1.5 billion learners were impacted by lockdowns in April 2020, with children unable to attend school in 195 countries. Across the globe, education institutions scrambled to set up virtual classrooms and embrace digital teaching methods, triggering massive growth in the Edtech sector.
While lockdown life and social distancing might be coming to an end (#wehope), there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed global education forever. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Traditionally, the concept of technology in many classrooms was limited to the teacher flipping on a rickety old projector. Nowadays, technology runs the classroom, bringing teachers and students together in a digital-first era set to redefine learning environments for generations to come.
Read along with us as we learn about the growing importance of education technology, the challenges SaaS companies and learning institutions face with this new model, and some Grade-A examples of Edtech done right.
What Is Edtech?
Edtech, meaning education technology, is any hardware or software that supports learning. The typical Edtech architecture combines digital tools, online solutions, plus educational theory and practices to make it easier for people to engage with learning materials, programs, and teaching staff, often from a remote location.
This concept is not just a passing trend of teachers and students going gaga for the latest gadgets—it’s a booming industry. The market value was oh-so-close to $90 billion in 2020 and is set to soar to $404 billion by 2025.
While disapproving grandparents might have something to say about toddlers going square-eyed on an iPad all day, the concept of digital tools for learning is not the creation of tech-happy millennials. Edtech started in the mid-1960s at Stanford University with computers teaching arithmetics and spelling.
Today, over 63% of U.S. high school students use online learning tools at school each day. The days of paper and pencils at school are making way for rapid developments in multi-touch surfaces, virtual reality, and even video games. Is it just us, or does that make you want to go back to school?
The Importance of Edtech in the Classroom
92% of teachers believe that the growth of Edtech will impact the way they teach in the future. As the working world shifts to remote offices and hybrid environments, it’s clear that these technology solutions are here to stay.
So, what’s so special about Edtech tools? Let’s examine how education technology is making the classroom a better place today.
Edtech prepares students for a tech-driven world
Building a natural curiosity and interest in technology can help children thrive in today's society. By exposing students to technology and IT concepts throughout their school years, we can prepare them for life in a fast-paced digital-first world.
McKinsey reports that 87% of companies have a skills gap or expect one within a few years. Edtech can help improve digital literacy from a young age, enabling teachers to use technology in the classroom to thrill and inspire learners to enter a career where digital skills are valued.
Edtech fosters connections between teachers and classmates
As with most SaaS apps, Edtech isn’t confined to one room. Students and teachers can use cloud technologies to connect in real-time, regardless of their location.
These tools enable students to join group projects and learn from anywhere, including their own homes, which is beneficial if someone cannot attend their school that day.
Edtech makes the classroom a more productive environment
Another benefit is that Edtech enables flipped learning, where teachers issue materials to students at home through apps.
This feature allows teachers to save in-class time for more dynamic group projects, interactive activities and discussions, and problem-solving.
Edtech supports different types of learners
We don't all learn the same way. Some of us are visual learners, and some are good listeners. Some like to learn in groups, and others need a strong coffee and some alone time to wrap their head around things (like our CEO after a board meeting on Monday morning).
Edtech helps teachers support the different needs within a group, making it possible to deliver personalized learning experiences that fit each student’s unique learning style. Many Edtech tools have built-in analytics features that allow teachers to identify problem areas and assist struggling students with any challenges.
Edtech helps overworked teachers
The life of a teacher isn’t easy. Whether it’s screaming toddlers or stroppy teens, the vocation can push the buttons of even the most patient person. Thankfully, there are types of Edtech that can lift some of the pressure from overworked teachers by making sure students remain focused (and we’re not talking about bringing in Robocop to keep kids in their chairs).
Edulastic is an app that can automate grading, simplify lesson preparation, and even provide classroom management tools. Once students and teachers get used to the new systems, student engagement is sure to improve.
What Are the Challenges With Edtech?
Implementing Edtech requires a significant transformation, especially if a school switches to a virtual classroom or hybrid learning environment. Even if a school has the finances, internet issues can be a problem. Unicef reports that two-thirds of global school-age children have no internet access.
Another stumbling block is that schools might meet some internal resistance from staff members who are reluctant to embrace new technology. While many digital native teachers might have no issue finding their way around a virtual classroom, not everyone is a tech wizard. Your grandmother isn't the only one who forgets their passwords or accidentally mutes themself on Zoom calls.
Nine out of ten teachers reported troubleshooting problems with new technology, highlighting the learning curve that educators need to master before teaching others!
Without proper onboarding, some people might find the new paradigm a nuisance that only causes frustration and inefficient teaching delivery instead of making learning easier and enjoyable for everyone.
Also, remember how we said some people learn better within groups? (Were you paying attention? Gold star for you!)
The truth is that while remote learning environments might be the dream for some people, it doesn’t work for everyone. Other students might fall behind with their studies or struggle to grasp materials without regular access to in-person teaching.
What Can Edtech Companies Do To Help?
The biggest concern people have about using new Edtech products is all to do with confidence. Teachers want to command classrooms, and students want to enjoy the experience and look good in front of their peers. If an Edtech solution is confusing or too hard to use, it’s an instant fail for everyone.
