LEARNING TO EARNING
As mentioned above, education is becoming a more fluid, life-long experience for people all over the world, rather than being solely for the earlier years in an individual’s life. In a Covid-shaken world, re-skilling and up-skilling are paramount as workers try to keep up to date with the new requirements of a digital-first job market. L2E education providers are less theoretical and more practical, aiming to equip workers with the skills they’ll need to land a job and succeed at it. Companies are offering specialised digital tools, turning group activities into digital internship and placing students directly to employers. However, completion rates are the struggle of online courses — MOOCs were highly criticised for their 5% completion rate. Online learning is not entertaining and is monotonous, and so people often become disincentivised to finish the course. Interestingly then, companies have been innovating by creating more entertaining content and using learnings from other industries to engage, and keep, people’s attention. We are seeing online courses using advertising copywriters to adapt their content, as well as even corporates using GIFs and texts to convey professional learning content to their employees.
Interesting companies to watch: 42 Courses, Arist, CareerTu, Capaball, Edume, The Learning People.
An education system that bases students learning abilities on their year of birth is clearly outdated and doesn’t take into consideration the uniqueness of individual learning patterns. That system was optimising the resources available, both in terms of infrastructure and educators, but today’s world looks very different. Whilst the ratio of teachers per students isn’t improving, students now have the opportunity to have a more personalised learning experience thanks to artificial intelligence. Companies are leveraging artificial intelligence to understand learning patterns and adapt content to optimise the individual’s learning. Other startups are using technology to understand and ‘diagnose’ why students are making certain mistakes, identifying learning gaps and misconceptions and correcting them efficiently. This way, teachers can offload some of their workload to technology and focus on improving students’ learnings.
Interesting companies in this space: Claned, CenturyTech, Eedi, Sana Labs.
Even if an a fully online-only learning method doesn’t take off (as educators worldwide agree that it cannot provide students with the same level of soft skills that an offline method can), schools and education providers are thinking more seriously and urgently about improving their online infrastructure. While some schools have built their online learning infrastructure from scratch, like EtonX from Eton College, most education providers are looking at startups to help with providing effective modern digital learning tools. Several companies in this place are trying to recreate the dynamicity of the classroom environment online, allowing students-to-students discussion, material-sharing among teachers, teachers Q&A and class-wide assignments.
Interesting companies to watch: Showbie, Aula, Campuswire, Class for Zoom, Sophya.ai.
Education is expensive — there’s over $1.6tn of student debt in the U.S. alone hence why companies are working to find new solutions to make education more accessible and less privileged. Two new trends are emerging.
On the one hand, companies offering student loans are becoming more sophisticated, using complex algorithms to take into consideration factors such as education, employability and grades to offer loans to students-to-be that don’t necessarily have the opportunity to access to traditional financial resources, but have all the characteristics to succeed in their career. On the other hand, there’s a new generation of start-ups toying with the concept of Income Share Agreements. ISAs have the opportunity to shift paid education as we know it. Students would be able to study for free, and universities would be economically incentivised to recruit the best students and equip them with the skills employers need. Students would end up taking a bet on themselves, and the job market, and the value of education would ultimately be a fraction of a salary.
There is no right or wrong option: the current system is flawed and needs to be solved, but will the new structures solve a problem while creating a further one? That is, will education only be valuable as a function of the job market? Or is there a vocational value within education, besides a profitable career? Society will have to first agree on the value of education, then find a systemic solution for financing it. It is also true that education is becoming so varied that there can be many different solutions solving different parts of the education spectrum, rather than a single one-size-fits-all.
Interesting companies to watch: MPower, Student Finance, Prodigy Finance, Stilt, Vemo Education, Henry.
What teachers aim for is to catch — and retain — students’ attention, as that is what drives engagement and results: the best teachers have indeed always been those who could grab and hold the classroom’s attention from beginning to end. As we move towards online learning, students’ attention has dwindled: students are bombarded with an overwhelming choice of content, and it’s harder to engage someone through a screen. However, this environment has created a great opportunity for teachers to take on the spotlight and become ‘influencers’, creating or curating high quality content and distribute it to a wide, highly-engaged audience. Throughout the pandemic, TikTok has seen a huge onslaught of teacher-influencers educating nations through short, engaging videos, demonstrating how impactful and valuable non-traditional teaching styles can be.
Interesting companies to watch: Pango, Scoodle, Zigazoo, Bla Bla App.
The EdTech sector is vast, and each stage of education comes with its own set of issues. At Talis, we’re most excited about companies addressing some of the most critical problems in the education system. We recognise the future of education to be about life-long learning, and so, we want to see companies that are expanding the total addressable education market to all people of all ages and monetise on the appetite of lifelong learners, not only students, who are creating an education system that is age-independent. Given how Covid has accelerated the shift to digital-first learning, we also want to see EdTech companies that are rethinking the way traditional education frameworks work and are establishing new forms of alternative education, including new online-only schools to cater to a different customer base. The traditional school system to date relies on offline teaching methods, but we want to see companies that are capitalising on the switch to mobile to capture the attention of an always-on-the-move customer base and transform educational content to match different mediums.
With corporates increasingly looking to up-skill their workforces, there’s also a huge opportunity for businesses that are creating new lessons and content that reflect what corporates are looking for: potentially collaborating with them for a more streamlined approach. Similarly, in an age of constant information overload, we’re looking for companies that are allowing companies and businesses, alongside schools and universities, to distribute and commercialise their knowledge and be recognised as educational institutions.
For any comments, thoughts, opinions and more exciting companies in this space, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.