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2021 Was A Year For Ed Tech. What’s Next?

December 23, 2021

This was the year we all realized there’s no going back to normal. 2021 marked a paradigm shift in how schools think about the place of technology in education well beyond the pandemic. Discussions surrounding ed tech are no longer a matter of if, but how

With the influx of $190 billion in relief funding this year, schools are ready to embrace new answers to old problems, and ed tech companies are here to help deliver. There are two major trends we’ll see in 2022. 

Educational technology companies finally matter.

The K-12 education space has long been known for arduous sales cycles and complex vendor selection processes that have made it difficult for new companies to grow. But in 2020, the industry was valued at almost 90B, rising at a projected rate of 20% year over year through 2028. As a result, we’ll see more movement towards ed tech companies in private equity and venture capital firms. And following Instructure, Powerschool, D2L, and Duolingo this year, we can anticipate a few more IPOs next year.

In the past two years, school systems have invested rapidly in solutions that tackle urgent problems—the most obvious ones being devices, hardware, and network infrastructure. In 2022, we’ll see districts build upon this groundwork to support teaching and learning in innovative ways. There will be a continued focus on ed tech solutions that are evidence-based and interoperable. 

The investments made with this historic round of COVID-19 funds have the potential to impact generations to come, and school districts will be seeking scalable, sustainable B2B solutions to deliver equity and access at the systemic level. We’ll thus observe relatively slower growth for B2C companies, not just due to the more competitive and fragmented nature of their market but also their inability to impact learning equitably.

The definition of ‘technology investment’ will change.

There’s no longer such a thing as a technology budget. Barring some aspects of staffing and facilities, technology now touches every aspect of schooling. Leaders have realized this. Many have even dissolved the silos that once existed between their instructional, ed services, and IT departments to build more comprehensive approaches to education.

In 2022, schools will take more and more responsibility of key elements of a learner’s development. They’ll keep tackling health and safety issues, accelerating learning, measuring whole-child needs, and engaging families—just to name a few. Additionally, districts will continue mitigating the impact of just how ubiquitous technology has become in children’s lives.

Besides making more permanent investments with their relief funding (such as setting up their own network infrastructures), school districts will also be able to treat this year as a testing ground for unique solutions—seeing what works and what doesn’t, and cleaning the plate right before the funding runs out. Ed tech companies’ success will increasingly depend on recognizing this period of experimentation and actively focusing on maximizing return on investment.

Standing at the edge of 2021, we can expect continued disruption ahead—but we also stand on much firmer ground. While there is still so much to be done, I am excited to keep partnering with school systems and thought leaders across the nation as we continue to invest in the future of our students. 

Philip Cutler
Chief Executive Officer

Paper

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