Turning Analytics Into Insights, Simplifying Products Seen as Trends to Watch

Associate Editor


Analyzing educational data to gain useful insights, building more simplicity into ed-tech products, and a continuing interest by venture capitalists in this sector are important trends that the U.K.-based firm Futuresource Consulting expects to unfold this year.

Setting the scene for these projected developments are steady increases in sales of digital devices needed for students to take advantage of instructional technology, said Mike Fisher, associate director for Futuresource Consulting, a U.K.-based research firm that tracks the sale of such devices into education. Fisher spoke at an event his company hosted at BETT, the world’s largest ed-tech conference, to explain some of the worldwide developments that fuel these changes.

“When we go to shows like BETT, we tend to talk about the innovative stuff,” Fisher told an audience of about 100 people. But education is an oil tanker.”

Many schools still rely on computer labs, for instance, rather than equipping students with individual devices they can use in their classrooms. “It’s still common to find IT labs where there’s a screen and PC that shows a little bit of YouTube.”

Interactive flat panel displays are also widely in use.

Looking Back at 2015

In 2015, 30 million personal computers and tablets were sold to K-12 globally, representing about 14 percent growth over the year before, Fisher said. The U.K. market showed about 5 percent growth.

In the United States, Chromebooks reached 50 percent share of U.S. mobile device shipments, hitting more than 5 million sold in the U.S. by the third quarter of 2015.

Interactive flat-panel displays also showed strong sales in ed tech, with 12 percent growth in global volume to 1.33 million units, Fisher said. But if you take out a very large purchase in Turkey, the interactive flat-panel display market was actually flat, he said.

In the meantime, venture capital investment in ed-tech companies continued to rise, he said. The amount of investment in different sectors of the market conveys “confidence that there are profitable, sustainable businesses out there,” he said.

Issues on the Horizon

After the large-scale 1-to-1 computing projects that were initiated around the world in 2015 and the deals that were completed for future projects, Futuresource predicts no slowdown in the adoption of technology in schools for 2016. “The uptake of ed tech is continuing, albeit on different growth curves,” Fisher said. “But the growth curve is going the right way.”

With more data accumulating from ed tech, “we see more intelligence, more boundaries being pushed,” which results in more possibilities to use the data in interesting ways, Fisher said. The challenge will be to turn the mountains of data into kernels of insight that can make a real difference in education, he said.  This will open up opportunities for companies that can deliver analytics services that can turn data into valuable educational insights.

In a very diverse and often complex market, Fisher said, there’s been an emerging emphasis on simplifying products and services, especially in the U.K. “If you make it too complicated, they [educators] don’t use it,” Fisher said. “As an industry, how do you still maintain simplicity and the ability to service a widespread usage model? How do you integrate with other providers?”

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