid of boring textbooks.
You can be as creative as possible here, it’s apparent that students are tired from conventional textbooks and endless lectures. If you have an idea how you can make textbook knowledge more entertaining, you definitely should pursue this opportunity. It looks like there will be a good influx of users.
Example of an exercise in Sketchy
Blended learning and eLearning
Blended learning is a concept that has been discussed for something like a decade already, but with the rise of educational technology the concept receives much more attention. Blended learning is an approach to education that includes both in-class and digital learning to make the process more flexible and student-centered.
In other words, a mix of real-life classes and digital learning materials make students more independent and self-managed in comparison with traditional education when a teacher guides a student through the entire course.
Hence, your opportunities are almost endless here. You can develop a platform for blended learning, but without filling it with any content and offer your product to schools or universities. You can also build an entirely unique solution aligned with education standards and regulations. The demand for blended learning is high, so investing in your own blended school is an idea that is worth trying.
It’s not uncommon that educational institutions will turn to you on their own. For example, Brandon Learning Center from Hong Kong reached out to JatApp with a request to develop a digital learning product. The school prepares Chinese children aged 9-12 years old for entering top schools in the United Kingdom, and they need a solution that will enable their students to keep preparing for entrance exams from home.
By creating a simple and engaging user interface and including gamification features, our company managed to develop PreQuest, a product that became popular with children, parents, and teachers. After passing through preparation with PreQuest, 100% of young users receive at least one invitation to an enrollment interview in a top UK school.
PreQuest User Interface
In the same vein, you can develop a product for just learning online. Various learning management systems (LMS) that can involve one or multiple subjects, language learning platforms, and online courses are on a tear today. In addition, a need for reskilling and vocational training is growing, according to the most prominent investors in the edtech industry.
If you don’t feel interested in building an edtech product that has to be supported with academic and educational content, you can just create a platform, where students can get professional tutoring help when they feel that they’re lagging behind their peers in school or university.
In such a way, JatApp offered our customer to develop an online tutoring platform, where students and private tutors can find each other. In such a way, students can take extra classes to fill any knowledge gaps (or perhaps deepen their knowledge), while tutors have one more source of income. It came to be a profitable idea, as the platform is growing at 20% rate annually and has more than 70,000 users every month.
A tutor’s profile at the online platform
Augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) products for education are edtech solutions that the majority of schools and universities are ready to splash out on. AR/VR products provide immersive learning enabling students to focus on gaining various hands-on experiences rather than just memorizing chapters from a textbook.
With AR/VR in education, students can engage in practical activities in biology, chemistry, physics and other sciences, while lessons of history and geography will be more engaging and interactive.
Again, the use of AR/VR solutions for education is almost unlimited. It’s up to you what idea you would like to bring to life in this respect. We can provide an example of a company called Class VR that offers VR/AR technologies for learning. The product enables students to interact with various objects and immerse themselves in different environments that help them learn subjects in-depth.
The product is created to unleash the power of AR/VR in almost any school subject and beyond, as VR headsets can be used for extracurricular activities. For instance, a lesson about empathy or cultural sensitivity can involve a VR content to teach students soft skills and concepts of developing their self-awareness, personal ethical code, socialization skills, and the like.
We have mentioned that conventional universities won’t be forgotten, even though technology can seriously penetrate the education sector. Nevertheless, it doesn’t necessarily mean that fully digital universities won’t be popular.
What about universities by subscription? Students pay for the period they study at the university or for a number of courses they take. Beyond a doubt, such kind of digital education will be suitable for people who already have higher education, but if you manage to create a curriculum compliant with all regulations, you can compete with mainstream universities as well.
Boise State University pioneers the concept of university by subscription and keeps attracting more and more students. Students can take any courses they want at any time convenient for them.
Additionally, mentoring support is available throughout the entire subscription period, so students can interact with human professors and teachers. Since students have to pay for a monthly subscription, they’re always motivated to take a maximal advantage from learning material and concentrate on subjects they’re really interested in.
On a separate note, traditional universities can be also a target for various edtech solutions. Universities are the main drivers of scientific progress, which is why aiding researchers and fellow students with convenient research tools will be always necessary. For instance, an abstract management software ExOrdo helps students and researchers develop comprehensive yet within-the-word-limit abstracts to their research papers, journal articles, and dissertations. Working on formatting an academic paper, especially one for publishing, is a daunting task, which is why such solutions like ExOrdo will always come in handy.
Alternatives to Zoom classes
The success of Zoom is hard to deny during the pandemic, but in terms of educational technology, “Zoom university” is something that doesn’t fascinate people any longer. Sitting for hours staring at the display and trying to learn some complex algebra or theoretical physics (a short introduction to which is written in two large volumes!) are tiring and unhealthy. We’ve already mentioned that the social aspect isn’t one of the edtech’s strengths, which is why searching for viable alternatives is just a wise idea in this case.
For that reason, we decided to dedicate this subsection to edtech products that deliberately avoid videoconferencing as the main channel for delivery educational content.
Engageli is the first product we would like to describe. The solution offers a platform for online lectures and classes, but the focus of interaction is placed on students. Students sit at virtual tables and listen to the lecture and exchange notes, messages, screenshots, and other materials, while the professor speaks up. The product livens up remote learning with interactive features and simulates in-class education with better value for students.
Engageli user interface
In the similar manner, InSpace rethinks how a lesson can be performed in a digital learning environment. The startup used a concept of digital spacing as the basis for creating a virtual school. The main feature of the product is that students don’t need to hang up on the call with a professor to chat with each other like they used to do in Zoom.
Students can talk to only those users who are in their proximity within the digital space. When the user moves further through virtual space, they cannot hear those people but can hear and talk to the other students. InSpace allows students to move from one area to another while a professor can just observe teamwork done in action.
InSpace user interface
The next big thing in “anti-Zoom edtech” is asynchronous classes. The edtech startup Top Hat works as a platform where students can find various videos, interactive quizzes, learning materials, and such and then post their comments, ideas, or questions. Other students and professors can respond and share their thoughts, which makes the learning process more contextualized with socialization in mind.
Top Hat assignment creation tab
Get ready for a long journey
We have discussed a lot in this article, and you can see that the edtech business is worth a shot today. However, we would like to emphasize once again that this time you need to plan a very long journey towards success. Development, refactoring, and support of your edtech solution(s) should always be of high priority throughout this journey. That is why having a professional software development team is essential for running an edtech company in the post-pandemic era.
JatApp can provide you with the best tech talents in Eastern Europe, who are able to deliver a quality edtech product. In fact, 99 out of 100 of our customers are completely satisfied with the solutions we delivered.
If you have an idea for an edtech business, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll reach out to you as soon as possible.