How has the pandemic changed the face of edtech?

The COVID-19 crisis has been a major catalyst in enhancing the learning process not just for students and educators, but also for investors and edtech startups. The year before the pandemic saw already high growth and adoption in education technology, with global edtech investments reaching €15.87 billion in 2019

Whether we’re talking about language apps, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19. So what is changing in the education sector and how fast?

From early learning, to higher education

The coronavirus pandemic has forced major changes in education at every level, from early years to adult learning and career development. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technology in education with global edtech investment on track to grow by 15% in 2020, a predicted €6.4 billion. At its peak in mid-April, the virus caused nationwide school closure in 190 countries, impacting 90% of total enrolled students, almost 1.6 billion people globally.

In this context, edtech startups are helping schools and universities adapt and evolve. In primary and secondary education, startups like Kognity or Lix Technologies are helping with course materials, using intelligent textbooks, engaging video content, slide shows, activities and assessments. 

In higher education, we’re seeing startups like Graduway or Teacherly provide students with digital-first academic support and accessibility, smart assessment and new types of curriculum in specialised areas such as languages, science or coding. 

As for adult learning, it is now much easier to get access to remote learning, with increasing online courses from traditional institutions, income-sharing agreements which basically consist in study now, pay later, or bootcamps to get them ready for new professions.

UK-based Learning Technologies Group (LTG) is a market leader in the fast-growing workplace digital learning and talent management market. Others like WhiteHat, are democratising access to careers for young people through apprenticeships. They have gone fully remote during the pandemic and continue to offer their services in virtual settings. 

Well-timed funding rounds

Investments in edtech have been growing and startups in Europe have been expanding globally during the pandemic, as the demand for high-quality online schooling is skyrocketing.

For example, in higher education, Vienna-based GoStudent landed €8.3 million to take its affordable online school across Europe, with Felix Ohswald, GoStudent founder and CEO, stating: “The current crisis not only demands the need to drive forward the digitalization of the education system, but also clearly highlights the opportunity to supplement the existing traditional education system”.

In the field of school-age education, UK-based edtech MyTutor, a leading platform for online interactive one-to-one tuition for secondary school-aged pupils, also raised around €4.4 million. Similarly, Bertie Hubbard, co-founder and CEO of MyTutor commented on how online private programmes are now being seen with more urgency than before the pandemic: “The current pandemic has impacted every single UK family, and there is now an urgent need for academic support to ensure school children get back on track with their education.” 

Additionally, London-based Valenture Institute, a global private high school that provides online classes with physical campuses, also recently raised €6.4 million with Coursera and GSV as main investors.  Deborah Quazzo of GSV, who invested in the startup, highlighted VCs interests in backing startups that are stepping up to the challenge: “The vision was clear: it’s not about their online experience or blended-learning boutique campuses, it’s about evolving education in a way never seen before. We back companies we know have the potential to change the narrative of education.”

Edtech hubs to watch

London is a major edtech hub and is currently the only city to feature in the global edtech top 10 by investment. Last year, London-based edtech companies raised a total of €105 million in VC investment, ahead of Paris with €78.4 million and Berlin’s €57.1 million. London’s edtech ecosystem is also the largest in Europe, with an estimated value of €2.9 billion. Paris edtech ecosystem is worth €1.6 billion, while Berlin’s is €0.6 billion.

It’s also worth mentioning the role that Estonia’s government had at the start of the pandemic, as a designated ‘leading education nation in Europe‘. Stepping up during the crisis, Estonia announced in March that it would share all of its digital education tools to support other countries’ education systems, shining a light on the countries’ brilliant edtech startups, such as 99 math. Initiatives like this certainly turned heads and garnered attention onto lesser known edtech innovation hubs and their startups.

A connected edtech future

While the world still battles the coronavirus outbreak, edtech startups can expect significant growth as more people turn to digital education and solutions. International organisations like UNESCO also have their own list which certainly increases the reach of these platforms. The current pandemic has accelerated the transformation of education and technology startups in this sector have grown exponentially which means that edtech is here to stay and the way students learn will never be the same. 

For further reading on edtech, check out our article on 10 European EdTech startups changing the face of education in 2020.

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