DISCUSSING THE FUTURE OF ED-TECH
Let me ask you, apart from Netflix how are you utilizing your time in this sudden period of an outbreak due to COVID-19? I’m pretty sure you would’ve signed up on an online platform to do some courses. This epidemic has left streets empty but Educational Technology-based companies didn’t face any bumps along the road during these times, in fact, it was a golden goose for them to increase their targeted advertisements and aggressively increase their sales.
EdTechXGlobal, a global community that organises the EdTechX summit has estimated that by 2035, there are expected to be 2.7 billion students worldwide, and in order to meet higher education demand under the current structure; two universities need to be built per day, over the next twenty years. The infrastructural costs for the same would lead to a liquidity crunch in the market. Thus, enter the space, Educational Technology, an integration of education with any form of technology. It is the next big thing that is going to revolutionise the classroom experience. The market size is just getting dramatically large (for example – about 6 million people were enrolled in atleast one online course back in 2015). The current period is just indicating the trends of the past and how the Ed-Tech Industry is booming globally. A market estimated to grow at 17% annually and to have a market size of 252 $ billion in 2020 can only be determined as an under-invested as only 3% of the capital expenditure for education was towards this industry. This is only a trend that shows what the outlook of general public is towards it but it is ignorance on their part considering the taboos about how classroom education is the traditional and most adaptable way to go. Though, the student debt, which is a massive problem in the United States (1.3 trillion dollars of outstanding debt) is showcasing nothing but how education is becoming more of a liability in the long term and not reaping an adequate return on investment.
History can just be an answer to how people are going to react when the industry kickstarts with proper investment and thus recreating the situation of the dot com bubble in 1991 (when the internet had its big break). The United Nations has projected the world’s population to grow by around 1.2 billion in the next 10 years. It shows how after a period of time we won’t have enough physical resources to combat with the population growth. Thus, it would lead to the increase of market size in the Ed-Tech space or ‘artificial resources.’ Many would bring forward the argument that famous economist Thomas Malthus puts forward. His theory suggests that over a period of time, as the population grows, food growth will be at a lower scale, thus leading to a famine. In this context what I believe is the contraction of resources for individuals is likely too. Thus, the point of student debt comes in again. Student debt has, as previously stated, been the cause of many large problems in the USA and this would in the long term need to be accommodated. So, Malthus’ argument would stand null and void as then there would be a boom in the resources of the educational sector which wouldn’t require any physical space to be accommodated for. The USP of Ed-Tech now comes in that it is online, meaning how it doesn’t create a necessity to borrow for accommodation on campus, a large chunk of student debt. Thus, this would relief people off of their student debts if implemented in such a way.
While we talk about the world, India has not been left behind in any sense. Creating massive developments at every level, the biggest example being how Smart-Board technology is being integrated at the primary school level, India is disrupting the Ed-Tech Market. In fact, according to a 2016 KPMG report, the Indian Ed-Tech market is pegged to touch $1.96 billion by 2021. Being home to 327 Ed-Tech companies, education in India is given a 180-degree turn with every start-up having a different motive. Some use deep learning or natural language processing (in simple terms, AI) to give the student insights on where they lack. While others focus on making the process more fun and inclusive by using processes like gamification. However, the biggest achievement for India in absolute terms is the success of Byju’s and how it was able to raise almost 1 Billion $ in Venture Capital funding, the most for an Ed-Tech company.
So what did it do?
It appealed to the sentiments of consumers by first creating a brand on YouTube and then making them realize how their kids could be spending the time on the phone to study and not on video games.
However, if a college student or a working professional is reading this, you might find the story of UpGrad more relatable and inspiring. Started in 2015 by 4 friends, it aims at providing industry level Post Graduate diplomas to a student but on an online platform with guaranteed placements. It is following a simple strategy of capitalizing on the current trend of education in Data Science, building credibility by tying up with renowned colleges like IIIT-Delhi, using the students like the very own brand ambassadors on social media platforms and spending aggressively on online targeted advertisements. In fact, amidst the current coronavirus crisis when the traditional colleges had to put a halt on their classes, they offered their platform to conduct classes on the live video platform. This, in my opinion, was an excellent future customer acquisition strategy thus capitalizing on the situation.
What the future holds for ed-tech is maybe an introduction to digital learning at a very young stage (of 6-7 years, not earlier because it can hamper with their cognitive abilities as technology at such young age isn’t really healthy) and thus making them familiar with the technology. What I believe is that, this industry will learn to co-exist with the traditional campus-based education as that is also necessary for a student to build their interpersonal skills but mostly for the learning part of education, the Ed-Tech sector would have an upper hand. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, AR/VR will create such a world that students will experience education like never experienced before and disrupt the whole sector.
Are we ready for this change?