The current revolution in the UK in technology being applied to education, across management, teaching and learning is an exciting wave. Some great ‘edtech’ products and services are coming to market, not only those which are school-facing but also in corporate and self-education. There are reportedly now over 1000 companies in the UK that define themselves as edtech and investment in the sector is growing as private equity recognises the potential value in the industry. TechWorld.com recently published its own list of their 20 UK-based edtech firms to watch. Let’s zero in on their top 5 and see how they are helping to revolutionise the way that we will all learn in the future:
1. Technology Will Save Us
It may not sound like a typical company name but Hackney-based Technology Will Save Us is not a typical company. The company was founded in 2012 by CEO Bethany Koby and her husband Daniel Hirschmann and produces kits for children to build their own products, which often combine putting hardware and software together. Among the kits currently on the market are those which let kids build their own games console, speakers and synthesisers. As well as putting together the physical elements included in the kits, children have to also create the code that is a vital part of how they work.
It sounds like Meccano for the digital generation and a great way to introduce kids to the concepts of how hardware and software work together in most products we consume today. Technology Will Save Us managed to raise an investment round of £1.2 million in seed funding at the end of 2015 and almost 2 years on are really making it count. Kits start from as little as £15 so the company’s products are accessible to parents on most budgets.
For any parents, or curious observers, wondering how to get kids off their smartphones, tablets and laptops long enough to swot for exams, Gojimo answers the question: you don’t have to. Entrepreneur George Burgess cut short his studies at Stanford University in the U.S., to return to the UK to work on his exam revision app. It’s a decision that has been justified by first managing to raise a £630,000 investment round to get Gojimo off the ground and then subsequently selling the company to Telegraph Media Group earlier this year.
Available in native Android and iOS versions for smartphones and tablets, as well as in a browser-based format that can be used on desktops, Gojimo helps school children study for their exams. It’s a freemium model that has 50,000 curriculum-based quiz questions available for free as well as additional paid content. It’s obviously helping kids pass their exams without having to put their smartphones down, judging by its already 300,000 active monthly users.
Proversity is an edtech company that focuses on adult learners rather than youngsters with a product targeted at the corporate learning space. Based around a mobile platform, Proversity designs bespoke courses for companies that can include text content, images, video and different forms of assessment that subsequently evaluate how much users have absorbed.
Founders Krishan Metoo and Carl Dawson believe the Proversity platform can be valuable for companies across their employees’ lifecycle from attracting and assessing candidates to subsequently helping them improve their hard and soft skills while in the company.
Having already raised £1 million in seed funding, Proversity is currently raising another £5-8 million through a Series A raise with the cash earmarked to both further develop the existing product and fund the company’s growth into international markets.
Anyone with international experience will be only too aware how far behind the UK’s education system is when it comes to our youngsters and students learning foreign languages. There may be some excuse in the fact that English has become the de-facto international lingua franca but our record is still verging on the shameful. We all learn a foreign language a school but by the time we are in our twenties how many of us can genuinely get by in that language? Which begs the question whether it wasn’t a waste of our school time in the first place.
Memrise is a UK edtech company that provides hope that future generations of British kids might just be able to go on holiday to France in later years with a little more than ou est la gare? still up their sleeve. While not the first company to claim to have come up with a system to make language learning easier and more effective, Memrise have clearly convinced investors there is something behind their app-based system’s ‘elaborate encoding’ language learning system and reinforcement. The company has already raised over £4.5 million in a Series A funding round.
Giving a nice balance to our 5, Firefly’s role within education is on the management side. Helping to create something like a Salesforce or ERP software for teachers, Firefly is a ‘bridging’ software product that integrates systems schools use in one place. Over the years many schools have integrated different IT systems through which teachers can issue homework, mark it and track progress. Firefly feeds and organizes the information from these separate systems within one portal.
It doesn’t just make teachers’ lives easier either. Students can also submit work via the system so don’t have to come into school during study leave, for example, or can still complete and hand in homework while home sick. Parents can also login to track what their child has been up to and see their homework and feedback from teachers – a functionality that may not be quite so popular with pupils themselves…
The company has so far avoided raising venture capital and is growing organically, already used by 300 schools across the UK.