Education technology, concatenated as edtech in popular speak, sits at the intersection of education and the developing frontiers of technologies that hold promise for enhancing educational outcomes through their use. Within edtech, technology investors and entrepreneurs bring together resources and innovation to develop the tools and connect to and support educators who select and utilize resulting technologies and technology platforms. One excellent example is ClassDojo, a communication platform that enables teachers to maintain more consistent connection with parents of students they serve, creating a greater sense of community in the adopting schools by facilitating communication that otherwise might only happen at periodic parent-teacher meetings. Founded in 2011, ClassDojo is already used in 2 out of 3 schools that serve K-8 students and is widely recognized for its contributions to creating a positive culture within these classrooms and schools. ClassDojo’s success as a pioneer of its technology-enabled services provides insight into important attributes successful companies in the edtech space must possess.
According to Entrepreneur.com, investment in edtech saw gains in 2017 after reaching a 4-year low in 2016, signaling an improvement in conditions in the space. 2017 investment was not expected to reach levels achieved in 2015- which saw approximately $1.5 billion invested- and both investors and entrepreneurs are cautiously optimistic, their reservations owing in part to expectations of cuts to U.S. federal education budgets in 2018 and beyond. Edtech success was variable by niche in 2017, with standouts in categories that centered around using technology to make learning fun for students and easy for educators. Examples include adaptive learning tools by Nearpod and gamification platforms produced by Classcraft, which makes games of learning activities. These companies’ products were rigorously tested both inside and outside classrooms, a fact that corresponds to educators’ high expectations for products intended to improve learning.
So, for companies that intend to compete in edtech, understanding successful players already in the space is integral to the possibility of surviving and thriving. These players leverage great products to become the preferred tools of teachers who are the key decision-makers determining which technology tools are adopted by their schools.
Ultimately, there are some common attributes of edtech products that succeed. First, when companies seek input from the people their technology is intended to serve, they can create products that provide solutions to real problems clients are having. ClassDojo met a real teacher need, facilitating teacher-parent communication on an ongoing basis concerning student progress outside the confines of the parent-teacher conference. ClassDojo solved actual problems. Second, with growth in the edtech market, products must be tested and proven to break through the clutter and enjoy any chance of being adopted by teachers and schools. Third, successful companies have a plan to implement and assist educators with adoption of their technology. The move to technology-based approaches to longstanding issues in teaching and developing students must often be assisted and needs consistent support to assure these technologies have a lasting role. When companies do these things, their chances of success in edtech are greatly enhanced.