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Learning applications are experiencing rapid development in the epidemic. Now comes the real test

After moving away from schools, many of the hard-working students, teachers, and their families feel burned by the epidemic. But companies that sell digital learning tools to schools are enjoying the coronavirus.

Enterprise equity funding for startups has doubled to $ 12.58 billion last year from $ 4.81 billion in 2019, according to a CB Insights report on venture capital control for start-ups. :

During the same period, the number of laptops shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States nearly doubled to 26.7 million, up from 14 million, according to the British market research firm Futuresource Consulting.

“We’ve seen a real surge in demand,” said Michael Borem, senior market analyst at Futuresource. “It was a maritime, massive change out of necessity.”

But as more districts reopen for individual learning, the billions of dollars that schools and venture capitalists have squandered on education technology are set to come under scrutiny. Some distance learning services, such as videoconferencing, can see a drop in student audience.

“There will definitely be a shock next year,” said Matthew Gross, CEO of Newsela, a popular reading class app for schools. “I called it The Great Ed Tech Crunch.”

Even if the ed-tech market is contractual, industry leaders say there is no turning back. They say the epidemic has accelerated the spread of notebook-learning applications in schools by setting up digital education tools for millions of teachers, students and their families.

“It accelerated the adoption of technology in education easily in 5-10 years,” said Michael Chassen, a veteran tech entrepreneur who founded Blackboard in 1997 and is now one of the largest school-college management systems. “You can’t train hundreds of thousands of teachers, millions of students in online education, and not expect them to have a big impact.”

Technical evangelists have long predicted that computers will transform education. The future of learning, many promised, included artificial intelligence applications that adapted lessons to children’s abilities faster, or more accurately, than their human teachers could ever have.

This robotic learning revolution was expected to be slow, in part because very few curricula have shown that they significantly improve student achievement.

Instead, during the epidemic, many schools simply turned to digital tools, such as videoconferencing, to transfer traditional practices and schedules online. Critics say the attempt to duplicate the school day for distant students has only exacerbated the inconsistencies for many children who face epidemic challenges at home.

“We will never see a stronger demonstration of the conservatism of education systems in our lifetime,” said Austin Astin Reich, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies online education. Why technology alone cannot change education? ”

Apps that enable online interaction between teachers և students և report emergency growth և investors և follow it.

Among the biggest deals, CB Insights said. Zuoyebang, a Chinese ed-tech giant that offers online lessons and homework to kindergarten 12th graders, raised a total of $ 2.35 billion from investors last year, including Alibaba և Sequoia Capital China.

Yuanfudao, another Chinese tutoring startup, has raised a total of $ 3.5 billion from investors like Tencent. And Norway’s Kahoot quiz program, used by millions of teachers, recently raised about $ 215 million from SoftBank.

Some of the largest recent ed-tech deals in the United States have included startups that help educators give, evaluate, lead lessons, or conduct classroom discussions online. These include Newsela և Nearpod, an application that many teachers use to create live interactive video lessons or take students on virtual field trips.

“Especially in K-12, so much learning begins with the teacher-student dialogue,” said Ach Jennifer Carolan, a Reach Capital-based venture capital firm focused on education that invested in Nearpod և Newsela in: “We are inspired by these products, which really expand the capacity of the classroom teachers.”

A number of record-breaking ed-tech startups had large school audiences before the epidemic. Last spring, when school districts went into distance learning, many education programs disrupted the overall epidemic growth strategy. They made their premium services temporarily free to teachers for the rest of the school year.

“What happened there was mass adoption,” said Tori Patterson, CEO of Owl Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in start-ups like Newsela.

At the end of the school year, he said, technology startups began to turn into paying school districts. “We have seen that these offers are being widely accepted,” he said.»

At the end of December, schools paid 11 million student bills at Newsela, an increase of about 87% compared to 2019. The start-up announced last month that it had raised $ 100 million. Newsela, now valued at $ 1 billion, is a haven for consumer applications such as Instacart և Deliveroo, but is still relatively rare for US public school education programs.

Nearpod also reported exponential growth. After making the video lesson program free, the start-up company increased its user base to 1.2 million teachers at the end of last year, which is five times more than in 2019. Last month, Nearpod announced it had agreed to acquire Renaissance, which sells academic assessment software to schools for $ 650 million.

Some consumer technology giants that provided free services to schools also benefited by gathering an audience and teaching millions of students how to use their products.

For example, Google Classroom, Google’s free class assignment և assessment app, has reached an audience of more than 150 million student-educators worldwide, up from 40 million at the beginning of last year. And Zoom Video Communications says it provided free services to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries during the epidemic.

But whether the tools teachers relied on for distance learning can maintain their popularity will depend on how useful the programs are in the classroom. Newsela, for its flexibility, has earned the loyalty of educators. The app allows them to select up-to-date news articles or stories for class discussion in a variety of text depending on the student’s reading level. Bruce, CEO of Newsela, said the app also provided quick feedback to teachers on each child’s progress, warning students who may need attention, whether online or in class.

“Teachers are beginning to realize which tools are really built for both physical and remote classrooms,” Gross said, “which work equally well in both conditions.”

Nearpod, the video lesson program, also expects to keep schools attractive, said Pep Carrera, the startup’s CEO. During the epidemic, educators like Nessie Harold, an eighth-grade teacher in the Houston area, used the app to ask students, create quizzes, or ask students to use a drawing tool to sketch the blood system. Digital tools that work both in the living room and in distance learning.

“It allows me to broadcast the lesson to all my students, no matter where they are,” said Harold, who also teaches part-time students.

One of his complaints. He could not keep more than one lesson on the Nearpod at a time because his school had not purchased a license.

“It’s still expensive,” he said.

The future of education is less clear for enterprise services such as Zoom, which were designed for business use and were adopted by schools because of the epidemic need.

Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom’s chief financial officer, said in an email that she expects educational institutions to invest in “new ways of communicating” outside of distance learning, such as using Zoom in PTA meetings, school boards and parent-teacher conferences. for:

Chasen, an ed-tech entrepreneur, is counting on it. He recently founded Class Technologies, a startup that offers online course management tools, such as attendance և assessment features, for Zoom live tutor Z corporate trainers. The company raised $ 46 million from investors, including Bill Ty, one of Zoom’s earliest supporters.

“I’m not thinking about AI ‘s new, advanced methodology,” Chassen said of his new video game plan. “Do you know what the teachers needed?” They needed the ability to divide the work in the classroom, to give a quiz, to evaluate. ”


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