For many education organisations, the pandemic has been a catalyst to accelerate the digitisation of their offering. Research and development in the industry has been supercharged as companies battle to find innovative ways to cater for students who are no longer able to meet and learn in person.
Of course, it’s not just COVID which is spurring increased competition in the industry; companies across the world are responding to macro trends, notably population growth in developing countries, the increasing need to improve outcomes and efficiency, and persistent problems like student debt, flattening test scores and more.
The global edtech market has always been diverse, with a large runway across the business life cycle, from early stage startups to middle-market companies to publicly traded giants. But right now, there’s a slew of new entrants to the market including startups, technology companies from other walks of life and, importantly, ‘traditional’ bricks-and-mortar education specialists who are now throwing their hats into the edtech ring.
But with this wave of R&D, will the education sector see a golden age of innovation, or just many more companies competing for an only slightly bigger ‘pie’ than we started with? We think it’s the former, and there are some clear reasons why:
The ubiquity of online learning
The applications for technology in education are now more plentiful than ever. Although tech-enabled learning has been growing in popularity for a while, never before has online delivery been as ubiquitous as in the six months last year that saw schools and learning centres close their doors. Students needed to get online quickly, and that meant edtech moving from being a ‘nice-to-have’ to an ‘absolute necessity’.
Of course, the pivot to online learning came with a steep learning curve. Parents have needed help getting to grips with technology, and teachers and tutors have had to adapt quickly to teaching individuals online rather than face-to-face in class. But this in itself has opened the door for more use of edtech, as many professionals, parents and carers have harnessed digital collaboration platforms to meet virtually, working together to learn about this new digital world.
“Although tech-enabled learning has been growing in popularity for a while, never before has online delivery been as ubiquitous as in the six months last year that saw schools and learning centres close their doors”
Diverse teaching provision
Importantly, the applications for technology in education are more diverse and plentiful. While remote learning wages on amidst the UK’s third national lockdown, there’s more scope for innovation, and, even when schools were open, many were embracing blended learning where possible to provide a more rounded and nuanced approach to delivering curricula. Furthermore, mixing the best parts of each gives children with different approaches to studying the chance to learn more interactively.
For example, the pandemic has illuminated the importance of tailoring learning more closely to the individual. While home schooling, parents have seen first-hand where their child is in their development.
For many, this detailed insight to their child’s education only previously happened on occasions like parents’ evenings, so for many, it has shed light on subject areas where extra support like tutoring or in-class intervention, delivered online, would be useful.
The edtech provision that has been developed during the pandemic can help to close this gap and keep that momentum going, providing parents with real-time feedback on a child’s progress in a digestible way.
And lastly, with more companies from other markets entering the edtech arena, we can expect to see different and innovative applications of technology in schools, colleges and universities alike. Traditional bricks-and-mortar companies, like Explore Learning, are turning their hands to technology and bringing with them the real, first-hand experience of their army of employed tutors, and a curriculum developed from the studies of the 250,000 children who have attended centres.
So, as we battle the ongoing COVID crisis, one bright spot is that the rapid move to online learning has demonstrated the efficacy of edtech. The institutions that will do best are those who employ a hybrid learning model, and those who see edtech as a strategic investment, procured and applied to deliver systemic change to teaching.
You might also like: UK schools used 140 different remote learning tools and providers last term