EdTech Week is an annual education technology summit that discusses cutting-edge technology, trends, and thinking across the industry. It brings together a wide range of prominent companies and individuals who gather to engage with the community and plot the path forward for the EdTech sector. This year’s 2022 version was held this fall at New York City’s renowned Times Center and The Renaissance Network attended to meet with like-minded professionals and experts.
We thought we’d use this post to lay out our 5 key takeaways from the summit.
1. The Funding Cliff
One of the few good things that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the range of new funding that came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act. Entrenched problems in education were suddenly addressed, including limited tech accessibility for all, insufficient online learning platforms, and reliable digital assessment tools. This activated a variety of funds for education and students, such as the ESSER funds, and the vast majority of this funding is still up for grabs (estimated at around 75%). These specific funds will be available until the 2024/2025 school year – hence the term “Funding Cliff.”
The main reason that the funding has been under-utilized so far is a bureaucratic one, with many school districts finding it very challenging to work through the procurement process. This opens up lots of opportunities for potential EdTech solutions that can cut through the red tape and provide intuitive, seamless mechanisms for disbursing the funds.
2. Continued Investment in Upskilling
As long as we can remember, the paradigm for launching a career was to get a college degree, take on the debt associated with it, and then after going through a rather generic curriculum, hope to find a job somewhere. This exacerbated the timing gap between knowledge and real-world application and resulted in individuals entering the workforce ill-equipped to manage in a fast-changing environment.
The summit focused a lot on a change in thinking here – returning to a pseudo-apprentice model where people would be trained on the job after being hired, rather than having to be trained first in hopes of finding a job. This is colloquially called the Hire, Train, Deploy methodology.
In Hire, Train, Deploy (HDT), a company hires talent based on general aptitude and talent, with the assumption that the on-the-job training will be able to provide highly-focused and relevant domain expertise over time. This training is used to teach the new hire anything specific to the job which was not part of their prior education or experience. It’s worth investing in this idea, and the top companies are taking this approach because it makes for more flexible and agile employees who can make a difference immediately – and upskill themselves appropriately for the task at hand.
3. Powerful Female Founders
It was very gratifying to see that more and more EdTech companies are being run by women – bringing an entirely new perspective to an industry that needs more diversity. Two innovative companies that stood out for us were, HolonIQ and Isotonik, both of which have female founders, namely Maria Spies and Komal Kaul.
These two founders are breaking the mold for their respective niches and are showing that the female perspective is one that has been seriously underrepresented in our industry, to our cost.
HolonIQ – CEO Maria Spies
HolonIQ is a company that is on a mission to power forward-thinking governments, institutions, technology companies, global firms, and investors with the data, insights, ideas, and connections to shape the global impact economy. They do this in several ways, including their easy-to-access software platform that empowers users to act consciously concerning their impact on the globe. However, arguably more impactful are their summits which they regularly hold in various cities worldwide. During these in-person and virtual speaking events, they bring together like-minded individuals to discuss the most important issues shaping the global impact economy and nurture key strategic discussions that can push our society forward.
Isotonik – CEO Komal Kaul
Isotonik is a software company that specializes in upskilling and talent acquisition. They utilize augmented reality and online tests to train workforce candidates quickly and help them find suitable jobs. Their approach is reminiscent of the HTD methodology described above but does emphasize some training before placement.
Isotonik’s augmented reality is a unique approach that aims to place candidates into highly interactive experiences which are deeply integrated with real-world experiences. This allows the candidates to familiarize themselves with a role before they enter it, giving them a significant edge over their competition. They also offer proctored online tests that allow candidates to become highly certified in valuable skills in next to no time. They deliver this with support for multiple devices, so it’s accessible at home as well as on the go. This one-stop-shop solution solves some of the most challenging components of the mentorship and training program before presenting them to companies to be hired.
4. Exciting New Players Enter the EdTech Space
In addition to the two mentioned above, there are several exciting new companies in the EdTech space, and we were delighted to be able to rub shoulders with them and hear about their work. Two of these companies, Blast Learning and Omics Logic, offer innovative software solutions to long-standing problems in the education space and so we thought it would be worth mentioning them here.
Blast Learning is a learning assistant that you can speak to, much like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Blast’s mission is to encourage effective study patterns that don’t rely on quick (but sub-optimal) shortcuts. The AI assistant offers a helping hand to students who may have questions during the learning process and can even proactively push students to spend time learning when they otherwise may not. For instance, you can hear a sample message from Blast on their website: “Hi John, I see you have a test scheduled for later today. Would you like to begin with a set of warm-up questions that will place your brain in a zone associated with peak test performance?”
A learning assistant like Blast can provide scalable personalized education support without needing the resources and time of already overwhelmed educators. The results so far look very promising, and things will continue to improve as the technology marches forward.
Omics Logic is a program used to teach biology as a data science. It lets students propose their own research questions and allows them to assist in collecting and organizing data before drawing conclusions and insights from what they discover.
Through bite-sized modules, students can develop their coding skills and learn biology by visualizing and analyzing their data. This is a dynamic approach to the subject that increases not only engagement with the topics but also provides highly useful skills that are crucial for the future of work.
5. The Impact of the EdTech Boom on Talent Acquisition
What’s clear to see is that despite the tremendous innovation in the EdTech sector, most companies are still struggling to find the right talent to push them forward. The labor market is still incredibly tight, with unemployment holding at well under 4%. In addition, talented employees are looking for key attributes of a new role and company; remote working is considered a norm, and company benefits need to be top-notch for a candidate to consider switching to a new position. Finally, a clear DE&I positioning is critical for growing and forward-thinking companies that want to remain relevant and retain their valuable team members.
The competition is fierce, and so we feel confident that we can play a major role in the next iteration of this exciting industry. Here at the Renaissance Network, we are well-positioned to assist growing Education and Technology companies with their increasingly challenging talent acquisition needs. We know what it takes to attract and keep great talent, and we’d love to help you do just that.
Contact TRN today to learn more about how we can help you to hire world-class talent that can take you to the next level.