After a year of struggling between distance learning and face-to-face learning, many students, teachers, and their families feel exhausted from the learning epidemic. But companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a coronavirus storm.
According to a report from CB Insights, a company that tracks startups and venture capital, venture capital and equity capital for educational technology startups have grown even more. doubled, to $ 12.58 billion worldwide last year.
During the same period, the number of laptops and tablets shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States nearly doubled to 26.7 million, from 14 million, according to data from Futuresource Consulting, a market research firm in the UK.
“We have seen a real boom in demand,” said Michael Boreham, senior market analyst at Futuresource. “It’s a huge change at sea beyond necessary.”
But as more school districts reopen for direct instruction, the billions of dollars that schools and venture capitalists have invested in educational technology are about to be tested. Some distance learning services, like video conferencing, can see their student audience plummet.
“There will be a change for sure next year,” said Matthew Gross, chief executive officer of Newsela, a popular reading app for schools. “I called it ‘The Great Ed Technical Attack.'”
However, even as the tech market contracts, industry executives say they won’t turn around. They say the pandemic has accelerated the spread of laptops and learning apps in schools, normalizing digital education tools for millions of teachers, students and their families.
“This has driven the easy adoption of technology in education for five to ten years,” said Michael Chasen, a veteran technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Blackboard in 1997. “You cannot train hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students in online education and don’t expect to have a profound impact.”
Tech evangelists have long predicted that computers will transform education. The future of learning, many have promised, regarding artificial intelligence-powered apps that will adapt lessons to children’s abilities faster and more accurately than teachers. who they used to be.
That robotic teaching revolution is slow, partly because so few learning apps show that they significantly improve student outcomes.
Instead, during the pandemic, many schools simply turned to digital tools like video conferencing to shift traditional methods and online study schedules. Critics say the push to replicate the school day for remote students only exacerbates the disparity for many children facing the challenges of the pandemic at home.
Justin Reich, assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who studies e-learning and recently wrote the book “Failure: Why technology Alone cannot change education. “
The app that allows for online interaction between teachers and students is reporting phenomenal growth and investors have followed.
Among the biggest deals, CB Insights said: Zuoyebang, a Chinese educational technology giant that offers online lessons and homework help for students from kindergarten to classroom. 12, raised a total of $ 2.35 billion last year from investors including Alibaba and Sequoia Capital China.
Yuanfudao, another Chinese tutoring startup, has raised a total of $ 3.5 billion from investors like Tencent. And Kahoot, a quiz app from Norway used by millions of teachers, recently raised about $ 215 million from SoftBank.
In the United States, some of the largest recent education technology deals involve startups that help educators give and grade assignments, lead lessons, or host online discussions. in class. Among them are Newsela and Nearpod, an app used by many teachers to create live interactive video lessons or take students on virtual reality trips.
Jennifer Carolan, a partner at Reach Capital, an education-focused venture capital firm that has invested in Nearpod and Newsela, said: “Especially at K-12, a lot of learning is ignited through dialogue between teachers and students. “We are excited about these products really expanding the teachers’ capabilities in the classroom.”
Several education technology startups have reported record growth that had a sizable school audience ahead of the pandemic. Then last spring, as school districts moved to distance learning, many educational apps adopted a popular pandemic growth strategy: They temporarily provided free premium services to teachers. for the remainder of the school year.
“What opens up from that is widespread adoption,” said Tory Patterson, chief executive of Owl Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in startups like Newsela. As the school year ended, he said, high-tech startups started trying to convert school districts into paying customers and “we’ve seen a fairly wide uptake of those incentives.. “
By the end of December, schools had paid out 11 million student accounts on Newsela, an increase of about 87 percent from 2019. Last month, the startup announced that it had raised $ 100 million. la. Currently, Newsela is valued at $ 1 billion, a milestone that could be common for consumer apps like Instacart and Deliveroo but still relatively rare for educational apps targeted at public schools. America.
Nearpod also reports exponential growth. After offering the free video lessons app, the startup saw its user base grow to 1.2 million teachers by the end of last year – a five-fold increase from 2019. Month Previously, Nearpod announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Renaissance, which sells learning evaluation software to schools, for $ 650 million.
The latest information on how the epidemic is reshaping education.
Some of the consumer technology giants that provide free services to schools have also reaped many benefits, attracting a share audience and getting millions of students accustomed to using their products. .
For example, the worldwide audience for Google Classroom, Google’s free grading and class assignment app, has skyrocketed to more than 150 million students and educators, up from 40 million at the beginning of last year. And Zoom Video Communications said it provided free services during the pandemic to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries.
But whether the tools teachers use for distance learning can maintain their popularity will depend on how useful the classroom applications are.
Newsela, for one, has received enthusiastic follow-ups from educators for its versatility. The app allows them to choose current news articles or short stories for class discussion, with different versions of the text depending on the student’s reading level. Gross, Newsela’s chief executive, said the app also provides quick feedback to teachers about each child’s progress, alerting them to students who may need attention even though they are online. or in the classroom.
“Teachers are starting to realize which tools are actually built for both the physics classroom and the remote classroom,” said Gross, “equally well at both facilities,” said Gross.
Nearpod, which uses video lessons, also hopes to maintain traction in schools, said Pep Carrera, chief executive of the startup. During the pandemic, educators like Nesi Harold, an 8th grade science teacher in the Houston area, used the features on the app to poll students, create quizzes, or ask students to use drawing tools to sketch face systems. Heaven – active digital tool for both live classroom and remote instruction.
“It allows me to deliver lessons to all of my learners, no matter where they are,” said Ms. Harold, who also teaches face-to-face and distance students.
She a complaint: She can’t host more than a few lessons at once on Nearpod because her school hasn’t purchased a license yet. “It’s still expensive,” she said.
The future in education isn’t clearer for enterprise services, like Zoom, designed for business use and adopted by pandemic-needed schools.
In an email, Kelly Steckelberg, chief financial officer at Zoom, said she expected educational institutions to invest in “new ways of virtual communication” beyond distance teaching – such as using Zoom. for Teacher Association meetings, school board meetings and parent-teacher conferences.
Mr. Chasen, a high-tech businessman, is believing in it. He recently founded Class Technologies, a startup that offers online course management tools – such as grading and attendance – to the institutional company’s educators and coaches. Zoom classes live. The company raised $ 46 million from investors including Bill Tai, one of the earliest supporters of Zoom.
“I don’t think of some new advanced AI methods,” Chasen said of his new application for video classroom. “Do you know what teachers need? They need to be able to assign assignments in class, give a test and score. “