The 8 Most Interesting EdTech Trends Of 2021

Kyle Byers | December 27, 2021 | 138 views

EdTech Trends
Education technology has the opportunity to improve learning outcomes for hundreds of millions of children and adults worldwide.

But what are the biggest trends in edtech for 2021? And what’s coming around the corner?

Read on to find out.

Tech-Enabled Immersive Learning

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for augmented reality, virtual reality, or the combination of related technology with the real environment. And it’s one of the biggest edtech trends happening right now. One big reason is cost.

The price of a standalone VR headset is already lower than ever, and expected to drop further to $200 by 2023 (and even lower for mobile-based VR units). Cheaper units means that more schools can use them as a standard part of their curriculum. Separately, the total value of AR in education is expected to reach $5.3 billion by 2023.

But how can these technologies be used to teach?

One way is by enhancing the visual learning process.

Using AR, students can see 3D depictions of dinosaurs, chemical elements, the human body and more. Products like Adobe Aero are making it easy for anyone to build AR objects. While a real expense for many schools, VR can actually be used to save money on physical equipment.

For example, Danish startup Labster provides interactive VR laboratories that STEM students can run experiments with. No million-dollar lab needed. While Google Expeditions lets classes take virtual field trips to places like Mount Everest and the Louvre. And for adults, Interplay Learning lets tradespeople learn skills like HVAC repair and solar panel installation.

VR is also assisting special needs students.

Students with disabilities can use VR to see things they can't physically access. And autistic kids can rehearse scenarios they're likely to encounter in the outside world.

Another type of immersive learning is "makerspaces".

Unrelated to AR and VR, makerspaces are physical areas of a classroom, school, library, or community center that allow students to build things by hand. They can be used for any creative endeavor, like creating books or art. But makerspaces are often used for tech projects.

For example, students are using littleBits kits to learn programming.

Innovative K-12 Homeschooling Startups

Interest in homeschooling in the US has been increasing for years. In fact, homeschoolers currently make up 3.4% of American school-aged children.

And because of the coronavirus pandemic, homeschooling has been an even hotter topic over the past couple of years.

But a lot of homeschooling is still conducted with old-school pen and paper, using workbooks that can be expensive or outdated. So it's no surprise that several edtech startups are stepping in to offer new, tech-enabled homeschooling solutions.

One of these is Prisma.

Offering a blend of in-person and live online learning experiences, Prisma separates the roles of instructor and facilitator/coach.

And promises to unlock learners' potential in the process. Outschool is another interesting edtech startup in the homeschooling space. Outschool works by matching students with teachers for online learning in small groups, conducted live.

A third example is Primer.

This startup wants to build the "full-stack infrastructure" to help parents homeschool their kids, with the hope of bringing homeschooling into the mainstream. The platform includes a tool to help parents navigate local regulations, a learning management system, and a library of curated educational resources.

ELearning

In 2021, there’s probably no bigger education trend than eLearning.

According to the Research Institute of America, eLearning increases retention rates by 25 to 60 percent. It's also extremely scalable, allowing the best educators to reach many students at the same time (or at different times, in the case of on-demand pre-recorded courses.)

And at a much lower cost than traditional in-person classes. No wonder this industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2027. The homeschooling startups we just covered are following the eLearning trend for K-12.

But tools that aren't built for online learning are also being used en masse to teach courses live. An example of this is via Zoom. Additionally, a whole host of service providers have stepped in to serve different segments of this growing sub-industry.

Some colleges have started offering 100% online bachelor’s degrees in recent years. And many others have offered online courses during the pandemic.

So it's safe to assume a good portion of them will continue to offer online learning post-pandemic as well. While Coursera has partnered with scores of universities (including Stanford and Yale) to provide higher education courses and degrees online.
And beyond college, Udemy offers online courses for professionals seeking to improve their skills.

Other major players in the eLearning space include:
  • MasterClass, a subscription service for on-demand courses taught by celebrities.
  • Teachable and Thinkific, course-creation platforms for entrepreneurs.
  • Lessonly, B2B training software.
  • Italki, 1-on-1 language tutoring.
  • DailyBurn, an app for exercise courses.

In K-12 education, the eLearning trend is unlikely to slow down. But it's not without its challenges. According to a survey of IT leaders in the U.S. educational system, only 7% expect their school districts to return to pre-pandemic onsite teaching this fall. However, 87 percent named off-campus internet availability as an urgent issue to resolve to maximize distance learning possibilities.

