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How EdTech Leaders Can Capitalize on Interest in AI

  • Types of AI technologies that are exploding in the EdTech industry
  • Ways EdTech companies can take advantage of these opportunities

Hundreds of new AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools have been introduced to the market, and industry leaders are calling it an absolute "frenzy" in EdTech*. These tools serve as personal tutors, providing real-time feedback for students and teachers to inform next steps in the curriculum. They personalize learning, create engaging content, and even potentially improve equity issues in education, among other things.

However, there are multiple barriers EdTech company leaders need to be wary of as the AI train speeds faster and faster forward. Educators, already burnt out and overworked, are now wondering if robots are taking their jobs. Administrators are dealing with legal, ethical, and moral issues while integrating tools.

Here’s what EdTech leaders should know now, to help ensure they are able to capitalize on AI’s surge into EdTech.

Educators are curious, and ready to explore

Some educators are not only excited about AI, but are already jumping into exploring the impacts the tools might have on their classrooms, process, and student outcomes. The U.S. Department of Education’s May 2023 report on AI in education states that many educators are "actively exploring AI tools as they are released to the public," and that they see opportunities in speech recognition to improve support for students with disabilities, multilingual learners, and those who need personalized digital learning.

This is a prime opportunity for EdTech leaders to capitalize on that curiosity, by fulfilling specific needs teachers and administrators have, while everyone is newly fascinated with its potential. Educators may not know how it will help yet, so EdTech founders have the responsibility to show them, thus building interest in their proposed product. By getting specific about filling unique educational needs, while demonstrating how accessible and user-friendly the technology is, educators and investors will have increased buy-in.

Prove your product isn’t "vaporware" or a surveillance risk

As so many tools bombard the market simultaneously, EdTech companies with something to offer have the responsibility to prove to buyers that they aren’t vaporware (a solution that has been advertised/sold, but has not yet been developed into a usable software). The promise of AI has been sold to parties for years, and now, they have the burden of proving it’s actually here—that they have a concrete and responsible plan, release date, implementation process, training structure, and more. Educators and EdTech purchasers aren’t always well equipped—and almost nobody is trained to distinguish helpful AI products—which means there is an opportunity to build trust.

In addition to this, the same government report called for vigilance around the potential for AI to cause students to be "subject to greater surveillance." “Examples of discrimination from algorithmic bias are on the public’s mind, such as a voice recognition system that doesn’t work as well with regional dialects, or an exam monitoring system that may unfairly identify some groups of students for disciplinary action,” they say. “Some uses of AI may be infrastructural and invisible, which creates concerns about transparency and trust. AI often arrives in new applications with the aura of magic, but educators and procurement policies require that edtech show efficacy.”

EdTech leaders can use these considerations to create genuine and accessible marketing and implementation solutions that acknowledge and address concerns upfront.

Future-proof your software in the age of AI

Several prominent EdTech tools, particularly in the study tool space, instantly declined when AI emerged. EdTech leaders can glean insights from these incidents, noting how AI is displacing traditional study tools, which was a particularly popular aspect of EdTech for Higher Ed.

Now, popular AI tools provide instant answers, eliminating the need for multiple tools. Given K-12 funding issues as ESSER funds conclude, some EdTech companies in certain subcategories will see the opportunity to pivot, adopting AI for potential exponential growth. Those who do not adapt might quickly become obsolete, or at least struggle with significant impacts.

EdTech companies should prioritize AI efforts in these areas:

  • Grading, so teachers can focus their time on the most value added and alleviate menial, time sucking tasks, ultimately preventing burnout.
  • Tools that create customized learning pathways, that teachers themselves can apply to grading and other repetitive processes, to allow for a wider interested consumer base.

The decline of certain EdTech tools presents a specific opportunity for M&A right now, as major players in the EdTech space find themselves ready for new concepts and more innovation. It might be time to talk to an investment banker about investment opportunities that can help you expand or exit the space. The supply of compelling EdTech with good growth and adoption is low in this market, which is driving up competition and exciting outcomes for founders.

Serve as another source reassuring teachers that AI won’t replace them

Teachers, among other professionals, are scared of one thing—they will be replaced by robots. This is an opportunity to encourage them that it’s not replacing them, it’s allowing them to focus on higher value areas by prioritizing their time more efficiently with the help of these tools. The Department of Education report takes a specific stand on this, and so can EdTech leaders: "the Department firmly rejects the idea that AI could replace teachers." By firmly reassuring our most concerned consumers, everyone will be able to work with each other, using this AI for progress in education.

This material and the opinions voiced are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or entity.

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Modified on Sep 15, 2023