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Key factors and trends influencing the development of the Edtech industry worldwide

With the proliferation of technology and ease of access - regional, economic and social barriers have blurred to give a greater number of people access to a greater amount of content.

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By Achin Bhattacharyya

These are times of servicing conventional needs through unconventional ways, and any successful brand in recent times was conceptualized to fill up gaps that existed in the market ecosystem. Ola, Swiggy, Paytm, and other service needs like transportation, food and transacting, that have been needs since time immemorial. These brands have found an innovative way of servicing the same – adding values like convenience, economy and/or access.

All over the world, we see significant success stories in the edtech sector – be it Khan Academy in the US, or the MOOC initiatives taken by Harvard and MIT. It is proved beyond doubt that best quality education can be made accessible at affordable rates by making the content accessible to a larger audience. This can be done by leveraging technology to enable massive access to online delivery of content.

Factors that have aided the growth of Edtech:
        Felt and Stated Consumer Need: With the proliferation of technology and ease of access – regional, economic and social barriers have blurred to give a greater number of people access to a greater amount of content. The consumer has become more discerning in terms or quality, which is a direct result of the mobility of information in society. Parents and students have seen first-hand that there is better teaching available beyond the local school or tutor, and hence they are proactively looking for educational aids online.

        Proliferation of Handheld internet: In 2002, the world saw the first smartphone. By 2011, Sub-Saharan Africa had a smartphone penetration of 6%, expecting to grow to 30% in 2017. In 2017, the penetration was found to be 53% in Nigeria alone. This unprecedented growth in access to the internet on handheld devices has brought more users to learning portals.

        Globally declining Data prices: Data network pricing has been reducing both as a factor of scale as well as competitive forces in the marketplace. In emerging economies, the data network is available at pricing as low as USD 0.20 per GB of data, with India providing some of the lowest data pricing in the world in the post-Jio era.

        Declining device cost: Between 2008 and 2016, the average price of an Android device has halved. This means, economically speaking, there would be more than twice as many takers of connected devices now as compared to that a few years ago.

        Greater Need of Personalisation: With time, the industry has evolved from global to local to hyperlocal to “glocal”. The need of the hour is to enable scale by sourcing globally while serving localized needs. Edtech is the education sector equivalent of having the sleeve of a shirt stitched in Vietnam because it amplifies economies of scale. After all, Pythagoras’ Theorem remains the same across states, countries, and Boards of education.

Current Trends in Edtech:

        Moving from teaching to learning: Edtech content development has moved from replicating classroom lectures to offer greater engagement through offering an environment conducive to learning.
        Increased stress on engagement: As a society, we would have failed collectively if we failed to inspire natural curiosity in a student. Edtech products today are duty-bound to engage a student to the extent that the student feels naturally inclined to learn more.
        Gamification: Increasingly, across products, learning is being gamified. Leaderboards, competitive evaluation, reward systems, etc. all contribute to creating a game-like environment as part of the product experience.
        Return of the Teacher: For the last few years, most edtech content has moved away from an instructor-led system to a passive resource mechanism. Recent research has shown that the human presence aids learning and recall, and newer product has been using a hybrid of instructor-led storytelling aided with animation and graphics.
        Commercial Innovation: Edtech flourishes in communities where the number of quality educators is insufficient to cater to a large number of students. However, given the initial outlay demands of content creation, most products expect an up-front annual subscription and hence price themselves beyond the market average. Latest products in edtech have innovated commercially to offer monthly and PAYG pricing to lower the barriers to adoption.
        Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: As higher-order thinking gets recognized by the tech portals, it becomes imperative to offer more customized and personalized solutions. Evolution of Analytics, Big Data, Machine learning, and AI have all aided the development of learning systems that provide learning paths and guidance using these technologies.

Despite the rate at which technology has changed almost every aspect of our life, our school education has not changed much. We have grown habituated to content on our handheld devices and laptops, and school texts are losing the battle to the Netflixes and Primes of the world. Edtech is education’s way of adopting prevalent technologies to provide quality at scale.
The author is the Founder at Notebook.

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