 Accessible Education

As of 2018, there were 258 million children worldwide not getting an education. Things are improving: that number is down from 378 million in 2000.

But there's still a long way to go when it comes to accessibility. Even in Europe and North America, there are millions of out-of-school children. eLearning promises to help solve this problem. However, there are still barriers.

For example, many schools have doled out Chromebooks to each student. But some of these homes lack internet access. In the US, 86.6% of households have broadband. But in rural areas, the number is much lower.

Device availability is another challenge. Mobile-first learning may be able to help with both of the above. After all, mobile devices are cheaper than laptops. And rather than requiring wifi access, they can rely on mobile data service.

But not everyone can afford a dedicated additional mobile device, or a data plan for it either. So in some cities, local PBS networks are broadcasting lessons on TV for pre-K to 8th graders. While some libraries have offered curbside book deliveries. At the same time, many edtech leaders are calling for the FCC to use its E-Rate program to help bring reliable internet access to homes.

For homeschoolers and underserved communities, free educational resources are also helpful. Open Educational Resources (OER) and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) offer no-cost use of materials and software for educational purposes, enabling students and educators access that would not otherwise be possible.

AI-Enabled Adaptive Learning (And Admin)

Adaptive learning is a high-tech form of personalized education. Thanks to AI, digital learning interfaces can adapt to students' needs in real time, providing the lessons and exercises that are needed to fill in knowledge gaps and reinforce concepts.

All at the level of the individual student. Automated, intelligent tutoring systems have been on the rise for years. In fact, the first "teaching machine" was created in 1924.

But it's only more recently that processing power (both in the cloud and on local devices) has become powerful enough to employ AI for this purpose. Unlocking near-unlimited possibilities for personalized learning.

One example is the AI-powered math tutoring service Thinkster, which promises up to a 90% improvement in math scores for K-8th graders. And in April 2020, Thinkster acquired another AI-based adaptive learning service called SelectQ.

SelectQ applies the technology for SAT test prep tutoring. Adaptive learning is also present in the ROYBI Robot, named one of Time Magazine's best inventions of 2019. The ROYBI Robot uses machine learning to tailor its educational content to the child who's interacting with it, taking the child's learning style and emotions into account. Artificial intelligence is also being used to grade essays in at least 21 U.S. states - though the results aren't always flawless.

AI-enabled chatbots are becoming increasingly common as well.

For example, the chatbot-like Duolingo uses adaptive learning to teach foreign languages. And chatbots like Ivy.ai and AdmitHub are being used as higher-ed administrative assistants, helping with anything from the college admissions process to student housing and financial aid. These automated tools can drastically reduce costs for colleges, as the average cost of a call center call is about $5.

Gamification

Gamification in education is nothing new. For ages, teachers have been offering students prizes for reading books, achieving good grades or otherwise being a good pupil.

But in the digital era, game mechanics can be used in even more ways. In fact, many educational tools are simply games.

Minecraft is probably the most common example.

This "sandbox" style game has been used to create stage performances, write stories, and even teach students about DNA. And with over 100 million monthly players, gaming platform Roblox is now even bigger than Minecraft. It's being used around the world to teach programming and game design. On the other hand, game mechanics are being added to non-games as well.

Socrative offers a "space race" feature that turns quizzes into a competitive game. Knowre brings gaming mechanics (and adaptive learning) to math lessons. And ClassDojo can add points-based gamification to almost any subject.

Google Everything

Google has planted roots in the education system. Thanks to their low cost and ease of use (and maintenance), Chromebooks have become the standard student-learning device.

And there's no more natural pair to Chromebooks than G Suite for Education. This suite of tools includes favorites like Google Docs, Sheets, Gmail and Forms - each of which can be used by faculty or students. (And a free version is available.)

Also included in G Suite for Education are Google Classroom and Google Assignments. Google Classroom offers a digital space for students and teachers to interact, assign and turn in homework, and more.

While Google Assignments is a tool to help teachers create and grade coursework more quickly. Finally, Google also offers their Google Cloud Platform to schools and universities, offering cloud storage and computing power for research and other uses.

Accelerating Investments In EdTech

Global edtech venture capital investments totaled more than $10 billion in 2020, up from $500 million in 2010. Some estimate an additional $87 billion in investment over the next decade. According to EdSurge, from 2014 to 2018 the most well-funded education technology product category in the U.S. was post-secondary education products.