Let’s consider four strategies that Edtech companies can use to tackle these problems.
Understand onboarding starts before users log into your app
SaaS companies must realize that onboarding doesn’t start and end with the app itself—it begins before users have even touched the app. And so, UX, Product, and Marketing teams all must get their ducks in a row to succeed with onboarding.
People might find out about your app through an email or social media, or they might try a demo with your sales team. Edtech companies must deliver a unified message across all channels so that every user has a great experience at every touchpoint in the journey.
Remember onboarding success relies on good research
Pop quiz: who will know how to onboard your users better than anyone?
The answer, as you might have guessed, is your users. So, resist the temptation to try and master onboarding in-house. Instead, get out in the trenches and do the dirty work. By that, we mean your app design and development pros need to go to classrooms and conduct in-person, and conduct research into how people use your app.
- Observe the instructors and students to identify struggles they have with using the new application. For example, forgetting passwords, setting up, navigating the user interface, etc.
- Conduct interviews to understand where people are hitting roadblocks and what they need to understand better how to use specific features.
- Focus onboarding improvements on the main challenges. Prioritize the issues that cause the most problems. You can make incremental updates rather than overhauling the app in one go.
Avoid overwhelming users with all-at-once onboarding
While we’re sure your Edtech solution is the bee’s knees, you can let people find that out over time—don’t swamp them! With any new app, it’s easy to deter people with a flood of information.
Here are a few tips to keep it light and user-friendly:
- Ask new users to complete a short series of setup tasks, step by step.
- Use a helpful wizard to walk users through the setup process.
- Create microcopy to provide little pointers wherever needed.
Ultimately, onboarding should provide clarity and confidence for users. If you overcook the process, it will put people off, and your engagement will most likely drop. Your team must research and genuinely understand the issues people have, and then simplify the user experience with minimal input required from students and teachers.
Create a dedicated customer success team
We know your UX, product, and marketing teams always have their hands full, and the design and development teams will continue iterating on the app functionality over time.
But in the Edtech industry, where over 100 new ventures receive funding each year, time is not a luxury that startups can afford. Customers are spoiled for choice, and a bad user experience or delays in updates can be enough to send people looking for a competitor product.
By investing in a customer success team, you can build stronger relationships with users and unearth more insights to guide development. In the long-term, a customer success team will help Edtech companies increase sales, customer tension, and year-on-year growth.
5 Examples of Edtech Making Learning More Fun and Engaging
We can’t overlook the challenges above. New technology should empower people, not leave them isolated or frustrated.
But overcoming obstacles is what good education and innovation in the Edtech sector are all about. With the needs of students and teachers in mind, schools can seek partnerships with startups and SaaS companies that are a good fit for their vision of how education should work.
Now, to see how some great working examples, let’s take a look at five Edtech companies that are making the grade in 2021:
Teachable is an online learning platform that enables educators to easily create a course or launch a coaching business. The company has a simple onboarding process that makes it easy for users to curate and personalize content without any tech skills. Creators across the platform have earned over $1 billion in revenue.
Kahoot! is a game-based platform that enables teachers to create fun learning games for students based upon multiple-choice questions. Students use unique codes to access the game room to complete the lessons and compete against classmates. Its intuitive interface is fantastic for engagement from both teachers and students alike, which has helped the platform grow to over 5 billion users since its launch in 2013.
Flipgrid is a video platform that encourages engagement through student discussion. Teachers post topics, and students respond with video clips in a co-learning environment that aims to give everyone a voice. In 2019, Forbes reported that 1 in 3 U.S. teachers used the platform—a direct result of the great onboarding and user-friendly experience.
Loop is a private digital repository where teachers can collect structured feedback from students about their learning experience, challenges, and wellbeing. The platform is primed for high engagement because students can post anonymous responses, so they’re more likely to open up than they would be if they were speaking in front of their classmates.
Quizlet provides learning tools for students to make flashcards, play learning games and test their knowledge by collaborating with other students. This app is easy for teachers and students to onboard and quickly create and share materials online. The simple onboarding and sleek user interface have helped Quizlet achieve unicorn status with a valuation of over $1 billion in 2020.
The traditional model of education doesn't work for everyone. That was never a secret before the pandemic. But now, as the world goes all-in on remote technology and virtual learning environments, it's clear that Edtech is the best way forward.
The challenge, however, is that not everyone is ready to adopt new apps and digital solutions. SaaS companies must do more to ease the transition.
Successful onboarding begins before your target market knows about your app, as thorough research will inform the app development. By listening to the needs of teachers, parents, and students, and collecting feedback from active users, you can identify problems that deter people from using the solution.
By making it easier for people to get started, and helping them get more value from the app, user engagement will increase. Ultimately, this diligent, customer-focused approach helps create a smooth onboarding experience that supports user needs every step of the way, so more schools can put Edtech at the heart of the learning model.
Do you need to get in line with student and teacher expectations? Talk to FROGED to get help improve your onboarding and user engagement.