EdTech is a fast-growing sub-sector of the tech community, According to reports, the UK EdTech sector is expected to reach £3.4 billion by 2021.
EdTech (a combination of “education” and “technology”) refers to hardware and software designed to enhance learning and improve educational outcomes.
We wanted to talk to some of the big players in the EdTech space, to hear about what inspired them to start their companies, talk about the growing sector and find out where they think it’s headed.
Our Panel of EdTech Experts:
- Dan Sandhu – CEO of Sparx
- Roger James Hamilton – Co-Founder of GeniusU
- Riccarda Zezza – CEO of Lifeed
- George Webb – Revision Buddies
- Beth Porter – Managing Director of Esme Learning
- Joe Basketts – Founder of Go Live Training
- Charlotte Melia – CEO of Vesta by Dazzle & Fizz
- Nikolas Kairinos – CEO of Soffos.ai
- Dave Sherwood – CEO of BibliU
- Stefan Washietl – Founder of Paperpile
- Janice Burns – Chief Career Experience Officer of Degreed
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Dan Sandhu – CEO of Sparx
“In the past year EdTech has been in the spotlight like never before. In the UK we have seen the sector grow by almost three quarters due to lockdowns, partial school closures and home learning. The trend is similar across the globe.
Schools have had to embrace EdTech as essential for providing high quality education, rather than an optional extra. At Sparx we have seen a surge in usage throughout the period and our free platform Sparx Maths Virtual Classroom was used in over 80 countries during the height of the pandemic.
Schools have significantly increased their understanding in how to use EdTech and I think we can expect schools to demand more from EdTech companies. I welcome this and am keen for the sector to deliver greater value and more impact.
Some commentators are predicting that the pandemic will herald radical change in education, but I think this is unlikely. Instead, I hope that now EdTech is accepted more widely it can play a key role in helping to solve the big issues in education. Reversing the widening attainment gap, providing greater personalised learning and reducing teacher workload, this is where we need to see radical change.”
Roger James Hamilton – Co-Founder of GeniusU
Roger believes in lifelong learning and that edtech provides a solution to the education crisis that’s failing millions of youngsters (and adults) around the world. He says:
“The need for a truly 21st century education system that reflects the needs of the job market is long overdue. The education system is archaic and has one major focus, teaching students how to get a job, whereby our curriculum teaches students how to create a job by understanding your value and leveraging that value.
Genius Group is built on the saying that everyone is born a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it’ll go through it’s whole life believing that it’s stupid. Everyone learns differently and has different strengths and weaknesses. I believe in personalising a learning path that is unique to each student’s needs. Our curriculum is delivered both through mentors and coaches and also through micro degrees on GeniusU, and GeniusU uses forward facing AI to help anyone find their next steps to take.
EdTech can bridge the skills gap, not only within formal education but also for adult learners upskilling and reskilling for today’s digital world. Rising unemployment, as well as competition for jobs and government furlough schemes has seen interest in digital learning courses for adults also soar during the past few months. Figures show that the corporate e-learning market alone is set to increase by as much as $3.09 billion between 2020 and 2024.
Over the next 10 years, with the rise of artificial intelligence, automated technology, and augmented reality, traditional, manual and customer service based roles will diminish and there will be less need for a large workforce when computers and machines can do the role equally well. The EdTech boom kickstarted by the pandemic is just the beginning in a paradigm shift in how we view education and work.”
Riccarda Zezza – CEO of Lifeed
“The pandemic has made life’s complexity visible to all. Previously, it only seemed to concern certain categories of workers, such as mothers and caregivers. This complexity has been there for a long time, and can’t be seen or managed with old tools. At the same time, everyone needs life-long learning, but traditional training methods no longer hit the mark. In fact, learning skills and the soft skills that enable people to work and flourish through constant change have become key competencies in their own right. We’re now seeing a true revolution in terms of human capital needs and opportunities. It’s essential for the EdTech industry to grab hold of that, because the opportunities and responsibilities are immense in our sector.
When working in the corporate world, I could see that my employers treated life events (such as becoming a parent or caregiver) as if they were in conflict with my professional role, competing for my time and attention. At the same time, people like me got trained for the same soft skills that they were already honing through their personal life transitions. This was a clear paradox. With Lifeed, I want to stop this waste of human capital once and for all. Life transitions aren’t a ‘problem’, in fact they are a precious and very effective training ground for soft skills! What’s more, when we bring our roles together, rather than seeing them as in conflict, we can reveal hidden resources and use them for the benefit of both economy and society.
EdTech is not just about using new technologies to accelerate the usage of old learning methodologies. It’s about creating new, better ways to learn. We should get rid of old frameworks and imagine, for example, that we can learn while we live and listen while we learn. Different objectives can find a new synergy, thanks to technology, and the result can be more than the sum of the parts. I see this as the only way forward for sustainable human development.”