With curriculum products fighting "other" products for second place. Among the well-funded post-secondary edtech companies are CommonBond (which has secured $1.6 billion in funding since 2011) and CampusLogic (which has secured $192.8 million).

However, both are focused on student loans and financial aid services, making them arguably more fintech than edtech. Lambda School is another highly-watched education startup, which again blends edtech with finance. Rather than charging its students outright, it uses income-share agreements (ISAs) to make money based on a portion of its graduates' career earnings.

These Western startups may be exciting, but for now, most of the largest edtech "unicorns" are in Asia. Will the U.S. and Europe pick up the pace? Or will American and European investors put more of their money into foreign ventures? It will be interesting to see which well-funded startups end up shaking up the education sector.

Wrapping Up

There you have it: eight of the most interesting education technology trends of 2021. From AI-powered learning to eLearning and more, for PreK-12 and adult learning. Many of these trends are poised to disrupt the field of education as we know it.

Hopefully for the better.

Spotlight

Insight Education Group, Inc.

Insight Education Group is an international educational organization company that works with education leaders to develop the strategy and confidence to lead bold and equitable change—and provides the wrap-around supports to make change happen.As former teachers, coaches, school leaders and high-level district and state administrators, we appreciate the challenges, nuances, and opportunities of implementing large-scale change and we know the keys to making them stick.The efficacy of our work has been documented in prominent studies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project and the Best Foot Forward Project from Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research.

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Spotlight

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Insight Education Group is an international educational organization company that works with education leaders to develop the strategy and confidence to lead bold and equitable change—and provides the wrap-around supports to make change happen.As former teachers, coaches, school leaders and high-level district and state administrators, we appreciate the challenges, nuances, and opportunities of implementing large-scale change and we know the keys to making them stick.The efficacy of our work has been documented in prominent studies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project and the Best Foot Forward Project from Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research.

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Explain Everything is acquired by Promethean to Continue Delivering Transformational Collaboration and Learning Experiences

Promethean | December 02, 2022

Explain Everything, a leading online digital whiteboard platform for creating engaging lessons, activities, and interactive presentations, today announced it has officially joined Promethean®, a leading global education technology company. The Explain Everything app provides users with an infinite canvas to draw, animate, create videos, and collaborate and is available on iOS, macOS, ChromeOS, Android and the web. Joining forces with Promethean will bring Everything to Promethean's award-winning panels as well, enabling both companies to have a greater positive impact on the future of education. Long-time Explain Everything users can rest assured that the app will simultaneously continue to be offered on all other platforms. Promethean's educational technology solutions deliver a robust, seamless, and secure experience, with features that respond to educators' and workplace users' unique needs around the globe. Its comprehensive edtech solution also includes superior professional development and customer support. The inclusion of Explain Everything's digital whiteboard platform into Promethean's product portfolio will build upon both companies' visions in edtech and beyond. Explain Everything remains deeply committed to providing the highest level of service, and users will continue to have uninterrupted access to their projects and materials. Likewise, the Explain Everything pricing model does not change. The aim of this strategic merger is to expand on both companies' offerings and provide more rapid technology innovation that addresses global teaching, learning, and collaboration needs. This and much more will be possible when working with a top educational leader in the USA and EMEA, and the Explain Everything team looks toward the future with great excitement. We're thrilled to now be part of the Promethean team," said Reshan Richards, co-founder and chief executive officer at Explain Everything. "Explain Everything's mission to impact teaching and learning in all settings is in perfect alignment with Promethean's more than 25 years of education technology leadership. Together, we will continue to provide the most effective interactive learning tools for students and teachers around the world. "As technology evolves, Promethean continues to look to the future to provide the best solutions to transform learning experiences. Joining the Explain Everything team with ours is part of our commitment to continuously innovate and work towards providing a superior interactive experience from anywhere, This exciting opportunity and new relationship for both companies will allow us to expand our already robust offerings to better serve customers' needs." Vin Riera, chief executive officer at Promethean About Explain Everything Explain Everything Whiteboard is developed by Explain Everything Inc, a New York, NY, and Wroclaw, Poland-based team of innovators, artists, learners, and leaders dedicated to developing creativity-inspiring technologies. Released in 2011, Explain Everything is now used by millions of educators, students and creative professionals around the world. In December 2020, Explain Everything Whiteboard was recognized as one of the Apple App Store's Best of 2020 for Leading the Classroom. The app is available on iOS, iPadOS, Android, Chromebooks and the web, and is developed by the Wrocław-based team. About Promethean Promethean is a leading education technology company working to transform the way the world learns and collaborates. From our founding in Blackburn, England, more than 25 years ago to our global operations in 22 countries today, we've continued to explore, innovate, and inspire —designing learning and collaboration tools that are built for breakthroughs. Our award-winning interactive display, ActivPanel, and lesson delivery software, ActivInspire and ClassFlow, were designed to engage students, connect colleagues, and bring out the brilliance in everyone. With headquarters in Seattle, Washington, and offices worldwide, Promethean is a member of the NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited (HKSE: 0777) group of companies.

