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EdTech

Investment in EdTech

One year into an unprecedented mass experiment on using technology to deliver teaching, investment in EdTech continues to grow strongly. Oriel Square Director, Sam Derby, looks at EdTech’s trajectory and gives his top tips for navigating the world of EdTech investment.

2020 saw record investment in the EdTech sector, with around $2.2bn invested in US EdTech, venture capital investment in Indian EdTech growing to a similar level (with huge player Byju now investing in bricks-and-mortar education), and both being outstripped five-fold by investment into China. The sector is still tipped for growth despite fresh records being set – many still see the potential for education to be revolutionised by technology. 

Get all your EdTech news in one place with our bimonthly EdTech Insights – from investment and transaction trends to what works in content, policy and innovation, through to who’s who.

2020 saw record investment in the EdTech sector.

Another tech ‘revolution’?

The idea of a ‘technology revolution’ raises a few eyebrows among those of us who have been in the education industry a while. After all, buzz about machine learning, artificial intelligence or augmented reality doesn’t sound markedly different from previous ‘revolutions’ in technology. Previous innovations (for example, interactive whiteboards, VLE) have tended either to transform individual aspects (rather than the whole system) of education, or have struggled to have a measurable long-term impact in terms of learning outcomes or productivity gains. 

The idea of a ‘technology revolution’ raises a few eyebrows among those of us who have been in the education industry a while.

There are many theories about how technology could or should be part of a generational shift in our approach to education, but for many, the pandemic is proving that technology is no replacement for the social aspects of education that are so well delivered face to face. 

Evidence around the impact of technology in education will no doubt increase dramatically over the next few years as previously unfeasible studies will be carried out into large-scale use. For the moment, most studies either find overall positive outcomes without providing analysis of how best to use it (for example the EEF toolkit), or restrict its use to certain subject areas or specific purposes (NBER evidence review). Either way, there is often the disclaimer that technology is unlikely to be an effective substitute for face to face teaching, and is only effective in a hybrid learning situation.

For many, the pandemic is proving that technology is no replacement for the social aspects of education that are so well delivered face to face.

If EdTech is effective, and if that effectiveness is maximised in a hybrid learning situation, then we should be developing an education system based on hybrid delivery, rather than try to add tech to a system designed for in-person teaching and learning. 

Navigating EdTech investment 

So, how can someone looking to invest time and money – whether they’re an educationalist, an investor or an entrepreneur – navigate this territory? Working with partners across investment and education has allowed us insight into both these domains. 

My tips and reading recommendations:
  1. Impact evidence from the classroom is building fast, so continually review and refine your understanding. 
  1. Context is everything when thinking about what ‘effective use of technology’ means. 
  • Look at this case study from Rwanda, where radio was a key medium for delivering remote teaching. 
  • Read about online learning provision in some of the least accessible regions of the world. 
  • Access resources via the World Bank Lessons for Education.
  1. Follow the money. The investment world can give a good idea of where developing technology shows potential for impact or mass take-up. 
  1. Understand teachers and learners’ needs, and map any emerging or exciting technology against them. 
  • Get in touch with Oriel Square, so we can help you do just that. 
  • Get all your EdTech news in one place with our bimonthly EdTech Insights – from investment and transaction trends to what works in content, policy and innovation, through to who’s who.

Get all your EdTech news in one place with our bimonthly EdTech Insights – from investment and transaction trends to what works in content, policy and innovation, through to who’s who.