4 Startups Revolutionizing the EdTech World
From online microtutoring to photographic tours back through history, educational technology is giving children new ways to learn.
Technology has been transforming the educational world for the past few years. Every year, new edtech companies bring innovative products to the table -- from online certification platforms to websites that offer interactive learning apps.
We’ve seen a lot of well-established eLearning websites that do their part in nurturing the next generation. But this didn’t stop innovators from introducing features that set the tone for the future of the edtech industry.
Here are four of the most promising edtech startups that could become the key players:
Working out of their dorm rooms as college freshman, Studypool founders Richard Werbe and Jimmy Zhong ironically skipped weeks of classes to reinvent how students learn through a concept called "Microtutoring."
CEO Richard Werbe explains, "Microtutoring breaks down conventional tutoring into smaller, more digestible pieces of learning. By eliminating the barrier of set-time tutoring sessions, students can master subjects more efficiently on a time interval tailored to their needs. Typical sessions last one to 10 minutes but can take up to several hours depending on the student.” Werbe emphasizes that learning is all about mastery, and Studypool’s mission is to make mastering a particular subject matter easier for students.
He continues, “Think about when you were stuck on that tricky algebra question in high school and you called your smart friend for help. That was microtutoring! Studypool is doing that times ten million. It's like having thousands of friends that are professional tutors that can help 24/7, on demand. By using today's online technology, Studypool has created the infrastructure needed to support Microtutoring.”
Studypool’s aggressive approach has made a splash on the Internet since its launch in 2014 as students discovered the appeal of Microtutoring. One early customer Daniel Zhang gave the website a glowing review: "I got help with a kinematic physics equation lying in bed in my dorm room at two in the morning!” Within a month of its launch, Studypool had thousands of users.
Today the company has raised $2.3 million in seed funding, has helped over a million students, and offers services from over 40,000 verified tutors. Werbe reports that the platform is growing faster than ever and is seeing significant revenues.
Other than reading books and gaining experience, accepting feedback is one of the best ways to learn. True, evaluating a student’s performance and providing assessments are normally for teachers. But with Peergrade, students can evaluate and grade each other’s work through peer assessment sessions.
Launched in 2015 by co-founders David Kofoed Wind, Malthe Jørgensen, and Simon Lind, Peergrade’s original goal was to help teachers keep up with a growing number of students while still providing the close attention and fair evaluation they deserve.
“Continuous budget limitations for educational institutions force teachers to teach larger classes and consequently cut back on the number of written assignments or grade more homework,” says David. “Letting students partake in the process of evaluating and giving feedback enables them to learn from the work of others.”
The platform works by allowing teachers to create online assignments and specify the criteria for evaluation. As students hand in their work, it goes through other students for peer-assessment first. Once all feedback is given, the teacher can get a full overview of the session.
Last year, Peergrade received a total of $300,000 in seed funding. It is now being used in major universities across Denmark and neighboring countries. Interested organizations can also use their service for free through their website.
3. Time Machine Tours
It’s no secret that a lot of students find history as one of the most boring subjects. Perhaps it’s due to the heavy reliance on thick textbooks and bland teaching methods available in the school system.
Time Machine Tours -- an iOS app founded by Kyle Hudson in 2015 -- is set to forever change the way history is learned. Utilizing GPS technology, users can tell the exact location of photographers when they took historical photos.
“History lessons are presented to them in big blocks of text and their eyes glaze over. Time Machine Tours lets kids access and experience history in a way they’ve never been able to before,” says Hudson.
The app offers tours that utilize augmented reality, with which users can hold their phones over the actual locations. This creates the illusion that makes users feel as if they’re staring into the past. Like it or not, it is a much more engaging way to learn history than reading in a classroom or library.
Currently, Time Machine Tours is only available in select locations -- namely New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. New content is being added monthly with new locations, but for now, there’s no announcement of a major expansion or funding.
ClassTag is a different kind of startup that focuses not on the students, but on the parent-teacher relationship. Everyone should be aware that it is both the parent and teacher’s job to foster learning minds. That’s why schools hold parent-teacher conferences that allow collaboration and create a better learning environment for students -- at home and in the classroom.
Founded by Vlada Lotkina in 2015, a Wharton MBA and former Fortune 500 executive, ClassTag’s main objective is to provide a classroom community. This utilizes the collective effort of teachers and parents in tending to the needs of the students. With the platform, teachers can organize events, schedule conferences, and launch newsletter campaigns to maintain open communication.
“ClassTag’s mission is to help teachers engage parents in the classroom by handling the busy work,” says Lotkina. “Our service is carefully crafted to simplify logistics and communications issues in classrooms.”
Currently, ClassTag is being used by leading private and public schools. According to Lotkina, the platform borrows from corporations the concept of getting employees involved in programs that match their interests, particularly in charity and volunteering events. Since parents highly value their children’s education, they are guaranteed to participate in opportunities provided by platforms like ClassTag.
Ellie Martin is Co-founder of Startup Change Group. As author and writer, her works have been featured on Entrepreneur, Yahoo! , Wisebread and AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel.