Does EdTech have a responsibility to support schools during the pandemic?


The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone and everything across the world. Even though it has been 7 months since the outbreak first occurred in the United Kingdom, communities and industries are still trying to adjust.

This includes thousands of educational institutions like primary and secondary schools. With reports suggesting that a second wave is firmly here, steps must be taken to properly deliver teaching to schoolchildren despite what is going on in the world.

The majority of students are back in the classroom; however, schools must be prepared for the worst case scenario. As a result, leaders are now turning to EdTech for the solution. Read on to find out more about what educational technology is, why we need it, and why suppliers of this software have a responsibility to schools amid the pandemic.

The Impact on Education

For starters, let’s look at how specifically the pandemic has impacted the education of schoolchildren. More than 1.2 billion young people have been affected, causing both short-term and long-term problems. Here’s what they are:

Learning & Development

Many schools were closed to most children ( other than keyworkers)  in March and remained closed until the summer term, when smaller groups of children had limited classroom time until the start of the new school year, disrupting the learning and development of millions. As young people are growing, both physically and cognitively, this interruption could have a notable impact on their education, causing a ripple effect on their future.

Exacerbating Opportunity Gaps

The pandemic has caused an even greater disparity between the privileged and the poor. While some schools in affluent areas have been able to provide their pupils with learning through lockdown, schools in deprived areas have not always been able to through lack of IT and connectivity. What’s more, disadvantaged children haven’t been always been able to access free school meals, impacting their nutrition.

Internet & Technology Access

Following on from our previous paragraph, internet and technology access has also been problematic for poorer students. With the pandemic keeping children at home, they can’t use the learning resources that the school provided them before.

Limitations of being remote

While teachers were unable to physically mark workbooks, they missed measuring progress effectively and relied at times on limited online assessments. This led to gaps in really knowing hwo effective remote learning had been and how well their children were doing.

What is Educational Technology?

Educational technology (which is commonly shortened to EdTech) has been identified as one of the key solutions to many of the problems above. Essentially, EdTech is when computer hardware and software are combined with educational theory and practice to create a digital way to deliver or support education. This technology also helps educators to manage their virtual classrooms, ensuring students understand the work and stay focused. EdTech can facilitate teachers implementing their lessons remotely. Obviously, this means it has become an invaluable resource during the pandemic when educators couldn’t access their classrooms.

What is Educational Technology Used For?

Educational technology has a variety of applications which facilitate learning, even from remote locations. These are some of the main ways that teachers are using it:

Setting Tasks

EdTech can be used to create educational activities for the students to complete. Most software suppliers will also have collaborated with schools to provide their users with lesson templates that link back to the assessment criteria most educators work by. These activities will go ‘live’ when the teachers set them for the students to complete, providing updates as to how each person is doing.

Providing Face Time

During the pandemic, teachers have been allowing students to focus on self-study with regular check-ins to ensure they are on the right track. However, some students who require additional support from teachers that they know and trust have been able to get extra face to face time when required. This is all thanks to engaged teachers and EdTech tools.

Feedback Tools

EdTech like Classroom.Cloud also provides teachers with classroom collaboration and monitoring tools for interacting with their students and showing support. This also means every student in the class still has a voice. What’s more, this software has a ‘poll’ device, meaning pupils can vote whether they understand something or not.

Managing Behaviour

One of the main problems with remote learning is that teachers can’t effectively manage their student’s behaviour online. Thankfully, EdTech has also provided the solution to troublemakers. The software can be used to blacklist websites during lesson time, preventing pupils from becoming distracted or slacking off.

Grabbing Attention

EdTech services can be used to grab the classroom’s attention, too. When linked with all the pupil’s devices, it can blank their screens and lock their computer mouse, allowing teachers to make their latest announcements.

Why Does EdTech Have a Responsibility to Schools?

The pandemic hasn’t left schools much choice when it comes to delivering lessons to their students. eLearning is a very effective solution which helps with delivering lessons. Obviously, this means that some of the largest EdTech software providers have seen huge success on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.  To protect the future of students, we feel that these EdTech providers should consider it their responsibility to provide education during the pandemic in the months ahead. As such, where they aren’t already, they need to go above and beyond – helping schools in ways that don’t solely consist of making a profit for themselves. In doing so, they could even resolve the other issues that the pandemic has caused.

What Should EdTech Providers Do?

