The last 18 months have truly been a bountiful period, provided you own or work for a company that thrives online or when people are forced to be apart from each other, something Zoom’s EMEA education lead, Jane Ross, knows all too well.
Zoom, like many other SaaS business, experienced a transition to ubiquity so fast that it’s almost dizzying. Zoom, a company few had heard of pre-March 2019, is now used in 70% of all UK educational institutions.
And this could just be the beginning for many burgeoning new tech companies, ready to shake up the current educational paradigm.
In 2020, global investment in edtech reached a record of $16.bn, a figure nearly twice as high as the previous peak in 2018. A whopping $10.1bn of this total was invested just in China, with many companies seeking to standardise the schooling experience across rural and all forms of urban communities.
While the Chinese market is almost double the size of the combined US and European one, the block saw a respectable combined investment of $3.2bn, highlighting the success of companies like Zoom and Georgia-based Boxlight Corporation.
One area where worries linger over the longevity of the edtech model is in the UK’s higher education market; many students over the last 18 months have questioned the value of their online-only education that they still have to fork out £9,500 a year for, plus the cost of their now-pointless university accommodation.
Integrating into a hybrid model is probably the approach that will work best for all involved – something we have seen widely adopted in the corporate world as most companies move to working virtually from home at least one day per week.
The metaverse – or the name given to shared virtual-reality environments – saw an explosion in popularity over the last 18 months. Looking to capitalise on the trend, many companies sought to create their own virtual worlds, to varying levels of success. No stranger to awkward environments, Facebook entered the market with its offering.
Are simple video calls not giving you the visceral, three-dimensional experience you require from your team’s morning meeting? Enter: Facebook Workrooms, a new virtual-reality-based meeting room for you and all your other friends who own the required £419 Facebook-owned proprietary headset.
Yes, now you can experience meetings with floating co-workers whose virtual limbs thrash and flail as their motion-sensor set-ups struggle to track their actual hands.
Joking aside, Facebook’s newest software offering certainly has more personality, and would definitely bring levity and personal connection to virtual meeting environments that is somewhat lacking from the flat video calls of today.
We’re still only really seeing the infancy of virtual reality; he technology is still prohibitively expensive for the quality of the experience offered. This means, though, that in the coming years and decades great leaps and bounds are likely to be made in the accessibility and immersive nature of the technology.
There has never been a better time to be operating in the edtech space. Had the pandemic happened even 15 years ago, it’s doubtful that technology would have existed to properly support the continued education of millions as they were forced to stay home during lockdown periods.
At Polestar we have considerable experience working with many different companies within the education and edtech space – if you have any questions about the market or your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
“Hybrid models are here to stay,” agrees Zoom’s Ross. “The acceptance of edtech has been greatly impacted by the events of the last eighteen months. A lot of teachers and students had to turn to remote learning, with people relying on and therefore welcoming technology with open arms.”