Oct 18, 2014 Elena Zozulya
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that traditional classrooms, textbooks and teaching methods are frozen in time, while technology has been rapidly advancing. Of course, there are some areas in edutech that have shown concentrated growth, such as language learning or massively open online courses (MOOC). However, the education sector hasn’t been fundamentally re-imagined and reshaped by technology that is available today. That is why we need more technology entrepreneurs and education professionals to roll up their sleeves and fix it. Let’s have a closer look at the companies that think it is about time we changed the way we teach and learn. TribaLearning, Eliademy, Smart Education and Lingvist are startups that are coming to Slush to show their ways of transforming education through technology.
Finland has a strong education brand and professional expertise that local edutech startups could capitalize on. Although much fewer startups in Finland have been targeting education compared to the gaming or health domains, more and more interesting cases appear in this sector.
TribaLearning is a good example of the Finnish edutech venture that aims to change the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to education. They want to empower digital learners by recommending them personalized learning material based on their individual learning paths. To do so, they’ve built TRIBA™, an open learning platform for higher education institutions that brings together learners, educators, content and application providers. It enables students and teachers to build adaptive education content schemes that support personalised learning paths. These can be created with paid content that is available through their market place or with self-generated and free content from the Internet.
One the most interesting features of this platform is that it collects data on learners’ interaction with education materials, peers and teachers and provides insights into how learning happens and what impacts the success of it. “It is your personal learning tracker helping you to set goals and stay on track with your studies. You can collaborate with your peers and teachers or study individually”, comments Mervi Palander, CEO of TribaLearning.
Wouldn’t it be great to fully customize your learning experience to your availability, speed, time, and place? Eliademy is set to do just that with its online platform for education and personal development. While other MOOC providers like Coursera or edX usually offer closed, pre-selected set of courses designed by universities, Eliademy believes in crowd-sourcing of education and wants to use the wisdom of the crowd to democratize education. With Eliademy, you can create your own course and be a teacher in what you are good at. So far, Eliademy rolled out in 160 countries in 26 languages, having hundreds thousands of users onboard. The ambition is to continue the growth in Europe, Asia and Americas.
Smart Education is a Japanese company behind Gocco interactive education apps for kids that stimulate creativity and imagination. Being the number one education app developer for kids in Japan, the team is on the mission to help young thinkers better develop their creativity and activate the skills they need to succeed. Kei Otagaki, Product Lead at Smart Education, says: “We believe creativity is one of the most important skills in this age of information and technology.”
According to App Annie, the estimated revenue from the whole Education category on iOS is about $15M per month that is much smaller compared to that of the Games category. There is clearly a great opportunity for growth for educational apps. However, at the moment parents are ready to pay $15 for a book, but they are not necessarily willing to pay $3 for an educational app. Smart Education emphasizes that developers of educational apps need to work together to raise parents’ awareness about the quality and benefits of digital education products.
Various companies have set their eyes on helping the world learn new languages with technology and the competition here is much tougher. Lingvist , Estonia-UK-based startup, believes that currently available tools for language learning don’t deliver fast enough outcomes, because they offer uncustomized solutions that cater to the masses. Lingvist, on the other hand, promises that with their product anyone can learn a new language in 200 hours.
Ott Jalakas, co-founder of Lingvist, comments: “Lingvist speeds up language learning by employing fully personalized machine learning algorithms and statistically prioritized learning material. We look at language learning as a scientific exercise, a process that we can measure, analyze and optimize to each and every learner to minimize their learning time.” The complex calculations, however, are at the back-end and learners can enjoy simple and gamified interface. Users solve personalized microtasks that match their level in real time, easily pick up relevant vocabulary and advance faster.
Investors also keep their eyes on the startups that aim to drive change in education. For instance, Inventure, a leading venture capital fund in the Nordic countries, has invested in several startups in the education sector and looking to add more to their portfolio. Ekaterina Gianelli, Director at Inventure, says: “We at Inventure are passionate about innovation in education. Often we see technologies that don’t blend into the learning environment and become add-ons instead of being part of the learning process. Instead, we see a need for smart technologies that could help improve and simplify daily learning routines. Learning should be engaging, rewarding and fun.”
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