Education technology is on the rise and is transforming the educational experience of thousands of students and future employees. Since 2009, the market has seen a dramatic increase in the formation of ed-tech startups providing services ranging from language learning programs, search engines that match students with tutors, online degree programs and apps that enhance life on campus. This means education tech companies could drastically change the way our workforce builds their skillset -- and could serve to lessen the skills gap that's been contributing to unemployment in recent years.
Interestingly, the ed-tech sector began to see growth after the start of the recession. Perhaps one major reason is that the recession highlighted the deficiencies of the U.S. education system when it comes to equipping our workforce with the skills they need to succeed. Surging unemployment signifies the country is having difficulty graduating a sufficient number of skilled students into the workforce. As a result, many investors sought to close this skills gap by pumping money into ed-tech startups and online education programs. If the trend continues, education technology could serve as an efficient and cost-effective way to prepare our future employees for the workforce.
Education technology startups are responding to a variety of consumer needs, including a demand for more education options and a growing acceptance and comfort with integrating technology into education. Problems such as student debt have encouraged the search for new solutions to tackle unemployment, including making education more affordable, convenient and of higher quality.
One startup, Noodle, is among the most innovative ed-tech startups utilizing massive amounts of data and social input. The startup is probably the first search engine exclusively geared toward education. Noodle helps students and families access information about tutors, schooling options ranging from pre-K to the graduate level, guidance counselors, summer internships, among other things.
"People are looking for guidance, efficiency and transparency in their educational choices," said Noodle CEO, Joe Morgan. Noodle seeks to make education more personalized and tailored to the individual student by enabling students to pick educational programs that suit their unique learning styles, as well as their educational and career goals.
2tor, another ed-tech start-up -- one of the highest-funded in the nation (with $97 million raised to date) -- seeks to raise the bar for online education. The startup is shattering negative stereotypes about online degrees by offering full online graduate degree programs at top-tier universities. Like their on-campus counterparts, the master's degree programs offered by 2tor are academically rigorous and stimulating. Universities such as Georgetown, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of North Carolina have partnered with 2tor, giving students the opportunity to earn full master's degrees online from prestigious centers of academia. As more top-notch institutions of higher learning begin to embrace the ed-tech revolution, stigmas about earning degrees online are sure to fade -- and this could drastically impact the way our employers view online learning as a substantial way for workers to build their skills and fulfill job requirements.
Young, talented, and motivated individuals are fueling the growth of ed-tech. Besides enhancing the educational experience and making education more affordable and convenient, the growth of education technology has meant an increase in skills preparation for students who can't afford to be saddled by massive loan debt. The industry itself has also provided an increase in jobs and steady employment for thousands of recent college graduates.
There are several reasons why the education technology industry is an appealing career choice for Generation Y-ers, says Morgan. "This generation is collaborative, tech-savvy, creative and socially connected," he explained. "More and more [young people] eschew traditional career trajectories for opportunities to create, build and change the status quo."
Generation Y seems to be the entrepreneurial generation and it is attracted to businesses that benefit the social good. Many ed-tech startups employ recent graduates for their good grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of the current education system and their motivation to make a positive difference. As the sector of education technology continues to grow, traditional educational providers and employers alike will begin to embrace innovation that will transform the way we learn and build skills for the workplace.
Zev Gotkin is an entrepreneur and founder of L'Mala, a writing firm specializing in website content development, blogs, branding, and social media promotion.