There are thousands of education technology startups across the country, all of which are trying to make a splash in the EdTech world. But, what are they up to and how are they complimenting or disrupting mainstream education? UKTN investigates.
Lingumi teaches English to pre-school children aged between two and six. The app is aimed at families, and seeks to help introduce children to the language, from their very first words up until the moment they are ready to take English lessons at school.
Targeting this age range is critical to Lingumi, says Toby Mather, who founded the London and Cardiff-based startup alongside Adit Trivedi in 2015.
“We focus on the very youngest learners, and the very first steps of the learning process, using a research-driven, constructive methodology to build daily lessons that are time-capped, and delivered through our app to families around the world,” he said. “We want to be the first layer of learning English – to create a foundation in the language.”
Lingumi, which raised £1.2m in April 2018, is a subscription based service, but Mather says it is affordable compared to private tutoring. “The average price our users pay per lesson is less than 50p, or about 1/40th the cost of an English class with a teacher,” he explained.
Mather went on to say that the English-learning market is saturated with products which veer towards ‘edutainment’, and so are full of videos and unstructured lessons. “In China, there’s been a wave of successful ‘video teaching’ businesses, but they cater to an older starting age, and a wealthier audience, than us. Lingumi is first and foremost a learning method, which we deliver through the app’s daily lessons,” he said.
Lingumi is also important as communication begins increasingly important in the word of work, he claims.
“English is the lingua franca of the international working world, and so children need to learn it,” he said. “Starting at school is an inefficient system (both neurologically, and in terms of the frequency and quality of exposure to English teaching), and so education companies like us, who take efficacy, affordability and quality seriously will need to provide solutions for families to begin the journey of learning English earlier. It’s a very important mission and one we’re very dedicated to!”
Up next is Curiscope. The startup uses AR & VR to try and transform a child’s understanding of science. It built the “Virtuali-Tee”; an AR T-Shirt that allows kids to learn about the human body, by showing the composition of our internal organs when the corresponding mobile app is pointed toward it.
“We think it’s the perfect medium for letting you play and interact with difficult or complex concepts,” says Ed Barton, the company’s CEO. “Using AR & VR tech is our key differentiator as is our expertise in the content space,” he added.
The team at Curiscope, which was founded in 2015, come from a background in film and animation. “We believe our approach is able to offer the high quality bar that kids are after and the magic that makes the difference in engagement,” Barton adds.
Curiscope is aiming to bring some fun back to learning, whilst acting as a necessary furtherance to traditional education. “It has never been a harder time to be a teacher; the workload and the expectation placed on them increases every year. We want Curiscope to be there offering high quality learning experiences that kids love and that are incredibly affordable. With this tech we can do things that were previously impossible, dangerous or expensive making the wonder of science accessible to everybody,” he concludes.
EdTech isn’t just for children; it could also help educate the workforce. Fuse Universal – which raised a whopping $20m in May 2018 from Eight Road Ventures to support its expansion – has built a platform for workplace learning and knowledge sharing, with the aim of raising performance and engagement levels.
Fuse founder and CEO Steve Dineen explained the company’s purpose: “Fuse’s learning platform allows enterprises to create, curate and share relevant internal and external content among employees to facilitate seamless learning, knowledge sharing and communication.
“The platform is built with learners in mind and achieves employee engagement rates up to 100x higher than among legacy corporate learning providers,” he added.
The company claims to have more than 100 global enterprises, education and public-sector organisations, including Merck, EY, InterContinental Hotels Group, Adidas, The Prince’s Trust, Spotify and Vodafone. The platform can be used as an alternative to a traditional standalone learning management system (“LMS”) or can integrate with existing LMS providers.
The company also has a charity arm, FuseSchool, which aims to democratise education by delivering free educational content to children across the world and has had around 23 million views since inception, according to the company.
To move forward, Fuse will focus its efforts in advancing its machine learning and AR.
HowNow helps users learn from experts, in the comfort of their home. Whether you want to learn to play the guitar or become a yogic master, HowNow is filled with live videos from people with expertise in that profession. People can choose between private lessons with a personal teacher, or to learn in a group with a teacher and other students of the same level.
It also enables teachers to create and sell online courses from their own website. “At HowNow we help educators of all sizes monetise knowledge and deliver an engaging digital learning experience at scale,” says CEO and co-founder Nelson Sivalingam.
The company works with nearly 1000 educators around the world, ranging from independent experts to large organisations who are delivering digital training. Yet, with the internet filled with ‘how to’ and training videos, what makes HowNow stand out?
It’s about building a community and democratising education: “We need to turn passive learners into active learners. We need to personalise learning at scale… we need to make learning available when and where the learner needs it,” Sivalingam adds. “In a world where most jobs will be replaced by machines, the tools we provide to monetise knowledge will be more valuable than ever before.”
There are lots of startups in this space, but HowNow believe that being interactive sets them apart. “Most companies in this space are Learning Management Systems (LMS) and we think this product category is broken,” Sivalingam explains.
He concludes: “Learning Management Systems have been good at enabling the administration of learning but less so in enabling learning itself. Moving on from merely the digitisation of content and running admin tasks, we are creating a technology-enabled space to enhance learning. In simpler terms, rather than being glorified file storage, we’re a platform for teaching and learning that is interactive, personalised and encourages active participation.”
Learnerbly is a workplace learning platform powered by experts, Sue Siddall, managing partner of IDEO; Ajaz Ahmed, CEO of AKQA; and Sherry Coutu, former LinkedIn advisory board member. The platform provides everything from classes, books, videos, podcasts, articles to workshops, conferences, meetups and individual trainers.
Rajeeb Dey, founder and CEO of Learnerbly, believes the use of experts in the field is what sets his startup apart from the rest. “The vast amount of educational information published online is unqualified and unchecked, and people can’t make progress when you’re overwhelmed with choice,” he said. “We’re the shortcut to learning people can trust, curating content from experts at IDEO, Google, Airbnb and others we help people find the best classes, conferences, coaches and content tailored to them.”
Dey is also acutely aware that we are at the intersection of generational and technological changes that are challenging our traditional notion of work. “The half-life of skills is now just five years, almost half of all tasks people are paid to do everyday are at risk of being automated and multiple studies show that total headcount will be decreased by between 12% and 50%. This means we can never stop learning,” he explains.
So, how does this startup aim to tackle the issue? “Learnerbly provides workplace learning platform for employers to provide learning benefits to employees so they can reskill and upskill to keep pace with the needs of our changing workforce.
“This is vital for the future productivity of our people and economy,” he concludes.