Our school system hasn’t changed much over the last century. Society, however, has been completely transformed, particularly in the last 20 years with the advent of digital technology. It’s high time that education kept pace with social changes and truly joined the 21st century. And that’s why EdTech was born.
This new startup ecosystem feeds into the desire to revolutionize the way we teach and learn – both in the classroom and in the open-plan office. The aim is clear – to combine education and technology to improve and facilitate access to knowledge at every life stage. Welcome to the world of EdTech.
EdTech, the new buzzword of the tech ecosystem
This new buzzword – short for educational technology – refers to the use of new technologies to facilitate learning and improve students’ performance. This new trend is in perfect harmony with the educational practices that have appeared in recent years – the personalization of education.
But the road is long and treacherous. And, of course, it’s obvious to everyone that the education system doesn’t like change. The result is a worrying delay in terms of digital transition – only 2% of the sector is currently digitalized, compared to 35% for the most advanced sectors.
But unlike other areas, such as FinTech, EdTech is by far the safest investment. It’s going to become the world’s biggest educational establishment and the number one content provider. But above all, it has the advantage of being independent of economic and financial fluctuations and of the often turbulent geopolitical relations between countries. The possibilities that EdTech provides for entrepreneurs, investors, students and teachers are almost endless.
Private and public initiatives to boost the development of EdTech
If EdTech is finding development harder than other sectors, it’s mainly down to cultural obstacles. And although an increasing number of entrepreneurs are attacking the lack of flexibility in the education system, governments aren’t far behind. After all, such a radical change needs some powerful political will behind it. For example, French President François Hollande’s digital education plan, launched in 2015, illustrates the authorities’ desire to improve the French education system’s suitability for a constantly changing digital landscape.
It’s through a combination of public education initiatives, entrepreneurial ambitions from startups and the creation of investment funds that EdTech will be truly able to take flight – and to trigger major change in the way we approach teaching.
EdTech: a viable remedy for the weaknesses of the school system
One question remains: will EdTech be enough to transform an educational model that’s often seen as obsolete and flawed into a system that’s suited to our new environment?
Lecture-based teaching seems less and less suited to digital natives. In our ultra-connected society, perhaps the solution can be found in individualized teaching and completely open access to knowledge and learning. That’s where EdTech comes in, promoting constant renewal of knowledge through online courses and digital learning tools.
MOOCs such as Coursera, which offer remote-learning courses from the world’s best universities, are currently the most popular platforms for online learning. They provide a truly innovative learning experience while retaining a familiar lesson framework through a traditional assessment system. It’s also important to note that educational apps for young children are booming – not to mention the possibilities that are emerging in terms of professional training.
By providing greater access to education, EdTech also takes on ethical and social values. Mon cartable connecté is an excellent example of the arrival of digital technology in education. It allows children in hospital to attend their classes in real time without leaving their bed. They can interact with their class and can even take part in lessons with ease.
A booming worldwide EdTech ecosystem
The EdTech craze has also hit the United States in the last few years. In 2014 alone, the sector received a total of $1.3 billion of investment. For example, Pluralsight, an American e-learning company, has raised $200 million this year. More and more colleges and universities are also creating partnerships with companies such as Edmodo and Google Education as a way of offering their students as much educational content as possible. And today, more than 10% of American students take fully online courses and no longer physically attend university.
The United Kingdom is also following the trend. With over 1000 startups specializing in EdTech, the sector has made the country a leading player in innovative education.
France is also gradually starting to make up for lost time. After Crossknowledge was bought by American giant Wiley for €175 million in 2014, new players are appearing and making their mark on the French market. For example, Coorpacademy, founded by the former CEO of Google France, Jean-Marc Tassetto, has successfully raised €3 million. Other examples include Kartable and OpenClassrooms, which have raised over €1 million.
EdTech – the road to fully digital teaching?
Seeing EdTech as the end of a classroom-based educational model would be a mistake. No app could replace support from experienced teachers. But the methods and learning tools that they use on a daily basis will change radically. For example, New Zealand has set up several Mind Labs to train its teachers in new digital tools and practices. Although EdTech is a way of providing new training tools for use in lessons and a method of transforming education, the aim isn’t to evict teachers from the classroom.
Instead, new practices are being developed, such as blended learning. Students study on their own via distance learning. What they’ve learned is then checked during lessons dedicated specifically to answering their questions.
Contrary to received ideas, education is a market with a great deal of potential. But startups in the sector will need more capital to develop. And above all, there needs to be a change of mindset to ensure that people accept these new ways of teaching.