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Edtech “still waiting for its 5G moment”

While AI and machine learning are still big factors at play in driving the edtech sector forward, the industry is still waiting for its “5G moment”, it was declared at a recent conference.
June 26 2023
4 Min Read

While AI and machine learning are still big factors driving the edtech sector forward, the industry is still waiting for its “5G moment”, it was declared at a conference.

During the EdTechX summit, held at Tobacco Dock in London on June 22, CEO and co-founder Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet said that while strides have been made, the last 10 years have only been a “warm-up” era.

“The edtech we know today is very much in its infancy. In a way, we’re waiting for our 5G moment in edtech, 10 years is also a very short investment cycle,” Vedrenne-Cloquet told delegates.

“[In the current climate] it’s really hard to get back in with generous investors. In edtech, all of them are being burned by what they call the great crash. It’s been one of the worst industries to invest in the past four years.

“And a lot of investors are now spooked by the rise of AI as a massive disrupter to the unicorns of the last decade,” he continued.

The PIE spoke with delegates to gauge what the relationship of AI after the 10-year “warm-up era” – and a common thread showed that AI is not the threat to education that some have made it out to be.

Gregor Müller, founder of tutoring edtech startup GoStudent, said that the idea of merging offline and online will be more and more common – and a shift is coming.

“[Covid] was one big shift because now online is primary and it changed a lot, slowly, but it did. This step, right now, is where it starts to get much more personalised, where it starts to get much more productive.

“A lot of things that the teachers have spent a lot of time on, for adolescent grade exams, all these things that take time and take time off focusing on the kids can be much faster with AI,” Müller told The PIE.

It comes as GoStudent recently launched its own shot into the future with its new GoVR platform.

AI, of course, isn’t just affecting classrooms, but other areas of the sector too. Duncan Mitchinson, chief revenue officer at Accredible, said that AI’s explosion was the reason so many people entered the edtech space – and why the so-called crash occurred in the first place.

“I think we haven’t quite found the synergy. It feels like everyone’s obsessive over AI at the moment,” he said, speaking with The PIE.

“My fear is that with that we’re seeing the quality outcomes for the individuals be lowered; yes, there’s more choice, which is great.

“But the ability for us to say, ‘I can just go and create a course anywhere and anyone can’ and then suddenly declare, ‘Hey, you’re certified in this now’ is scary to me because, maybe people don’t care about the weight of the brand or the institution anymore.

“I think the barrier to entry is both a blessing and a curse,” Mitchinson posited.

“My fear is that with that we’re seeing the quality outcomes for the individuals be lowered”

Multiple delegates agreed with Vedrenne-Cloquet’s ascertainment that the edtech sector, on the whole, has been extremely slow to adapt.

Marie Jaksman, who works for Futuclass, a VR chemistry tool used by schools across the UK, US and Australia – and a number of schools in the company’s native Estonia – said that the pandemic, despite the challenges it brought to the entire international education sector, was the necessary boost.

“The pandemic really pushed us to work on our tech… it was a really aggressive incentive for not only teachers, but students – and I think they’re now more adaptable – they enjoy innovative solutions and trying new things because of it,” Jaksman said.

“Covid certainly accelerated things, especially around funding and resources that went into education. Up until Covid, there was also his perception of, ‘how big even is the market?’” Müller explained.

“Every country has such a different system and in a lot of countries, it’s state driven. And through Covid, investors were saying this market must be huge and it’s scalable since it’s online – and we had to go online, so now it’s worth putting money into it.

“That helped a lot of young companies, a lot of products over there to get their foot off the ground, to get some initial funding – and now a lot of them are going through difficult times again, but initially Covid pushed it along,” Müller added.

Vedrenne-Cloquet and IBIS Capital founder and CEO Charles McIntyre, made an introduction for delegates to the idea of OI: Organoid Intelligence, which aims, instead of making artificial brains, to augment the use of the human brain itself.

“There’s going to be a bit of a push back on tech in general”

Delegates, however, were unconvinced how OI would work in practice in their edtech businesses, and it’s certainly not the “5G moment” the sector has been waiting for.

“I think this is just another revolution of technology. It’s happened before. 10 years ago, I talked to Siri. Right now, you can talk to Chat GPT,” said Cicy Ding, head of education at global online education outfit Wukong Education.

“I think generally we’re going to enter a point in the not too distant future where there’s going to be a bit of a push back on tech in general.

“The last 25 years have been super exciting, there’s been this development of all this technology really quickly.

“I think AI especially will find its place and I’m sure there will continue to be disruption. I’m sure some jobs will go that way, and that some education tools will be driven by all those facets of technology one day,” Mitchinson added.

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