Boris Kontsevoi is a technology executive, President and CEO of Intetics Inc., a global software engineering and data processing company.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed not just the appearance of K-12 education, but its very inner workings as well. The global lockdown of educational institutions has caused major disruptions in K-12 learning — such as interruptions of internal assessments, cancellations of public standardized tests and the complete transfer from physical classes to digital learning spaces. According to a study from Education Week, at least 55.1 million American students were affected by school closures related to the pandemic.
The education industry wasn’t prepared for a change of this magnitude, and a plethora of schools didn’t have proper software solutions in place to facilitate such an upheaval. Thus, the demand for the development of remote learning software solutions has increased. My company, for instance, has experienced an increased demand for developing custom edtech software solutions, and I expect this trend will continue.
Along with the increased demand came the realization that a hybrid schooling solution could be beneficial for K-12 classes even after the pandemic ends. With virtual services, teachers can have more time to interact with students directly. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, in a “normal” (i.e., fully physical) classroom, educators work 50 hours per week but only spend 49% of that time interacting with their pupils.
The K-12 Industry’s Path In 2021
The K-12 industry is evolving to become more collaborative, student-centric and data-driven. However, along that journey, there are several roadblocks. Leaders in the technology space, especially those who offer edtech solutions, stand to play an important role in making remote learning easier. Let’s take a look at the most common K-12 edtech challenges we’ll likely see in 2021, with expert advice on how to solve each one.
Challenge 1: Integration Of New Solutions Into Existing Software Platforms
According to a survey conducted by EdTech Evidence Exchange and the University of Virginia, 86% of teachers believe that the necessity for new technologies in schools will increase over the next three years — not just to offset the impact of Covid-19 but also to improve learning outcomes and reduce socioeconomic and racial disparities.
A key thought that turned up again and again in survey answers was that educators need a way to provide more individualized instruction. However, many school districts are already locked into certain software — thus, any new solution must be compatible and integrated into the systems already put in place. Currently, schools are leaning toward introducing systems with reporting functionalities that allow educators to identify trends in student behavior and assessment results, analyze those trends and create a plan to improve performance. SMS can also include parent and student portals, making these systems an effective tool for consolidated data collection and communication.
Challenge 2: Migration Of Users From Obsolete Software Platforms
According to a survey from the EdWeek Research Center, the average school district has experienced minor or significant reductions in budgets. Fiscal experts are predicting that the Covid-19 recession will last much longer than the famous recession of 2008, and this will likely have severe consequences for the nation’s public schools.
It is imperative that edtech leaders make budgeting a focal point of their solution. Modern business operations management software can make it easier for districts to manage their money, keep track of cuts and link all the schools in the system. This could be a selling point that contributes to the justification for schools to migrate their existing information to newer platforms.
Challenge 3: Scaling Up Existing Products
The trick to success in the edtech realm is to scale your company so it is a viable tool that helps teachers and students alike. A scalable business can adapt to a bigger workload without declining in performance or losing out on revenue. A key part of the approach to scaling up products is not only designing for teachers and students but also selling to school districts. Earn trust among the districts that implement your product. The higher-ups at districts communicate with each other about solutions that work and that don’t meet their expectations. Sometimes, however, the process of getting district referrals can take years. In the meantime, other ways to address the challenge include finding your niche, seeking partnerships in education, looking for angel investors and making use of highly efficient software teams.
Challenge 4: Implementation Of The IT Compliance Program
Developing and implementing an effective IT compliance program — as well as providing ongoing maintenance — can be tricky. When building edtech products, business owners must consider privacy. When your technology is designed for kids, it is essential to ensure consumer trust and mitigate risk by following privacy laws and best practices. Failure to comply with these laws can lead to huge fines, the loss of reputation and perhaps even a media scandal. Some federal laws to keep in mind include FERPA, PPRA and COPPA. FERPA protects student records, PPRA protects student information that is gathered through surveys, and COPPA limits businesses from collecting data on kids under the age of 13. Failure to comply with these laws can have severe consequences, such as massive fines.
An Effective Solution
In order to meet all the aforementioned challenges head-on, many K-12 school districts are turning to custom software solutions that meet their specific needs. Edtech software developers can ensure that their products will not just survive the ever-evolving education industry but help it thrive.
So, what will are educators looking for when considering custom software development solutions? These are five key questions they’ll be asking themselves when evaluating offerings from edtech software providers:
1. Do they integrate software solutions and migrate their customers’ bases?
2. Is their infrastructure secure and compliant?
3. Can they develop, refine and support existing software products?
4. Do they set up and execute a QA automation strategy, thus ensuring 24/7 sustainable work?
4. Do they scale up clients’ operations by building highly efficient software teams?
Those looking for expert development services for edtech software will be looking for a partner that meets those needs.
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