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CORPORATE EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Phenom Expands UKG Technology Partnership, Improving Recruiter Productivity and Candidate Conversions

Phenom | December 06, 2022

Phenom, the global leader in Intelligent Talent Experience, announced today that it expanded its technology partnership with UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll and workforce management solutions for all people, to include certifications for Job Sync and Hosted Apply. Now, organizations that utilize both Phenom and UKG Pro Recruiting can improve the candidate experience by creating a better application process, while adding automation to reduce manual tasks and improve recruiter efficiency. To improve recruiter inefficiencies, the certified Job Sync integration ensures all job-associated data and requisitions in UKG Pro Recruiting are automatically pulled and posted onto the career site and job boards — eliminating the time-consuming and mundane process of creating flat files and copying and pasting content. To improve the candidate experience, the certified Hosted Apply process moves job seekers seamlessly from a company’s career site to the job application. Data is then reliably transferred between Phenom and UKG Pro Recruiting for recruiters to review, drastically improving conversion rates. “At UKG, we strive to create lifelong partnerships with our customers, helping them create modern people experiences to drive better business outcomes,By cultivating a highly engaged ecosystem of technology partners, including Phenom, we’re able to help create a more seamless and empowering technology experience.” Mike May, vice president of technology partnerships at UKG. As a Certified UKG Partner, Phenom enables organizations to hire best-fit talent faster with its Intelligent Talent Experience platform, while improving recruiter efficiency through: Hyper-personalized job recommendations: Deliver tailored content and job recommendations to each candidate based on their unique skills, experiences, preferences, and geographic location. Intelligent automation: Automate sourcing, screening, interview scheduling, candidate scoring, and answering job seeker questions with tools such as an AI-powered conversational chatbot, and email and SMS campaigns to move talent through the hiring process faster. Candidate pipelining and campaigns: Quickly identify new and silver medalist candidates with intelligent candidate discovery features. Then engage and nurture best-fit talent through campaigns. Actionable insights: Make more data-driven hiring decisions and identify recruiting ROI and hiring trends with career site and campaign analytics. Organizations today are hard-pressed to hire and retain the best possible talent. Improving recruiter productivity and the candidate experience are essential to accelerate hiring and ensure talent finds and chooses you faster,” said Chris Grimes, director, global alliances at Phenom. “Our certifications for Job Sync and Hosted Apply with UKG Pro Recruiting provide the premier, luxury experience that today’s talent expects, and TA teams need to thrive — and we believe it will convert many more passive candidates into applicants. About Phenom Phenom has a purpose of helping a billion people find the right job. Through AI-powered talent experiences, employers are using Phenom to hire employees faster, develop them to their full potential, and retain them longer. The Phenom Intelligent Talent Experience platform seamlessly connects candidates, employees, recruiters, hiring managers, HR and HRIS empowering over 500 diverse and global enterprises with innovative products including Phenom Career Site, Chatbot, CMS, CRM, AI Scheduling, Video Assessments, Campaigns, University Recruiting, Talent Marketplace, Career Pathing, Gigs, Mentoring, and Referrals. Phenom has earned accolades including: Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies (3 consecutive years), Deloitte Technology's Fast 500 (4 consecutive years), Business Intelligence Group's Artificial Intelligence Excellence Awards (2021 & 2022), and a regional Timmy Award for launching and optimizing HelpOneBillion.com (2020).

