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Edtech Startups: Taking the fight to Traditional Publishers



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It is beyond doubt that the education sector is replete with opportunities. And with the proliferation of technology, innovative ways of re-inventing the space are sprouting each passing day.

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This has led to a surge in the numbers of Edtech startups that are using digitization as a tool to make learning easy and efficient. In fact, the funding for such ventures has exceeded $1 billion last year and it is expected to grow to $94 billion by 2020.

Admittedly, due to the rapid rise of digitization, entrepreneurs are skewed towards the cutting-edge technology, however, the reasons behind the emergence of a plethora of startups in the education space are the price hike of textbooks along with the conservative approach employed by traditional publishers.

As per a survey, the prices of college textbooks in the United States have gone up to 25 percent in the last decade that has spiked the annual cost that a grad student spends on them.

Due to the skyrocketing textbook prices alongside a framework (traditional publishing) that refuses to adapt, more and more students are in the quest for affordable options.

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This is where Edtech startups come to play with their tailor-made and affordable learning and development solutions`. This article attempts to delineate how Edtech startups are taking the fight to the traditional publishers.

But before delving into that, let’s have a closer look at the Edtech space.

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What essentially is Edtech?

If you have heard of BYJU, Udemy, Unacademy, et al, then you might have an idea what Edtech essentially implies. It is true that technology has simplified the lives of the entire human race and it also is an enabler of education, these days.

Edtech is a niche that optimizes the current technology trends to provide learning solutions that are engaging as well as effective. It can be an app, a gamification platform, an AR-VR powered tool, or anything that enhances the learning process.

Even big corporations are going to adopt Edtech solutions to improve their training and self-learning modules.

Key Trends that are Making Edtech Robust

AR and VR

While AR and VR are relatively new to the education space, these turnkey technologies have the potential to revolutionize the landscape. One one hand, AR can add virtual elements to the real world, on the other, VR provides an immersive real-life experience to users through a digital medium.

If used in a combination, AR and VR can be optimized to develop certain areas of skill development, learning as well as school education. And especially when most browsers support AR and VR, it is evident that they can be used to enhance the level of learning.

Data Analytics

Big data has been making headlines all over the world, courtesy the immense technological prowess. In the Edtech space, big data can be utilized to facilitate the decision-making process.

While data analytics can be used to track the performance of students, understand their learning curve, and more, it can also be leveraged to predict future performance, thereby providing customized solutions for each student.

All in all, such endeavors will make learning more wholesome and personalized and it will pave way for a quality education that is free from the memorizing game.

Digital Content

With the rise in the price of textbooks, Digital content is the go-to option that most students are availing. Since digitized content is more accessible and easy to comprehend, it can be a game-changer, especially in a world inundated by technology.

Despite being a promising idea, online tutoring or coaching via digitized content still hasn’t managed to grow out of its teething phase. The major challenge that comes to the fore is the lack of interaction between teachers and students. In order to mitigate that, technologies such as video calls or an AI chatbot that acts as a mentor needs to be optimized.

Digital content is the future and with the constant push towards paperless technologies, sooner the world would be free of hardbound textbooks. Therefore, it is essential for startups in the Edtech space to cash in on digital content.

Internet of Things (IoT)

We surely spend countless hours glued to our smartphones. They have become a part of our day to day lives. Therefore, we can use them for learning and development exercise. There are numerous apps in the Edtech space that are dedicated to providing best-in-class learning solutions.

In addition, mobile technology can be entwined with gamification to scale up the entire learning experience. This has significantly been proven good in aiding the learning and development process of students in subjects that demand intellectual investment.

Conclusively, if we put smartphones to productive use, we will be able to reap greater benefits out of the mini gadget that refuses to leave our hands.

The Real Question: How Edtech Startups are going to Disrupt the Traditional Publishing Industry

The traditional publishing space is the exact opposite of the digital world with respect to competition. While there are only a few players in the market, the entire ecosystem has been in an uncompetitive lull for over twenty years. The scenario is further aggravated by the rise in textbook prices and the overall complacency of traditional publishing firms.

What such companies fail to understand is that education demands a significant investment from students and their families and if it is combined with a never-ending surge in textbook prices, sooner their customers are going to look for other options.

This exactly is the area that Edtech startups are vying to disrupt. In fact, there are numerous startups that are providing cost-effective as well as digitized content that serve the same purpose and impart the same value as textbooks.

Moreover, digitized content is far more superior in legibility, are more attractive, and makes learning an easy process. The continued failure of traditional publishing houses to build a scalable model to mitigate the aforementioned challenges has given ample opportunities to Edtech firms to put the former out of business.

With the rise in environmental conservation initiatives, most organizations, as well as educational institutes, are planning to go paperless. Therefore, the onus is on the traditional publishing industry to bring forth solutions that can help them sustain in the forthcoming years.

The Bottom Line

We all have grown up in an era wherein education was not about learning, instead was a memorizing game. Most of us, at least once in our lifetime, have come across the phrase ‘commit to vomit’. And this is what needs to change, once and for all.

To achieve that, I believe, just replacing hardbound textbooks by the digital version of the same wouldn’t be enough. The question to ponder upon is whether we need textbooks – digital or otherwise – at all.

Edtech startups must devise solutions that focus on learning instead of memorizing.


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Krishna Mali
Krishna Mali
Founder, CEO & Group Editor of TechGraph.

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