Edtech companies are helping educational institutions and businesses reshape the learning process. Digital alternatives are making the learning experience smoother and more personal. Learners can now learn anytime, anywhere at their own pace with tools such as gamified content and micro-learning courses.

Listed below are the key macroeconomic trends impacting the edtech theme, as identified by GlobalData.

A continued equity gap

There is little evidence that the move towards greater online learning caused by Covid-19 has helped bridge the equity gap in education caused by economic disparities in society. Theoretically, edtech should allow schools to distribute resources more equitably among students, regardless of background. However, the opposite seems to be true.

Black and Hispanic adults in the US remain less likely than White adults to own a traditional computer or have high-speed internet at home, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center between 25 January and 8 February 2021. Even before the pandemic, Black teens and those living in lower-income households were more likely than other groups to report trouble completing homework assignments because they did not have reliable technology access.

Edtech boom and bust

China has seen an edtech boom, but there have been casualties along the way, with some notable bankruptcy scandals. In 2020, Yousheng Education, an education institution with more than 20 years of history, collapsed. That prompted parents to congregate at the company’s Beijing headquarters to demand refunds, but none of the company’s executives could be found. Another Chinese online education platform, Xuebajun, declared bankruptcy in early 2021, leaving some parents, who had already paid for their children’s tuition, in debt.

Marketing costs have rocketed throughout the year as Chinese companies tried to attract customers. In the second half of 2020, commercials for online education companies appeared on social media and TV and in bus shelters, subway stations, and even elevators. Following a sector-wide crackdown in July 2021, the priority for China’s edtech companies is developing new lines of business to survive, including extracurricular courses, professional training, and classes for university students.

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Teachers’ edtech confidence

Most teachers do not want to let the experience gained using edtech since March 2020 go to waste. In an April 2021 podcast, Times Educational Supplement editors Dan Worth and Gráinne Hallahan, a former teacher, discussed how the year from March 2020 had shown teachers how much they could do with edtech.

According to Worth and Hallahan, there are still some teachers for whom edtech is too much hassle. However, their number is dwindling. According to a September 2021 survey by cloud-based learning provider Renaissance, 71% of teachers said their confidence in using edtech had grown over the previous 18 months.

Social risks

The switch to online learning has deepened the exposure of students to cyber-risks, affected socialisation, and led to a significant increase in unregulated screen time and online access. Online classes mean children grow accustomed to spending more time online, blurring the distinction between physical and digital spaces.

In addition to the risk of technology addiction, the mental health organisation The Light Program highlighted a 70% rise in cyberbullying in the space of a few months in 2020 that coincided with school closures and the switch to online learning. The organisation also found a 40% increase in toxicity on gaming platforms and a 200% spike in traffic to hate sites.

This is an edited extract from the Edtech – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.