Ed-Tech Insights

Dr. Michelle Olmstead, Director, Centre for Innovation, Leiden University

The EdTech environment has evolved immensely since I began my career. I have worked in and with many Universities and institutions around the world. There are more competitors and broader applications and methods in the Edtech environment. It has many audiences, including professional and traditional education. In the beginning, many solutions were merely moving paper processes digitally. Now, in the forefront are much deeper learning and operational tools and methods; we create and build artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and more.

In this evolution, the work of educators, learners, and support staff requires upskilling. As the Director of the Centre for Innovation at Leiden University, we have moved from disruptive methods of ed-tech innovation to more sustainable systemic innovation methods and processes. This has helped to institutionalize innovation and ed-tech solutions with much success, improving the collaborative environment with academics.

Some challenges include creating collaborations between public and private partners. Co-creating is required for a more responsible, sustainable, and inclusive environment around development, investment and re-investment, and institutional adoption of Edtech. Collaboration is needed, with more voices and people at the table. People and processes must be aligned internally and with partners, suppliers, and vendors. This collaborative approach is new to many in both fields, industry, and education. We need each other more than ever, with the costs and processes required to be successful with Edtech and innovation. Collaborations require interdisciplinary teams and cross-training between industry and educational institutions.

In addition to development, the sharing of intellectual property requires more sophisticated legal and ethical frameworks to allow for deeper cooperation and collaboration. Without these, many institutions are reluctant to enter into partnerships with industry or other educational institutions. International alliances and market investment are required to cater to diverse audiences around the world.

In order to overcome some challenges, trends that I see influencing the market are personalized applications, flexibility, sustainability, and inclusiveness. The whole world is now an audience in the market for Edtech, whether for core education or continuing and professional education. Therefore, starting small with pilots and building in responsible innovation and data measures are crucial to meaningful and sustainable Edtech. With deep learning, universal design, and artificial intelligence at the core of many new developments, data is collected from devices, software, and hardware. Therefore, methods to build prototypes and manage processes in development must be well documented and holistic, including considerations for ethics, governance, legal, architectural, and human resources.

My advice to entrepreneurs and industry veterans would be to re-examine old and new products, solutions, and methods to ensure responsible innovation and data management, universal design, and inclusivity for each development. These aspects of Edtech will be crucial to sustainable methods and products in the future. Build close development and advisory collaborations with academics and institution support staff to ensure you truly understand the goals, burdens, and barriers of new educational tools or services.

Look for multiple investors to make new Edtech successful. At the Center for Innovation, we use pilots to test and provide feedback to Edtech providers to improve its success. I also encourage appreciation of small wins on the journey to a bigger impact. This improves the product or service and allows for a successful innovation process to move to institution-wide support and implementation. The last word I would leave you all to consider is building a community around Edtech, embracing collaboration between large and small players in the environment. Look more closely at new viewpoints and including more responsible and sustainable methods and applications for successful learning. Everyone deserves the chance to learn and grow; hear all voices, and consider differing views.

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