Earlier this year, Tech Crunch reported that in the first 10 months of 2017, global investors poured $8.15 billion into edtech companies worldwide. While much of this growth came from the growing Asian market, the surge is still a global phenomenon. In the first part of this five-part series, eLearning Inside News explores five factors that are currently driving the growth of edtech’s global market. The other articles in this series take a closer look at edtech incubators and startups in four rapidly growing edtech markets in Northern Europe, Central Europe, South America, and India.
Five Factors Driving Edtech’s Global Market
The Demand for Education Is Growing in the Developing World
According to the United Nations, enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, though a staggering 57 million children still remain out of school and more than half of the children not enrolled in school live in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the secondary and postsecondary levels, rates of school attendance and completion are on the rise, but there is still a lot of work ahead as demand continues to outpace available seats in many countries. Indeed, especially in Uganda, the Republic of the Congo, and Côte d’Ivoire, where improvements in primary education have resulted in a growing population of youth seeking secondary and postsecondary educational opportunities, keeping up with demand has proven difficult. While some researchers, aid workers, and startups are confident that edtech may offer a way to rapidly scale education and meet the growing demand in developing nations, obstacles, including access to reliable Internet services, remain an issue. Nevertheless, there is little question that moving forward, the developing world will play a role in driving edtech’s global market.
Tech-Savvy Youth Expect Tech-Savvy Educations
Despite notable disparities in access to digital technologies, each year, a growing number of people around the world gain access to the Internet. A PEW Global study released in 2016 found that since 2015, a majority of people in the world (at the time, it was 54%) reported owning a smartphone or accessing the Internet at least occasionally. Globally, young people are more likely to use mobile phones and to spend time online. In every region of the world, 18-34-year-olds were far more likely to be online than people over 35 and in some regions, young people are more than 3 times as likely to be online than their older counterparts. In Vietnam, for example, where 50% of the population is online, 81% of 18-34-year-olds report using the Internet versus only 25% of people 35 years and older. Moreover, in at least four regions–Canada, Spain, Australia and South Korea–PEW researchers found that 100% of people 18-34 report owning a mobile device or spending at least some time online. With the global youth’s highly likelihood to be online, even in the developing world, the demand for access to online education and blended learning continues to rise and fuel edtech’s global markets.
Educational Funding Is Increasingly Contingent on Metrics
Both at the state and federal levels, there is growing pressure on schools to produce evidence that they are doing what they claim to be doing, and this means having access to reliable metrics on everything from daily attendance to completion rates to learning outcomes. Collecting metrics in an analog world is challenging, often highly inaccurate, and at the postsecondary level, it can even be difficult to force faculty members to comply with reporting requirements. As more educational tasks are carried out online, it is easier to collect metrics for external funding agencies and easier for postsecondary institutions to avoid long-term disputes over funding and even accreditation issues. While not yet being fully leveraged by all educational leaders, there is also a growing recognition that data can be used to make smarter decisions about everything from admission decisions to staffing.
Helicopter Parents Are Demanding More Transparency
The U.S. Department of Education and state departments of education are not the only entities increasingly looking for heightened accountability. As parents become increasingly involved in all aspects of their children’s education, often well beyond the early years, schools and colleges are under fire to increase their transparency. Many educational technologies have built-in dashboards that enable parents to easily monitor their child’s progress, grades, and even whether or not they are completing their homework in a timely manner. While not necessarily the primary function of educational technologies, there is no question that part of their ongoing growth is the extent to which they meet the needs of parents who are increasingly reluctant to let their children manage their educations primarily without guidance.
Reskilling Is No Longer Optional
As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, reskilling will no longer be optional. To survive, nearly all workers will need to commit to reskilling throughout their career cycles. As noted in The Future of Jobs, a 2017 report published by World Economic Forum, “Current technological trends are bringing about an unprecedented rate of change in the core curriculum content of many academic fields, with nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree outdated by the time students graduate, according to one popular estimate.” The report further emphasized that disruptive changes “will have a significant impact on skills requirements in all job families and that they are creating a range of opportunities and challenges in all industries, not just narrowly related to ‘hard knowledge’, technical skills and technology.” In order to manage these trends, the report suggests that reskilling will become imperative over the coming decades. Scaling training programs to meet the growing demand for reskilling over the course of workers’ careers can be more easily accomplished with educational technologies. From learning management systems designed to support workplace training to MOOCs offering micro degrees, edtech is also well positioned to respond to specific needs of adult learners.