The merger of digital technology with education, or edtech, was a big blessing. One that we, however, did not have enough appetite to partake. It is like a meal teeming with vital nutrients but has never made it to the main course. This meal has been lucky though to be taken as an alternative dish. But since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, edtech, as a dish, has quickly attained a 5-star rating as interest in remote learning surge due to Covid19-related shutdowns. It has not only showed us that it is nutrient-rich, but also that we are deficient.
Today, remote learning has become a necessity as learners of all ages – from small children to working professionals – seek digital learning solutions. This only points to one thing; that there is a strong potential in online learning for edtech companies. It is also an indication of more things to follow as Venture Capitalists have shown renewed interest to invest in a sector that had once stunted in growth. Data from CBInsights shows that in the wake of Covid-19, edtech companies have witnessed strong investor interest with YTD funding surpassing USD4.4 Billion.
This means that we are about to see an explosion of edtech startups seeking to satisfy the increasing demand for remote learning. However, stereotypes about online learning are still rife; posing an interesting challenge for the market. This could increase tension for investors and entrepreneurs about the sector’s potential ROI.
Why edtech and why now?
Edtech has been around – in a meaningful way – for about 2 decades now. Its adoption has been slow, and mostly it served to supplement offline learning. It simply started as learning videos with little engaging multimedia content – it was sort of considered a ‘further reading’ resource.
However, it has since evolved to become more interactive and personalized, capable of offering a full learning experience. With Covid-19, we are now at a stage where modern technology has completely gelled with education to present a highly personalized learning experience front and promises to scale teaching and learning in unimaginable ways.
That said, the boom is already here and we are all excited and waiting to see what happens next. Will the heat-up of the sector materially impact teaching and learning and eventually unlock new opportunities for entrepreneurs? Is the mushrooming of edtech startups a knee-jerk reaction to the remote learning boom? Will this boom create unhealthy competition among early-stage edtech startups? And will this competition hurt the content, quality, and effectiveness of the end product? The answers to these questions should matter to entrepreneurs and investors who are contemplating taking a dive into this space.
If you chose to invest in this space, then you need to get it right; since edtech is definitely growing trendy. You should zero in on the macro-impact of the edtech boom in the post-pandemic, the specific gaps that you as a new entrant is seeking to fill, and how public adaptation to edtech is likely to impact how we will view it in the post-covid19 era.
Critical success factors for edtechs
In the pre-pandemic era, edtech did not impact as much change as far as teaching and learning were concerned. In fact, the contention was about making tech available for everyone and building smart classrooms. Little learning happened, and the minute projectors and screens went dark, it just felt like another boring TV show. That’s got to change in the post-pandemic world.
New entrants in edtech should focus on some basic fundamentals that the older folks overlooked. At the very least, is the experience of your users good enough to guarantee better learning? If you are gonna be like any other edtech company that simply adds tech to a learning environment then don’t bother venturing in this space. Let your focus be on fostering effective learning outcomes. To achieve that, here are four critical factors that edtech startups need to focus on:
Get your house in order
Venturing into this space must be an intentional practice for you as an entrepreneur. Often, edtech startup founders have fallen into this business and excitedly plowed ahead without taking into keen consideration the key issues in the fundamental questions we raised earlier. Unfortunately, these types of loose business frameworks have watered down the whole essence of remote learning and dented the credibility of online qualifications.
This is because entrepreneurs didn’t dust down their vision nor mow their lawns. Their houses were in disarray as their focus was on selling and making money. And money makes people do crazy shit. Learn from their mistakes and get the fundamentals aspects of your business sorted out – and fast. Know what customer expectations are and what customer experience you are offering.
For investors and venture capitalists considering this sector, be wary of the consistent hype around new technologies and how each one represents the next wave of customer engagement. This only serves to dupe you into making a FOMO-inspired investment. You will be investing in lots of shiny devices and rosy software with nothing to plug in. Do your research before making any kind of investment lest you will be ‘backing the wrong horse’.
Carry out a rigorous beta testing
Test. Test. Test your platform before you launch. While at it, beta testing should help you; evaluate the level of customer satisfaction, your readiness to deploy, sections that need improvement, how to reach product-market-fit, and to be able to communicate your product value to your target customers. As an early-stage startup, all that testing should lead to one thing – improving customer experience.
This process will hand your business a smooth take-off and help your users build confidence in your startup, product, or service.
Marketing is more important than Selling
After launching and earning user confidence, you get to the not so rosy part. This is where startup just loses it because for them the sales are just not coming in as projected.
But let’s face it: people tend to take their time while making decisions. They will narrow down to how your company’s vision aligns with their personal goals, they will wait to read positive reviews and client testimonials about your services and a host of many other niceties for them to be sold.
Thus if you want to immediately jump to grab cash from their wallets, then you’re going to be frustrated. It doesn’t work that way. Understand that in the edtech world, customer acquisition time could be longer, and more painful. You will probably grow a lot from word-of-mouth and referrals so lots of patience will help you survive in this space. The bottom line, invest in customer trust!
Focus on the learner experience
Legacy edtech companies have for long focused on bringing tech in the classroom. This resulted in parents, schools, and learning centers to invest more in gadgetry while they (edtechs) invested less in learner experience. Current evidence from different studies points to the fact that in-person learning offers a better learner experience than online learning.
However, the same studies show that effective instruction matter more than the presence or absence of tools such as textbooks and blackboards – and this is the biggest leverage that edtech companies have. Thus, the underlying question for entrepreneurs should be, “now that edtech is becoming part of the school day, how are you making it worth the parents’ investment?” The best way to ensure users get value for money is if you give them an unforgettable learning experience. Ensure your platform is effective and it supports instructors in delivering, scaling, and sustaining effective teaching and learning.
Remember, edtech or not, teaching and learning remain the most important aspects of learner experience. It, therefore, makes sense that you should choose to tailor your edtech startup to support effective teaching practices, both in online and offline environments.