5 Reasons Why Your Edtech Product Is Sitting On A Classroom Shelf
A few months ago, I attended a digital learning conference among other education colleagues here in Chicago. Regardless of a new product or teaching strategy, the barriers teachers face when it comes to making any changes in a school district hasn’t changed since I was teaching in the classroom years ago. Education moves slow, teachers have their hands tied, barriers are hard to overcome, a hierarchy is in place, and there is not enough time in the day.
Also, for the first time, we have four generations in the workplace: those born without technology, and others who don’t know life without it. This type of environment can throw everyone off their path. However, if and when all teachers and support staff work together, the outcome can be different.
As a teacher, education consultant, and writer, I have worked with various education or edtech startups since 2014. Due to this experience, I can see inside and outside of the classroom respectively.
Although education technology is a global market tipping the scales at $4 trillion, with little to show for actual profit, venture capitalists are still interested in the education space.
Also, according to EdSurge, $1.45 billion of venture capital was invested in education startups in the US in 2018. Education in itself is a challenging, messy, and confusing market for VC scale returns.
School districts, teachers, and universities do not move fast, but rather steep and slow. And surprisingly, without any research, most startups will discover how slow the education industry moves when they try and move their product to the market—especially without checking if their is even a need for the service.
Almost all of the various freemium tools that go straight from the producer to the teachers have struggled to monetize their efforts—which can leave teachers in an unfortunate position and startups with empty pockets.
Here are five reasons your Edtech product might be collecting dust on a classroom shelf.
Lack of Communication
If you are running an edtech business, active and ongoing teacher communication and professional development are crucial to your success. Regular collaboration, checking in with buyers, and working together to form a community of support can help to ensure your product does not collect dust on a shelf. The more human and attentive you are to teachers’ needs, the more people will remember you. Also, odds are better that a school will move your product from the freemium version to premium, or they might renew a subscription. The education system, how it works, and the structure is a difficult concept to grasp for those outside the field.
All edtech companies should maintain these critical conversations.
Teachers Are Siloed
One of the most significant barriers I’ve seen when it comes to schools adapting any new product or strategy is the fact that most educators work in their own bubble.
When educators choose only to work alone, this type of behavior leads to one of the most significant barriers when it comes to any type of school change. When teachers don’t support each other, everyone suffers. If teachers come together and build a community, all students and teachers win.
Student and teacher learning can thrive when all educators come to the table, and bring different perspectives working toward the same vision. Cooperation, communication, and collaboration are key to success when it comes to any type of change in a school environment.
All startups should have an interest in the school culture of their market. This way, they can support their buyers with the right type of communication, cooperation and collaboration.
Company Was Acquired
Another interesting topic that came up at the conference quite often referred to startups, and how fast they are acquired. In fact, one teacher told us that various programs her school district purchased in the summer were already collecting dust because the founders from two companies were gone before they could even begin the school year. She went on to tell us there was no further customer service, websites were gone, and she couldn’t find anybody to help her with the products.
When startups close without providing an exit plan for their buyers, they are creating a feeling of lost trust for the next product or strategy they might build. If another company acquires your edtech startup, be sure to follow up with your buyers, hand-off the right support, and help them pick up where you left off. Nobody likes a company that suddenly disappears—it’s not good for business, nor is it fair to the teachers and students.
Confused Company Culture
Last week, I had a great chat with Eugene Swank, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Propellant Labs. Swank is a serial entrepreneur who has touched base with various types of companies and niches, including education. One interesting thing we both noticed as we were chatting was the mindset of entrepreneurs as well as teachers when it comes to startups.
Through our conversation, we both spoke about one major lacking component across the board: teachers who lack business knowledge are starting companies without the insight of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are building edtech companies and forgoing crucial teacher input and industry knowledge.
When these two do not come together in support of each other’s strengths, most typically, the startup will fail fast. Teacher and entrepreneurs come from two different walks of life, and must take the time to learn, support one another, and to understand both sides of the industry.
Too Many Choices
Finally, one primary concern that began to come to the surface quite often was about technology and choices. There are too many applications and choices to choose from, which can leave teachers and leadership over their heads.
In fact, we learned that some school districts have over 3,500 applications to choose from daily.
Having this many types of product offerings in one school district can never put anyone on the same page, and will most likely lead to mass confusion. If your school is considering a purchase, it is essential to make sure that the product is a good fit, and that it matches the needs of the school or district.
When people make purchasing decisions, nobody likes to feel overwhelmed or worried about making the wrong choice. When we have too many options, many people can tend to shut down, give up or walk away. Leadership in schools should implement an agreeable program where everyone has a voice, and startups should not offer too much or become repetitive because it can overwhelm your potential clients.
Thank you to The Learning Counsel, where I was able to chat and learn from my education colleagues.