5 edTech Innovation Examples with Long-lasting Impact

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

Remote learning needs, pandemic learning loss, and changing personas have re-shaped the edTech industry over the past three years. With new insights from students and educators, product owners are now designing based on a more nuanced understanding of what our users need and want. 

The result? Rapid edTech innovation, from key software integrations for educators to better reporting data for parents monitoring their child’s learning activities at home. Gone are the days of ignoring the parent persona or assuming that teacher expectations for edTech products are lower than their expectations for consumer design.

Here are five examples of edTech innovation that emerged because of insights from the pandemic—and how you can address them in your own product designs to make a long-lasting impact on your learning tools.

1. Emerging edTech personas

Remote learning caused a massive shift in the relationship students, teachers, and parents have with learning technology. These changes mean that edTech designers and product owners also need to approach learning technology differently.

We might once have assumed that teachers rely on paper and printable resources, even when using the occasional edTech product. Now, however, we now know they’re fully committed to digital learning tools. From high-flex lessons to virtual curricula, teacher acceptance of edTech is widespread. A teacher’s user baseline (the baseline assumptions designers can make about teachers’ needs and pain points) has changed for good.

But teachers aren’t the only personas whose user baselines have shifted. Parent users are also becoming more sophisticated, curious, and confident when it comes to their learning tech choices. Thanks to remote learning, parents have a brand new set of expectations about the products their children use for school. Some parents are even looking for supplemental technology to enhance what their children are doing at home.

Pre-pandemic, administrators largely held the role of edTech buyer. Now, however, they have shifted their focus to providing their students with basic hardware needs and internet access, so they can adequately promote remote learning.

While this has been a difficult time for everyone in the education ecosphere, it’s resulted in an exciting evolution of user relationships to technology. By paying attention to these shifts, edTech designers can reflect new, more sophisticated needs in their products, rather than trying to create products solely driven by content. 

After all, edTech innovation is driven by paying attention to our users. The learning tools that will stand out in future markets will be expertly designed solutions targeted to these microshifts in student, teacher, and administrator personas.

2. Cross-curricular collaboration & SEL features

Social distancing has only emphasized the need for social emotional learning (SEL) across the curriculum. Educators who already believed in group projects and peer-to-peer learning are looking for more effective ways to incorporate student collaboration into online coursework. Meanwhile, teachers who don’t normally incorporate SEL have likely been mandated to work it into their existing curriculum.

As edTech designers, we must now be more deliberate and intentional about including these elements in our products. With features like multi-modal responses, class voting, and threaded discussion boards, innovative edTech tools can help students build connections with one another and reflect on their interactions with peers. 

After all, when teachers have SEL-powered tools at their fingertips, they’re able to emphasize successful communication, collaboration, and reflection alongside student content mastery. And that’s a win-win for the entire class.

3. Virtual Reality and Asynchronous Help Content

Building interactivity into online lessons proved challenging for even the most superstar educators. Peer-to-peer and group learning features will help teachers increase student engagement. But virtual reality, just-in-time teacher help videos, and other edTech innovations will boost engagement even further.

Now is a great time for edTech brands to experiment with XR, even in products for very young students. Virtual reality lessons help teachers explain complex concepts from afar, whether students are learning how rocket engines work or interacting with models to explore math and physics concepts.

And while we believe in well-designed features that facilitate real-time learning, asynchronous videos and explainers have real value for student engagement, too. As students move through lessons or learning sequences at their own pace, pre-recorded content creates opportunities for them to receive just-in-time help from their teacher.

With more asynchronous sequencing and planning, distance learning becomes personalized or adaptable and therefore more engaging. If a concept doesn’t make sense, students can watch the explainer and try again; re-watching is a great way to expand or deepen knowledge, too.

4. Re-imagined Adaptive Content

Truly innovative educational technology facilitates adaptive learning in both teacher-facing and student-facing products.

Every teacher wants to have more one-on-one time with students. Learning tools can help teachers do this at scale. Learning tools can provide supplemental resources for areas of struggle or personalized check-ins based on individual progress. These features can help teachers streamline one-on-one attention and provide more adaptive pathways for their students.

While remote learning caused plenty of new challenges for students, it did give students new opportunities to experience self-paced learning. By its very nature, self-paced learning is adaptive. edTech can do even more to take lessons from remote learning and apply them to student-facing synchronous and asynchronous tools for better engagement.

5. “Meta” Teacher Onboarding

No, we’re not talking about Facebook’s rebranding efforts! But we do think better product support and “meta” onboarding experiences for teachers will make or break future remote learning tools.

During remote learning, teachers spent hours they didn’t have cobbling disparate digital tools, platforms, and resources together to support and deliver their curriculum. They continue to need more support integrating their software choices in order to get the most out of every tool.

Teachers love when new learning tools provide a step-by-step vision for integrating the product with the solutions they already use. These proactive features support teachers as they onboard their own students to a digital classroom, cutting down on the amount of time they need to spend in a “tech support” role. After all, we want teachers to spend more time doing what they do best—teaching our students!

edTech innovation based on user research conducted throughout the pandemic will continue to make long-lasting impacts on product design. Despite the many challenges of remote learning, there are more opportunities than ever to design exciting new tools and features that meet teachers, students and parents right where they are. 

Are you starting to design a new edTech product? Find out how Backpack Interactive can help! Reach out below.

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