Technology has been nothing short of a godsend during the pandemic, allowing us to work, play and stay in touch with loved ones all while maintaining the appropriate social distance. And with many classrooms closed as schools have transitioned to remote learning, the demand for edtech continues apace. Investors have taken note and poured $803M of venture capital funding into promising edtech companies in order to bring innovative learning solutions to market and capitalize on the rising popularity of technologies disrupting the education space. Here are four trends in edtech that are capturing attention and opening investors’ wallets.
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality Technologies
After decades of languishing as a fringe technology, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) gear is finally having its moment. When deployed as a learning tool, VR and AR tech can create immersive experiences like digital field trips that transport students to exotic locations. Want to teach learners about the solar system? VR/AR can take them to the planets, moons, and beyond. Medical schools are also now able to integrate VR headsets into their curriculum so that future and current doctors can participate in surgeries in a virtual operating theater. VR/AR tech removes some of the challenges presented by distance education and provides virtual hands-on moments that take learning to the next level.
2. Online Post-Secondary/Adult Career Training
Even before the pandemic struck, the trend in adult education and career training had taken off given workers need to learn new skills in order to adapt to work environments that are becoming increasingly automated. Now with record levels of unemployment, investors are flocking to innovations in short-term training options that talent can utilize to land a job in specialized industries (i.e., sales, healthcare, tech). Just last month, Coursera raised $130 million to provide online courses to higher-ed institutions, businesses and government agencies.
With online courses and training programs, students can earn certificates or digital badges to signal their skills, efforts, competencies and interest to employers. Thinking about becoming an edtech coach? Google for Education just launched a new certification program to help instructional coaches better support K–12 educators using technology.
3. Personalized Instruction
Educators have always known that not all students learn the same way, but now they have the tools to deliver more personalized instruction. Using video-assisted learning, digital curriculums, and personal devices, instructors can craft lessons to the needs of individual students. A pilot program at San Francisco Unified School District that combines personalized, technology-enhanced instruction with learning environment design reported greater student engagement and a narrowing of achievement gaps commonly found among students of different races, ethnicities, household income, native languages, and ability status.
Capturing and holding any student’s attention can be challenging no matter what their age, but creative innovations that turn learning into a game can keep students more engaged – it’s particularly handy when it comes to remote instruction. Apps like Quizlet and Duolingo feature gamification and use points, badges, and other virtual awards to deliver positive feedback to learners. Make Music Count is a newer app that mixes class lessons with popular songs and rewards users with tunes they likely already listen to in their free time.
It’s difficult to duplicate the hands-on learning experience that comes with in-person instruction, but edtech innovations in the digital learning space are proving to be a great and sometimes even superior alternative. And while teachers, students, and parents are likely counting down the days to the end of the pandemic so that traditional education experience can resume, the crisis is accelerating the adoption of education technologies that just might be around to stay. At least, that’s what investors are betting on.