2017 could be the year of take-off for EdTech
Education technology, or EdTech as it is popularly called, uses technological advancements for completely new forms of learning. With students already accessing course materials and doing homework, getting it peer-reviewed and assessing their learnings with the use of technology, the traditional textbook could soon become a thing of reference. Corporate learning and development has taken a quantum leap with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) making productivity enhancements faster and at lower costs. University destination solutions like Abroad Shiksha are working on putting in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and bots to do the closest match of a student's capability with an institute--it's like farming their education DNAs. EdTech has already significantly and constructively altered the way learning is accessed and absorbed.
In 2016, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) put in $50 million in BYJU's, an Indian EdTech startup, along with Sequoia, Sofina, LightSpeed Ventures and Times Internet. According to data from VCCEdge, the number of angel deals in EdTech has doubled between 2014 and 2016. The sector has started to see strong proliferation of technology that makes Indian startups capable of global competition--now AR, VR, AI and machine language, learning analytics and instructional design platforms are not merely aspirational words, but actually happening at the likes of EKIN, Simulanis, ToT Smart, Gyan Labs and Tiny Tapps. Moreover, the Indian skilling and corporate learning sector has already attracted global interest, with Russian and American EdTech startups feeling the need to be present in India. Edorble, ahhaa, SkillSoniq from the US and ProctorEdu from Russia are a case in point.
Companies are getting serious about assessing learning outcomes for anything that attempts to make technology a complimentary learning platform. Seasoned founders like Harish Iyer of Flinnt.com are converting this dream into reality. Also, startups like Urros Education are working on creating direct impact on learning outcomes, processes and learning experience for children, and on introducing the essence of skills in secondary education assessment. The chain of engagement is nearing completion with skill assessment-based career path management being already done by a platform called Gradopedia.
The next-level evolution in India's education is the spate of new, contemporary careers. Imagine a child debating with his parents about becoming a scuba diver or a mentalist. The parents will get perplexed on how to convert their child's passion into learning and, finally, earnings. This is where platforms like Classboat are helping parents and children to find the best possible programme, after-school activity, tutor or coach for the child's passion.
It is a no-brainer that education is a recession-proof sector and a constant-impact one. In a nutshell, the infusion of technology can increase the number of students and corporate professionals manifold, since brick-and-mortar infra cannot reach everywhere. Indian EdTech startups have started fishing in overseas waters, and similar markets like South-East Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and very much on the radar. With internet and devices penetration on the rise, the right match of content, context and assessment is already happening. This is where the future lies, where a 5/7-inch screen can create learning to the extent of managing the whole education and career life cycle of individuals. Clearly, there are challenges to be overcome but the opportunity to enhance the impact of education is beyond doubt.
Competing in the modern world needs lifelong learning and development of new skills. The potential for educators and publishers is immense in EdTech, so that they embrace the future and not stagnate in the past.
Rishi Kapal is CEO, Edugild, an EdTech accelerator.