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5 Trends That Will Help Your EdTech Startup Thrive in 2022 Shorten, customize and gamify if you want to survive in the future of education and self-development

By Anton Pavlovsky Edited by Joseph Shults

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The majority of EdTech startups think that the way to succeed is to digitize traditional learning methods and amass as much content as possible. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the whole approach to learning in the digital era should be reimagined from scratch.

With the advent of the PC and then smartphones in the last few decades, the world has changed dramatically, and we are now living in the age of distraction. We are always online, receiving hundreds of emails, messages, and social media notifications every day. Technology has cut the hours of the day into smaller and smaller pieces placing deeper learning out of reach. As a result, many people are at risk of missing life-improving opportunities.

Using our three years of experience in developing an EdTech product that fits the lives of busy adults, we have compiled a list of the top emerging trends for the EdTech industry that will shape the future of education.

1. Bite-sized learning will replace traditional courses

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have found that the dropout rate of online courses has increased to 96%. It means that current digitized studying methods — let's call it EdTech 1.0 — don't work anymore. They require time and focus, which are nowadays becoming a luxury. So, we need an EdTech 2.0 solution.

EdTech companies focus on creating bite-sized content to address users' needs. There is no need to set aside hours for studying — you can take just 5 to 15 minutes a day to keep your knowledge updated and your mind in good shape. For instance, reading or listening to one book summary a day on the Headway app will give you crucial insights into 365 nonfiction bestsellers by the end of the year. But a short format does not mean superficial learning; you will be profoundly immersed into a wealth of genuinely relevant and helpful content.

2. Gamification is the way to motivation

It's no secret traditional learning methods are dull and require a considerable attention span and constant striving. But with goal setting, gaining points, moving to the next level and challenges, games can make learning exciting and enjoyable to the modern clip-thinking user.

The combination of studying and game mechanics is called edutainment, first introduced by geographer Robert Heyman in 1973 as his genre of interactive films about animals. Initially, edutainment was used for children's learning but later, adult audiences picked it up. As a result, the global edutainment market is increasing and is expected to reach $10 billion by 2025.

Gamification engages attention, encourages motivation and instills a willingness to learn. In addition, it transforms the studying process from a tedious obligation into something you would want to do with a cup of coffee instead of watching TV.

Creating gamifying elements on the Headway app has partially met the need to study with excitement, not boredom. After introducing rewards for finishing the first summary and saving the initial insight, we have noticed a steady increase in user engagement; first-day retention has increased by 5.2%, and the number of new users who completed their first summary has risen by 3.6%.

Related: Gamification, A Rising Business Model In Edtech

3. Knowledge is readily at hand

Over 80% of the world's population uses smartphones, and that number is constantly growing; it is expected to climb to 7.5 billion users by 2024. Most of the time, a smartphone is at hand. Do you remember the last time you went out without your smartphone? You probably went back right away to retrieve it. Our smartphones hold our plans, thoughts, work, social connections and entertainment, and they are with us at business meetings, important events, bed and even showers. Therefore, have a smartphone if you want to get closer to a user.

EdTech 2.0 products are accessible anywhere and anytime. For instance, if you are on your way to work on the subway or have five spare minutes waiting for a friend — just open your learning app. Nearly half of Americans spend five to six hours a day on their phone every single day, not including work-related use. So rather than scroll a boring feed, they could choose to have fun and learn.

Smartphones are becoming the main instruments in the self-education industry as they help make the learning process more efficient by interaction. It is no longer enough for the user to just read, watch or listen; they want to discuss the received information, share it and create notes.

4. Get to know your customer and personalize

YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Instagram and TikTok require users to choose what to interact with. Dozens of digital products compete for customer attention each second, so remember, you will have strong rivals if you are in EdTech.

You should offer something relevant to attract and retain users, and personalization is key. With the growth of Big Data and AI, personalization of educational content is becoming the "new norm," making this trend applicable to EdTech services.

For example, Coursera asks users about their interests between lessons, analyzes their responses and offers courses that align with their interests. The Headway app also makes it personal. For instance, we create a unique selection of book summaries for each user based on their preferences and allow them to set their own reading daily goal.

Related: Here's How EdTech Companies Are Creatively Revolutionizing Special Education

5. It is time for digital-native consumer brands in education

The post-war consumer economy boom of the 1940s and1950s and the rise of new mass markets created consumer goods powerhouses. From the 2000s, the digital economy has been giving rise to digital native consumer services powerhouses such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple and Netflix.

Today, the demand for accessible and entertaining self-learning content is apparent, especially during a pandemic that has emphasized online studying. According to HolonIQ, the global EdTech market will reach $404 billion by 2025, and the education apps market will increase 26% by 2024. Our growth is similar; at Headway, we develop EdTech 2.0, focusing on gamification, personalization, technology and short-form content. Our team has tripled using these principles and implementing new formats during the past year, and our revenue has grown sixfold. So, the numbers confirm it is time for digital-native consumer brands in bite-sized educational content.

Related: The Rise and Continuing Evolution of the Digitally Native Vertical Brand

Anton Pavlovsky

CEO and founder of Headway EdTech startup — Headway app

Anton Pavlovsky is the CEO and founder of Headway, an EdTech startup on a mission to make learning accessible and enjoyable. The Headway app provides mobile-first, compulsive and gamified education and has 12+ million downloads worldwide.

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