With all this being said, what exactly do we think EdTech companies and figureheads should be responsible for? Here are some of the different ways we think they could support schools during this time:

Providing Advice

For starters, we think that EdTech suppliers could provide schools with advice on how to effectively implement eLearning. Without assistance, many schools have struggled to adjust to this new format of education. Teachers that aren’t as tech-savvy as others have especially struggled. Thankfully, people like Al Kingsley (developer of the Classroom.Cloud software) have been providing educational institutions with advice on exactly this. For instance, he has delivered online workshops to school leaders, sharing with them what shapes blended learning. As Chair of 2 Multi Academy trusts and a Member of the Forbes Technology Council, he has the expertise that can be extremely beneficial.

Donating Supplies

As we mentioned before, children that aren’t as affluent as others haven’t been able to access their education during the pandemic. This could be because they don’t have a computer or internet, so they can’t participate in their virtual lessons. We imagine that some EdTech developers have grown significantly during the coronavirus pandemic and so we feel that, where possible, they should make sure they focus on giving back to schools.

Creating Resources

Of course, not everything can be for free. EdTech companies do need to make money to support their businesses somehow. However, we do think that they could for example supply schools with templates for virtual lessons or other free learning resources (many have). These would be incredibly helpful for facilitating the transition between ‘physical’ learning and  Remote Learning. For example, they could provide a guide on how to effectively structure a virtual lesson on English Literature.

Should the pandemic require schools to close again in the near future, we will need EdTech more than ever before. As such, the industry must do what it can to support schools and students alike.





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Udemy and altMBA co-founders return to edtech with a new, stealthy business – TechCrunch


In 2009, Udemy co-founder Gagan Biyani tried to convince people to learn online through live classes. But what he discovered instead was that everyone wanted an online repository of content that allowed them to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever. So, he canned his idea and Udemy created what is now called a massive open online course provider, or MOOC.

In the years since, Biyani was let go from Udemy, started a 200-person food company, shut that down, took a sabbatical, and is now returning to the seedling he left behind in 2009: live, online courses.

Today, Biyani tells TechCrunch that he is teaming up with Wes Kao, the co-founder of AltMBA, an online cohort-based leadership program, to start an edtech company that combines both of their experiences into one focus: live, cohort-based learning. The duo grew up as friends in the same hometown, but only recently reconnected over education once Biyani returned from sabbatical. Kao’s experience building an online course from scratch, with an over 95% completion rate, was validation that the format worked. And soon enough, they incorporated a company together.

The company will focus on cohort-based learning, mixing live and asynchronous components. As it’s still in early stealth, the founders said it doesn’t have a name yet. Instead of a company site, they have a Notion landing page.

Despite those missing details, what Biyani did say is that the startup’s main focus is creating a community where anyone can start their own course. Kao says that creating a course requires over a dozen people behind the scenes — teacher assistants, community moderators and the process is essentially “an entire production.” With the startup, she wants to democratize that operation.

“I see it as a way to help more traders and experts be able to share their knowledge,” she said. “And take away the question marks on how to build community.”

The company from the start will focus on the back-end production of helping teachers, but eventually create a marketplace to allow students to see a directory of classes.

“It should be as easy as building a Substack,” Biyani said, referring to the popular newsletter service. Similar to Substack, the company will only make money if the instructor, or creator, does. It takes a chunk of each student’s subscription cost as revenue.

The company is entering a crowded space. Yesterday, CampusWire announced that it has pivoted to start offering build-your-own courses to experienced professors. MasterClass allows celebrities to teach classes, Teachable allows anyone to create their own course, and the list continues.

But Biyani views their biggest competitor as teachers who have already built courses without a third-party service. The company is planning to bring those creators onto their platform by offering ways to manage their customer base.

Ultimately, the market will only be won over by the startup that has the best strategy, product, and teacher pool. Based on their stealthy vision, the duo has raised $4.3 million in a round led by First Round Capital. Other investors include Naval Ravikant, Sahil Lavingia, Li Jin, Arlan Hamilton and co-founders from Lambda School, Outschool, Superhuman, and Udemy.

It’s a stacked term-sheet for a company in the early stages, suggesting that that edtech’s boom is still very much upon us. Lavingia says that he committed right away even though he didn’t use the product.

“Gagan’s name was enough for me,” he said. “I think I followed him on Twitter a year or two ago and i’d back anything he does just based on what he shares.”

Backstage Capital’s Hamilton said that Kao has been within the Backstage mentor network for a while, and added that “there’s a perfect storm for Wes and Gagan to execute within.”





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