Five insights from EdTech Europe 2015

Digital education is the reset button for the world, says EdTech Europe’s Charles McIntyre and Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet

On June 18th 2015 over 650 movers and shakers from the EdTech community converged in London, UK from 40 countries around the world to share their insights and knowledge of the key trends at the cutting edge of technology in education and training.

Here are 5 of our own insights into key trends affecting the EdTech market that we shared with delegates on the day:

Insight 1: The Long Rising Tide

There has been much talk about the EdTech avalanche that is coming. But probably too much talk. Certainly the opportunity is there, the educational market is over 3x the size of the media industry and has only barely starting going digital. Approximately 5% of the educational market is digital compared to the 35% for the entertainment and content industries.  However, the digital transition is going to be slower, the education market has many more agents involved from state bodies, institutions, schools to teachers and parents. These brakes won’t halt digital adoption, just slow it. We estimate up to 5x slower than, for example, the adoption rates we have seen in the media industry. It will be worth the wait but there is a need for patience.

Insight 2: The Education Super Dividend

There is an economic imperative to education which if we fail to address we do so at our economic peril, both as individuals but also as nations.  Empirical research is clear on the link between educational standards and GDP per capita in OECD countries[1]. Using PISA scores, the research delivers a striking outcome that a 25 point improvement in a country’s PISA score results in the equivalent of a $100,000 return to each of its citizens. To achieve a 25 point increase is readily achievable; it is the equivalent of the UK or France raising its educational standards to the same level as Finland. An investment in providing effective digital education solutions is likely to have a massive payback to those countries who take the early initiative.

Insight 3: The Digital Paradigm Shift

Digital disruption is not a new thing, its winds have passed through many sectors already. So what can we learn for these experiences? Take the music industry, where digital music sales now exceed physical sales. Here we see a new important business model taking shape in the form of music as a service. Streamed music is growing fast and digital downloads are on the wane for the first time. The consumer paradigm has shifted from a need to own a product to wanting a service that can be accessed in a manner, and at a time, of their convenience. Music as a service. Now take the word music out and replace it with education and we have “digital education as a service”. This may seem trite, but the approach is important.  For digital education to be pervasive we need to throw out the idea that we just digitise our existing products. We need to conceive of digital education as a service, in the same way that a school provides a service not a product. You can already start to see this evolution in the world of MOOCs.  MOOCs started life as digital content engines with huge distribution. But they are already starting to morph into a service approach, and increasingly sophisticated the service is becoming. With this sophistication comes a viable business model, so if we look at Coursera[2] we can see exciting growth in revenues from certification of course completion. 

Insight 4: But Will the Future Need Us?

We may be starting to change the way we learn and train, but are we developing the skills that the future workplace will need? The advance of technology from Google’s driverless car to IBM’s Watson programme, which can carry out the equivalent of a cancer researcher’s 30 year project in a matter of minutes, means that we need to think carefully where humans fit in. The jobs of today are not the jobs of tomorrow. Perhaps we can be confident that that in 20 years there will still be masseurs and priests but it is unlikely there will be taxi drivers and accountants. In an evolving marketplace the role of education and training needs to provide the individual with the ability to learn new skills easily, not just when we are young but at any stage of our working life.

Insight 5: Change in world economic order

In 2013, the IMF confirmed that emerging markets had for the first time achieved a greater level of GDP than the world’s developed economies, when measured in terms of purchasing power. Current projections show this trend continuing with over 60% of the world’s GPD[3] predicted to be in the hands of emerging markets by 2020.  If you overlay these GDP trends with the changing socio and digital dynamics then there is an irrepressible undercurrent. By 2017 the emerging markets of the world will be accessing more digital infrastructure than the advanced economies[4]. More than 90% of world’s population under 30 will be in emerging markets[5] with a very evident desire to “learn to earn”.  So if you had to bet on who was best placed to respond to a changing world, where readily available digital resources can provide the training and skills to adjust, the smart money is likely to be on the “start-up” nations of the world.

Simply put: Digital Education is the reset button for the World.

[1] OECD Report 2010 : The High Cost of Low Educational Performance
[3] World Economic Outlook IMF April 2015, share of world GDP based on purchasing power parity
[4] EMC Digital Universe Study 2014
[5] Euromonitor International