Business ideas for 2017: Edtech 2.0

With the UK currently suffering from a digital skills shortage, and with the rise of virtual reality captivating young minds, edtech is in for another big year...

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While 2016 was a massive year for edtech, 2017 will see a more extensive and diverse range of educational content hit the market.

With the smart education and learning market expected to grow from $193bn to a staggering $586bn by 2021, there’s certainly money to be made in helping the next generation learn or by helping people up-skill and change career paths.

What’s more, the Global Education Gamification Market 2015-2019 Report has forecast a compound annual growth rate of 64.34% between 2014 and 2019.

Let this be a lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs – Make 2017 the year you start your educational business…

Starting an edtech 2.0 business: Why it’s a good business idea

According to a report from EdTechXGlobal, the global edtech market is set to hit $252bn by 2020 with just 2% of the education market currently digitalised.

More interesting still, around 15%-16% of all apps are currently listed under the category of ‘education’ on app stores and this figure is expected to grow in the coming years – a statistic that’s worth noting if you’re looking to create a hot new app.

In recent months, we’ve witnessed a string of significant investments into educational start-ups too. Online platform Show My Homework recently raised £2.4m in seed funding to aid its expansion overseas, while – which has an office in London – recently raised $2m.

Last November, London-based start-up Kuato Studios sealed a deal with DreamWorks Animation to release ‘Noddy Toyland Detective’ on the app store and has received praise from the likes of Uma Thurman and Barrack Obama.

Opportunities also exist in educational websites targeting professionals looking to upskill or to simply learn a new set of skills.

With the UK suffering from a digital skills shortage and increased demand for a connected workforce, Brits are flocking online to expand their knowledge and make themselves more employable – with over 4.1 million searching for instant skills and ‘how to’ queries in the first quarter of last year.

Edtech 2.0 business opportunities

Encompassing traditional gaming elements such as progression, rewards, collaboration, ranking and themes into teaching, ‘the gamification of learning’ is on the ascent – presenting exciting business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

While gamification of education has existed in the physical realm for years – such as the National Spelling Bee in the US or educational board games – the rise in interactive tech in recent years has opened up many new opportunities in the edtech space.

With Oculus Rift and Playstation VR both released last year, virtual reality (VR) looks set to be the gaming mode of choice for 2017, and it’s no surprise that it has already made its way into education circles. Pupils are now able to be completely immersed in some of the wonders of the world without having to leave their classrooms.

London-based Alchemy VR has partnered with the likes of Natural History Museum in London, the Australian Museum in Sydney and Google Expeditions to produce educational VR videos featuring the Great Barrier Reef, the pyramids and even the human body – with narration by Sir David Attenborough.

The rise of video-based content, coupled with the popularity of Youtube vloggers, means that, for low production costs, you too could produce top quality educational content for an audience of fans.

Stay-at-home dad Sergei Urban launched TheDadLab last January and has already become an online sensation. Sharing videos of him conducting simple science experiments with household objects alongside his two young boys, he has amassed nearly 350,000 followers between his Youtube and Instagram channels.

For slightly older audiences, businesses like Learn to Code are currently taking advantage of the digital skills shortage by offering online coding courses. We’ve also witness the success of entertainment and learning apps targeted at toddlers and young kids such as Hopster, the Startups Awards finalist which combines U-rated TV shows with a suite of educational games.

While the majority of educational websites and apps are focused on students and children, targeting the teachers themselves could also prove to be an avenue exploring in the evolving edtech market.

By creating a platform filled with unique lesson plans, advice guides and tips, you’ll be able to target newly qualified teachers seeking to broaden their horizons as well as more established teachers looking to upskill. For example, toy giant Hasbro recently launched Play-Doh Teach & Play which is an online hub offering nursery teachers access to exclusive educational content aimed at supporting the early years foundation stage curriculum (EYFSC).

Alternatively, you could look into creating an online platform that connects teachers, students and parents. Mentioned above, Show My Homework allows teaches to monitor and grade homework while informing parents of their child’s progress and is used in 1,500 schools across the globe.

Similarly, Synap – founded by Startups’ blogger James Gupta – allows teachers and students to create and share multiple choice questions online to add a sense of competition and fun to learning, and to help banish cramming forever.

Insider opinion

Sieva Kozinsky, CEO of peer-to-peer learning marketplace StudySoup, has said that “building a start-up in the education sector has been both challenging and immensely rewarding”:

“One of our goals at StudySoup is to empower students to take more control over their education and their futures, whether that’s through extra material that helps them further excel in the classroom or helps bring in some extra cash to ease the financial constraints they’re facing.

“I think there are so many different opportunities in this space, and we know the market is full of gaps and inequalities.

“I think one key thing that companies, both start-ups and established organisations alike, can do is to try and gain a better understanding of what the people working in education (teachers, educational organisations, students) truly need to succeed.

“Education can be a challenging space to make change in, but it’s one that deserves to have the highest levels of attention paid and innovation efforts put forward. Now is the time to take these opportunities and turn them into tangible tools that can make a difference.”

Published Jan 2017

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