Prior to COVID-19, there was already steady growth in edtech adoption across educational settings, and that has accelerated rapidly as a result of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
With schools, further education institutions and corporates switching to remote learning, edtech is now firmly in the mainstream and there has been a surge of investor interest across the space. But which areas have seen the most interest, and how can the edtech sector make the most of this opportunity?
Whilst most schools already make use of some technology in the classroom, the switch to remote learning in 2020 forced the education sector to operate virtually and as result, gaps have emerged.
A lot of the opportunity in learning delivery was swallowed up by Big Tech platforms. But one area that is rich in opportunity for specialist edtech businesses is digitising old fashioned administrative systems in the cloud. When working remotely, it’s almost impossible to maintain old on-site technology or paper-based records, so schools and universities had to update processes to fit with the ‘new normal’.
The result was a rise in demand for tech that could solve these problems. Not only can technology allow users to collaborate, regardless of their location, it can also simplify processes to save time and put data in the hands of teachers to help them make better interventions in the classroom. An example of this type of technology is ECI portfolio company, CPOMS, a provider of SaaS solutions to support in the safeguarding of children by helping teachers record information on child safety and wellbeing.
This platform is used to record incidents or observations on a centralised digital platform so that teachers can identify when a child might be at higher risk. It’s quicker and more effective than the equivalent paper-based system and helps patch together information to ensure that nothing is missed.
Training and corporate learning
Schools are not the only ones that have had to shift to remote learning, with corporates having to move their learning and development programmes online at an unprecedented pace. There has been a long-term shift from predominantly offline to more online-focused approaches, but we’ll look back at COVID-19 as the start of another wave of the market maturing. Previously, many corporates still thought certain training needs could only be delivered face-to-face, but there has been a forced change of attitude; for example, that could be training your sales team to drive high performance, or for high stakes assessments, like professional qualification.
“Learning platforms that focus their technology on user experience to drive real learning outcomes had already been getting strong market traction, but now they have come into their own”
Similarly, businesses have also had to think about how they manage talent throughout the pandemic, with a strong focus on how teams can be upskilled, re-skilled and engaged when working remotely. Learning platforms that focus their technology on user experience to drive real learning outcomes had already been getting strong market traction, but now they have come into their own. With many businesses expecting to adopt a more hybrid approach to work moving forwards, this is expected to continue long-term.
Whilst edtech has thrived throughout the crisis, as we begin to return to normality and see a return to classroom learning, this momentum must be maintained. Edtech businesses should be looking at where the next wave of demand is coming from. A lot of schools, universities and corporates were reluctant to make purchase decisions during the early stages of the pandemic even though the need was high. That volume will come through in the next 12 months. In both educational and corporate settings, edtech businesses need to demonstrate lifetime value in the new customers they’ve recruited over the past year. By focusing on customer service and their tech roadmap, businesses will be able to meet expectations and ensure customers are retained.
“Edtech businesses should be looking at where the next wave of demand is coming from”
At the same time, it’s important to keep an eye on the long-term opportunity, not just the short-term disruption. There has been a forced change of attitude when it comes to online and blended learning, which is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes to tech adoption. Edtech businesses that have a view on where their market is going in the next 3–5 years, and understand what their competitive advantage is, will be able to outpace the competition.
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