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  • Writer's pictureJolie Radunich

Are edtech companies inching toward getting motivated to meet research standards?

Hey kid,

I usually write about individuals in edtech becoming motivated. When it comes to having edtech evidence, I put the onus on the companies.

Did you know that an overwhelming majority of the top 100 most-used edtech products used in schools weren't selected because they could prove that they worked?

A system that measures edtech effectiveness, LearnPlatform, found that only 1 in 4 products meet ESSA requirements.

That's staggering. You'd think that above all, schools and districts want to make sure that the tools they're investing in have a track record of working...

The LearnPlatform analysis swept:

  • more than11,000 edtech products

  • 2.8 million users

  • 320,000 educators

Based on the evolution of edtech before, during, and after pandemic lockdowns, let's see if edtech companies are inching toward feeling motivated to meet research standards. PLUS, vote your say at the end of the post!

Before COVID, products that saved money beat effective ones

In the past, a product's effectiveness may have actually harmed its ability to scale.

You'd think the reverse would be true, but according to research from SRI International, products scale quickly when they:

  • promised cost savings for the buyer

  • didn't require face-to-face training

  • easily integrated into existing teaching and learning practices

Notice "proving it worked" didn't help products scale.

You can better understand the temptation to use cheaper edtech that can't stand on evidence by looking at buying patterns when the pandemic began.

Efficacy wasn't prioritized in the flurried onset of COVID

Lots of edtech companies made their products free to use during the pandemic. Why?

Teachers were so desperate to find tools to engage their students, that confirming evidence standards wasn't necessarily top of mind for them.

The number of edtech companies that were created in 2020 boomed. The average number of products accessed by districts has since tripled.

MORE products used by districts means MORE products flying under the efficacy radar.

The mad dash to support students at the onset of a scary, unknown virus, by any means, is valid.

Now we're three years removed from the start of lockdowns. Districts are in a better position to assess the quality of edtech before making investments.

Government calls for edtech efficacy are just ramping up

Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund when lockdowns first began.

Did you know the term "evidence-based" was used 17 times in the first 20 pages of the bill?

But it wasn't until more recently that the phrase felt like more than a slapped-on sticker for companies to pride themselves with.

Calls for edtech evidence just began accelerating over the last few weeks. The U.S. Department of Education released one-pagers and a blog breaking down the four levels of what the ESSA considers evidence.

Districts are responding by tightening edtech efficacy demands

Two cities with the top largest public school districts, Los Angeles and Chicago, are requiring that edtech vendors share evidence before finalizing purchases.

Efficacy is fading away as a nice-to-have for the U.S. government and school districts. The co-founder of LearnPlatform, the edtech effectiveness company that conducted the "top 100 products study" calls them table stakes.

Right now, it looks like the edtech efficacy ship is turning around.

Result: Efficacy is becoming normalized for edtech companies to have and districts to require

Demands for edtech efficacy seem to be rising. Here's what will ultimately ensure that product investments are based on evidence:

  • the proof edtech companies can provide to edtech buyers and decision-makers

  • the attentiveness of states, districts, and schools to vet potential vendors

LearnPlatform CEO Karl Rectanus predicts that states and districts will have a

massive transition of investment into evidence-building.

For now, those of us in the edtech industry who aren't buyers or product makers will just have to wait and see how this plays out.

Vote your say on the value of edtech efficacy:

Are edtech companies inching toward feeling motivated to meet research standards?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Still thinking it over

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