PeakSpan is proud to share our inaugural market map of the K-12 Educational Technology (or “EdTech”) landscape! The global pandemic served as an accelerant for demand, not too dissimilar from e-commerce, purely out of response for continuity, but, in our view, catalyzed a much broader movement towards elevating and transforming the impact, experience, and outcomes delivered across K-12 education generally. It’s certainly long overdue!
As the space continues to innovate at a rapid pace following the pressures and requirements of a remote learning first environment, we are keeping a close eye on what works and what does not in an environment that is more like 2019 vs. 2020/2021. Instructional tools are a particular area where we have seen a multitude of solutions come to prominence, and focusing on the distinction between teacher- and student-facing tools has allowed for solutions to arise that are purpose-built and focused on experience, outcomes, and knowledge reinforcement. The student has never had more choices of both learning environment and tools available to them, and this level of optionality can sometimes breed analysis paralysis, especially for teachers, where the challenges of multiple environments, learning modalities, and educational solutions cause a never-before-seen level of required development complexity. Continuing education and professional development are top of mind for every educator, as many have never been asked to do more in their career for less. In addition to the typical ways teachers bolster their personal toolkits, online content, whether user-generated or professionally developed, has become an essential part of a successful learning environment. The authoring tools available today help to level the playing field across cities, counties, and states and drive an increased baseline of knowledge.
We have traditionally thought of the aforementioned classroom environment as the front-office (in an Enterprise context), and with the proliferation of data, tools, and software within the broader EdTech ecosystem, schools and districts have needed to build out their back-office functionality. With the sheer amount of data that is generated every day from a school, interoperability to drive efficiency is where we have seen businesses find early success. By the same token, similar to the issues many other regulated industries like healthcare face, digital security and student safety are absolutely crucial in protecting our K-12 population, which now represents ~50M individuals, not including administrators and educators. Concepts ported over from Enterprise software, like single sign-on, data infrastructure/management, device management, cybersecurity, and content filtering, are just a few areas that help to protect (and optimize) the data assets schools have built while providing the foundation to derive disproportionate impact as these data assets only grow one direction in volume and can be better attributed between diagnostics, activities, and outcomes. The hurdles and pain points are many, but this ability to leverage infrastructure tools as a way not only to measure performance but to augment it is absolutely key in helping schools and districts excel.
Last but certainly not least, student support is an area that every stakeholder, from the learner → to the teacher → to the parent → to the administrator, is acutely aware of and concerned with. This area spanning from parent engagement and communication tools at younger ages to college and career readiness at earlier ages follows the broader trend of increased awareness and engagement driving better outcomes at every grade level. On top of supporting the traditional learning pathways, including core and supplemental curriculums, is the focus on social-emotional learning and behavior support. In remote or distant environments, student interactions are significantly decreased, and so anything that can help make academic lessons more personal and relatable to students is immensely helpful.
The innovation emerging within the K-12 landscape has never been more critical as we move into a more normalized procurement and budgetary environment. The tools that are able to tangibly demonstrate impact/ROI while increasing learner experience and teacher effectiveness will win the day as the must-have technology investments for a school or district to be successful, and no shortage of public funding dollars to support these investments at least in the near-term. While there are some large incumbent market leaders who have established strong footholds and enjoyed success over the past few years, anyone who has ever been in a classroom environment knows that there is not only one particular way to learn or teach just as this will not be a winner take all market within K-12 with plenty of opportunity abound.
A special thanks to our exceptional K-12 EdTech advisor and expert community members for their invaluable input and feedback in helping us memorialize this research over the past few months. We greatly appreciate your partnership!