Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Education Technology - A competitive landscape that is a diamond in the rough for new startups

In my previous post, I wrote a how-to guide to choosing the correct device for your classroom.  One of the key components to choosing a device and probably the biggest player in actually getting the devices is always surrounding one word: "funding".

Funding for technology in classrooms has increased year after year, and as it becomes more prevalent, schools will start implementing technology in the classroom as a line item on their budgets.  In 2014, nearly $1.9 billion was spent on education technology and 2015 is looking to hit the $2 billion mark.  With this increase in spending, is also going to spark a new competitive landscape that will be readily primed for new startups.

Mega companies such as Apple and Google currently have a large share of the education devices market.  Apple iPads, which were the original education technology device of choice have received great reviews on improving student test scores after being implemented in the classroom.  Now, Google Chromebooks have come in and are competing as a less expensive option for schools as a small cloud-based laptop computer. Not to mention Chromebooks implement directly with the Google Management Consul, classroom manager, and arrive pre-loaded with hundreds of free applications to be used in the classroom.  Additionally, Chromebooks are 50% cheaper than the cost of an iPad, averaging around $250 for a mid grade Chromebook.

Although the landscape might seem to be dominated by these two mega companies, there is still room to grow for this industry and this also opens the door for many new startups to get into this thriving and growing market.

Opportunities exist in many facets of the technology education bubble.  Some areas that startups will look for innovation are:
  • Enrollment
  • Education Management
  • Classroom Management
  • Donation Platforms
  • Online Tutoring
  • Technology Management Platforms
  • Affordable Technology for the Classroom
  • Online Education
Currently, some of the major players in these areas are:
  • SwitchNote - an application for students to swap class notes
  • Donors Choose - a platform for donors to literally choose where they want their donations spent
  • Udemy - an online learning platform
  • Khan Academy - an online learning platform
  • Kaltura - a leading video platform
  • Panorama Education - school surveys and analytics
  • Blackboard - edutech platform
  • AltSchool - personalized learning experiences
  • ForClass - a cross-platform tool for student assessments and class management
  • Google - Chromebook creator and Google for Education Applications
  • Apple - iPad creator
  • Flashnotes - an application for students to purchase and sell class notes
Though these companies are always coming up with new ways to innovate and play their part in the rise of technology in the classroom, they have only grazed the surface of possibilities.

Still, even with the current resources available, the forces of funding have not allowed many classrooms to experience these technologies.  Startups are now forced to become innovators and lead the way to new, more affordable technology that allow students all around the globe to experience technology in the classroom.  Once startups are able to create a product or service that becomes a permanent line item in the annual school budget, that is when you know that education technology has evolved to become a staple in the world of education.


  1. How does spending break down in terms of out-of-pocket expenditures by teachers versus centrally controlled technology investments by the schools?

    1. Over the past few years, teachers have been utilizing their own money out of pocket to cover nearly 50% of the supplies they need to run their classroom. The average spending per teacher is roughly $360 out of pocket according to a study done by CNN Money.

      Out of the $360 average out of pocket, teachers spend around $150 or so out of pocket for software to help manage their classroom or for assignments.

      The reason for out of pocket expenses from teachers has rose is due to parents being less active in supplies for the classroom, as well as a decrease in funding in the schools annual budget for classroom supplies.

      In New York, the classroom supply budget was $9.4 million, which comes out to roughly $4/student. The void is then paid for by the teachers.

      Teachers will purchase technology on their own to help them manage their careers as a teacher. Some teachers will use iPads in the classroom, while others will purchase online lesson plans to help find new content to teach students. It seems that if schools are not willing to fund technology to help the teachers/students, then the teachers will take it into their own hands.