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
George Webb – Founder of Revision Buddies
“Revision Buddies was founded in 2012 by app developer George Webb who was keen to combine his passion for education and technology. In previous years Webb had worked on digital medical training applications and he was eager to transfer his knowledge and experience to new sectors. With the growing popularity of mobile apps he saw the enormous benefits of being able to deliver self assessment learning material straight to the pockets of teenagers studying for their GCSE exams in an easy to use and extremely accessible format.”
“The GCSE revision app and website was designed to boost students’ confidence in the lead up to their examinations through a user-friendly and engaging experience. The growing demands on teachers however inspired Webb to take the platform one step further; group enrolment and lesson features enables educators to easily enrol their classes onto a course and monitor their students’ progress. This effectively improves teachers’ productivity as it reduces time spent preparing for lessons, creating assessments or marking work.”
“Webb believes that key strategies such as “the testing effect” and “flipped learning” can excel through the use of an EdTech service, and that going forward, this will undoubtedly be an essential component of all learning. In a world where technology is constantly developing, it is clear that the educational space will need to keep evolving too. Revision Buddies is therefore excited to play a key part in creating new and better ways to learn.”
Beth Porter – Managing Director of Esme Learning
“Technology has disrupted every industry on the planet, and the pace of technological innovation is accelerating. As Ray Kurzweil wrote, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”** This has profound societal and economic consequences, especially within education. The dramatic pace of change means that people need to get smarter faster than ever before. Technology is also shifting the landscape of education itself, creating new opportunities to increase access, raise achievement levels, offer more provability, and deliver education over a lifetime.
I see the Edtech sector evolving in three distinct ways: broader access, proof of efficacy, and lifelong learning.
Broader access: People need to be able to access education in new ways — not just from traditional institutions, but from commercial providers and their employers. Schools and universities need to be able to engage with students in different and better ways than what currently exists. That might mean more investment in experiential learning that’s embedded in our rapidly changing workplaces or AI-enabled learning communities that more efficiently connect people to content and to each other.
Proof of efficacy: When you give people access to learning materials and experiences, you must also provide meaningful assessment, including feedback and intervention. Far too much emphasis has been placed on high stakes summative assessment; formative assessments that drive learning are more effective – and they can be automated, delivered incrementally, and embedded with measurement. Further, more time consuming human-intensive assessments, such as socio-behavioral or expository, are being enhanced by new technologies and becoming easier to implement at scale.
Lifelong learning: People talk about it — Peter Senge popularized the idea of the “learning organization” in his book The Fifth Discipline — but very few institutions actually provide systematic ways of learning over a lifetime. The incentives are all wrong and the educational opportunities are typically based in compliance. In the next 5 years, education technologies will allow companies to accelerate the pace and quality of workplace learning, and use it as a driver of significant growth and change.”
Joe Basketts – Founder of Go Live Training
“Originally, I trained as a teacher having had a poor experience of school myself, and although I began a degree in computer science, I didn’t like it and switched to teacher training. Having spent five years working as a primary school teacher, soon I found myself working as an advisory teacher for the local authority being seconded to schools to help them make the transition onto computers.
Having begun this business in Oct 2018, before March 2020 we were delivering training by standing in front of teachers. When the first lockdown came, we changed overnight to deliver it online which has reduced our carbon footprint.
Remote learning platforms never really took off in many schools until COVID-19 hit. It meant everyone had to begin teaching on either Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams, which is a massive shift within 12 months. That’s 25,000 schools across the country.
When things open up again schools can either move forward or go backwards to the old model. I believe this situation has given schools a good foundation to build on outside of lockdown.
An example is flipped learning, so instead of the teacher standing at the front giving children knowledge, they are given pre materials, so lesson time is used to discuss the topic in more depth making the lesson more interactive.
Technology can also improve the teacher-pupil feedback loop. Instead of waiting to return an exercise book to a student a week later, now the teacher can see the answer the child is writing in real time and make comments so students can progress more quickly.
The technology can help enable industry leaders, authors and other speakers to be in front of pupils as it’s just a video link now, while augmented reality is starting to move forward with more providers creating content. For example, a student could be studying biology and AR will allow them to have a heart in the room with them, to move around it and discover information.
We have all seen why children need to go to school from both an economic and child development point of view, but what technology can enable is for those human interactions to be more targeted and used where it’s needed most.”
Charlotte Melia – CEO of Vesta by Dazzle & Fizz
“The EdTech sector is booming. EdTech has seen a 76% increase in the past 12 months, largely accelerated by the negative educational impacts of the pandemic. School closures, nationwide home-schooling and the immense pressure on parents to continue working throughout lockdowns, has highlighted the educational diversity gap more so than ever before.
Pre-pandemic, the educational diversity gap in the UK alone was closing at such a slow rate, that it would have taken a further 500 years to achieve educational equality. Due to the onset of the pandemic, that gap has now stopped closing altogether. Unless we actively address the gross inequalities in the current education system, minority groups, BAME communities and those in challenging socio-economic groups in particular will continue to be horribly disadvantaged. This is simply not acceptable in 2021. The UN states that the right to a ‘Quality Education’ is a sustainable development goal, with 617M youth worldwide lacking basic mathematics and literacy skills pre-pandemic.