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EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY

School Pathways Launches Two-Way Integration with Zoom Meetings

School Pathways | December 05, 2022

School Pathways has created a two-way product integration with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. that allows schools to connect Zoom Meetings with their Synchronous Instruction and Live Interaction calendar in School Pathways' software. Once connected, the Zoom integration will automatically log student participation in online meetings. The passage of Assembly Bills 130 and 167 in California mandated that Independent Study and virtual learning educators provide and track regular opportunities for synchronous instruction and live interaction. While state-specific, this requirement is indicative of an overall trend as online instruction becomes more enmeshed in education following the COVID-19 pandemic. As Zoom is a leading platform for conducting online learning, School Pathways' new Zoom integration allows for streamlined tracking and cuts down the amount of time teachers have to spend logging virtual instruction meetings and participation. The integration also makes it easier to keep engagement tracking and re-engagement plans for students up to date. Having piloted the School Pathways Zoom integration at Visions in Education, Director of Operations Michael Brubaker explains, "I believe that this new feature will really benefit schools, teachers, and students as they schedule and track Synchronous Instruction or daily Live Interaction. "Teachers will benefit immensely from the simplicity and convenience of this Zoom integration,Not only will this result in accurate AB 130 and AB 167 compliance and reporting, but it will also help educators engage with their students on a deeper level." School Pathways CEO Oliver Wreford. About School Pathways School Pathways is a California-based education software company with 20 years of experience in K-12 education. We provide solutions for virtual, hybrid, and independent study programs that simplify school operations and foster student success in a variety of learning environments. In addition to a Student Information System better-built for non-traditional learning environments, we offer software that allows our clients to manage online learning agreements, student activity tracking, re-engagement communications, audit preparation, adult education, and more.

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EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY

Explain Everything is acquired by Promethean to Continue Delivering Transformational Collaboration and Learning Experiences

Promethean | December 02, 2022

Explain Everything, a leading online digital whiteboard platform for creating engaging lessons, activities, and interactive presentations, today announced it has officially joined Promethean®, a leading global education technology company. The Explain Everything app provides users with an infinite canvas to draw, animate, create videos, and collaborate and is available on iOS, macOS, ChromeOS, Android and the web. Joining forces with Promethean will bring Everything to Promethean's award-winning panels as well, enabling both companies to have a greater positive impact on the future of education. Long-time Explain Everything users can rest assured that the app will simultaneously continue to be offered on all other platforms. Promethean's educational technology solutions deliver a robust, seamless, and secure experience, with features that respond to educators' and workplace users' unique needs around the globe. Its comprehensive edtech solution also includes superior professional development and customer support. The inclusion of Explain Everything's digital whiteboard platform into Promethean's product portfolio will build upon both companies' visions in edtech and beyond. Explain Everything remains deeply committed to providing the highest level of service, and users will continue to have uninterrupted access to their projects and materials. Likewise, the Explain Everything pricing model does not change. The aim of this strategic merger is to expand on both companies' offerings and provide more rapid technology innovation that addresses global teaching, learning, and collaboration needs. This and much more will be possible when working with a top educational leader in the USA and EMEA, and the Explain Everything team looks toward the future with great excitement. We're thrilled to now be part of the Promethean team," said Reshan Richards, co-founder and chief executive officer at Explain Everything. "Explain Everything's mission to impact teaching and learning in all settings is in perfect alignment with Promethean's more than 25 years of education technology leadership. Together, we will continue to provide the most effective interactive learning tools for students and teachers around the world. "As technology evolves, Promethean continues to look to the future to provide the best solutions to transform learning experiences. Joining the Explain Everything team with ours is part of our commitment to continuously innovate and work towards providing a superior interactive experience from anywhere, This exciting opportunity and new relationship for both companies will allow us to expand our already robust offerings to better serve customers' needs." Vin Riera, chief executive officer at Promethean About Explain Everything Explain Everything Whiteboard is developed by Explain Everything Inc, a New York, NY, and Wroclaw, Poland-based team of innovators, artists, learners, and leaders dedicated to developing creativity-inspiring technologies. Released in 2011, Explain Everything is now used by millions of educators, students and creative professionals around the world. In December 2020, Explain Everything Whiteboard was recognized as one of the Apple App Store's Best of 2020 for Leading the Classroom. The app is available on iOS, iPadOS, Android, Chromebooks and the web, and is developed by the Wrocław-based team. About Promethean Promethean is a leading education technology company working to transform the way the world learns and collaborates. From our founding in Blackburn, England, more than 25 years ago to our global operations in 22 countries today, we've continued to explore, innovate, and inspire —designing learning and collaboration tools that are built for breakthroughs. Our award-winning interactive display, ActivPanel, and lesson delivery software, ActivInspire and ClassFlow, were designed to engage students, connect colleagues, and bring out the brilliance in everyone. With headquarters in Seattle, Washington, and offices worldwide, Promethean is a member of the NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited (HKSE: 0777) group of companies.

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