We chose to move in to EdTech to help address some of these gross injustices, both in the UK and globally. At Vesta, we believe that the best way for a child to learn, is by having fun and deliver educational entertainment both live and on-demand to help improve child learning, both academically and holistically. I believe that EdTech will continue to grow in the coming years and start to take a more rounded approach to child-education, incorporating mental, physical and spiritual health as part of healthy child-development.”
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Nikolas Kairinos – CEO of Soffos.ai
“All eyes have been on the education sector since the onset of the pandemic, and this isn’t limited to schools and universities. Corporate learning leaders have also been tasked with navigating the uncharted waters of a remote workforce.
The edtech space today is growing as a direct result of the education gaps exposed by the pandemic, and the need to see these filled. Learning platforms that can enable education initiatives and personal development to continue despite new geographical barriers have been front and center of this mission.
At Soffos, however, our interest in education runs deeper than exploring stop-gap solutions to today’s immediate challenges. We believe that the education sector as a whole is overdue an overhaul, and we’re excited about the potential impact that new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) will play in revolutionising this space.
The traditional model of teaching – namely, formal and generic instruction – no longer serve individual learning needs and goals. In the near future, technologies powered by the likes of AI and machine learning (ML) will help to deliver more personalized, tailored and effective learning opportunities to people of all ages.
In today’s world, new knowledge is created daily and is readily available for consumption, which means that we must constantly be learning. Yet the current model largely restricts learning to a formal curriculum and lecture-based tuition. This inevitably limits the ability of pupils to stay up-to-date with the latest information, and engage properly with new material in a format that reflects their personal learning style.
This will all change in the years ahead: the future of edtech includes valuable educational tools that will support deeper learning, rather than the passive absorption of information that is so often the case today.”
Dave Sherwood – CEO of BibliU
“It is my firm belief that everyone should have access to a quality education, and I doubt that there are many who would disagree with me. However, despite significant progress made in recent times, millions of students worldwide still find their learning inhibited by structural obstacles and disadvantages. Take the example of textbooks – while most publishers and institutions do their utmost to provide materials to all who need them, the underlying economics have unfortunately meant that this hasn’t always been possible.
This is why it’s so exciting to be involved with the EdTech sector. Technology has enabled us to facilitate more effective learning, providing a solution that works for students, institutions, and publishers equally, ensuring that no student will ever have to forgo essential academic materials ever again.
There are also a number of exciting developments on the horizon. We should see further digital transformation empowered by closer partnerships between universities and EdTech companies, in addition to a greater focus on career development as institutions work with leading organisations within a variety of sectors. Linked to this will be a greater focus on ensuring that students receive value, which will further result in more personalised and efficient forms of learning underpinned by third party software.”
Stefan Washietl – Founder of Paperpile
“Paperpile was founded in 2012 by former researchers from MIT and the European Bioinformatics Institute — Stefan Washietl, Gregory Jordan, and Andreas Gruber— who share a passion for exceptional software and scientific papers.
Paperpile is a full-fledged reference management solution used by tens of thousands of researchers worldwide. Paperpile helps researchers to collect, organize and cite their research papers. In 2018, we had the idea to bring the unique experience of our company to K12 and undergrad students. That’s when BibGuru was born. Our goal with BibGuru is to be the fastest, most accurate, and easy to use citation generator for students. With BibGuru students can focus on what’s really important – the quality of their content, instead of worrying about complicated citation rules.
As for EdTech, the future is becoming more clear: learning-based companies are seeing a big spike bolstered by stay-at-home orders around the world. The only way forward is innovation: adapting existing learning solutions and iterating on the ones that put power back into the hands of the lecturer, teacher, and student.
We expect to see online learning options become more robust, and the changes taking place now will continue to have an impact long after COVID-19 has become a thing of the past. More experienced professionals are taking advantage of the online learning model to return to their education efforts, and researchers will be using new methods of collaboration.”
Janice Burns – Chief Career Experience Officer of Degreed
“I have always tried to marry my passion and my skills to produce work that made a meaningful impact on others. While most this work was done within a corporate environment, on behalf of employees of one organisation, I have always felt that my true purpose and impact could be much more expansive. My life’s mission is to increase economic equality and career fulfilment by enabling people to access quality education and meaningful skill building experiences.
While historical barriers of time, finance and artificial criteria have made it impossible for many individuals to gain access to quality educational opportunities and skill building experiences, technology has enabled us to break through this obstacle and provide democratised learning to all.
As a result, I found that moving from fintech to edtech made the most sense in pursuit of the fulfilment of my goals. As Rick Warren says, “When you can achieve career success and personal fulfilment in the work that you do, you then move from simply managing your career to living your life’s calling.” Edtech has enabled me to live my calling of creating educational equity for people who desire career elasticity.”