An example of edtech challenges

The Top 5 Challenges Faced by EdTech Companies

Education Technology (EdTech) platforms are the foundation for educators and students to collaborate and foster learning. But if EdTech platforms take their eye off the ball from creating an engaging experience for both educators and students alike, they quickly alienate both groups. It disengages the audience. It hurts business. It fails to provide that great learning experience for those having high expectations from the platform.

Here are the top 5 cases where this collaborative experience between the students and educators gets completely derailed:

  1. Content is diverse and massively spread out across devices and locations.
  2. Mobile and unreliable networks are EdTech platforms arch enemy
  3. Content that is not safe for work is a threat to the credibility of an EdTech platform
  4. Document formats (especially Microsoft office formats) – their richness is their weakness
  5. Students consume content on various devices and EdTech platforms that don’t think about the experience across devices fail to deliver the experience needed.

Access content – no matter what it is or where it may be

Students and educators interact in various ways.  Based on the medium of instruction and collaboration, a combination of documents, images, audio and video is used to exchange information between students and teachers.

EdTech platforms have to be able to seamlessly access all kinds of content.

But now, students may have to upload an image from their mobile device or a video that is on their social media account or a document that resides in a cloud storage platform like Dropbox.  The challenge for EdTech companies just got bigger.

How can an EdTech platform deliver the best experience to educators and students alike given the diversity of content? Every company must make sure that:

  • Images can be accessed and ingested into the platform
  • Documents can be accessed and ingested into the platform
  • Audio files can be accessed and ingested into the platform
  • Videos can be accessed and ingested into the platform
  • The capability to ingest content can be delivered via a super simple user interface, including options for the user to drag and drop content into the platform’s website or application.
  • The educator and student content that resides on social networks like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can be accessed and ingested into the EdTech platform
  • The educator and student content that resides on cloud storage like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, AWS S3, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage can be accessed and ingested into the EdTech platform

Mobile and unreliable networks – no matter how terrible the network may be, content must be ingested in a reliable and scalable way

Mobile networks are notorious for having high latency, high packet loss and are often congested. We experience that every day. Now, imagine you are a student trying to complete an assignment by uploading a large file into an EdTech platform.  Getting past the mobile networks roadblock to upload the assignment may be harder than the assignment itself. Or an educator is uploading a beautiful lesson on your Learning Management System (LMS) and just cannot because it is too large to get across reliably over a terrible wifi or mobile network.

This problem is compounding as the world becomes one big stage for learning. There are many EdTech platforms where educators and students are dispersed across the globe. Network connectivity is a big enough of an issue in developed countries, in developing countries it is an even bigger problem.  So if you intend to scale globally, it is imperative that you acknowledge that the network is your foe.

So when files fail to upload reliably, what does this leave the student and the educator with?  They start looking for another EdTech platform that can reliably ingest content. Finally there is no compromise to student / teacher collaboration and interaction.

How can an EdTech platform deliver the best experience when unreliable networks are out to get them?

  • Utilize advanced network intelligence that will understand the network connectivity at the origin of the content and tailor the upload / ingest process based on the network connection deficiencies
  • Establish that the platform will have the reliability of detecting failures and resuming uploads seamlessly
  • Guarantee that the platform will find the best and shortest route on the internet to bypass the latency and congestion on the networks

No matter what content is ingested in the EdTech platform, curate it to be safe for consumption

Imagine this. A student who logs into your EdTech platform thinking that she is accessing an a homework assignment, is shocked to see images that are inappropriate for a child to see (nudity, violence, etc). EdTech platforms owe it to their audience, educators and students alike, to ensure that content that should not be consumed is appropriately filtered and moderated before anyone gets access to it.  

Let’s imagine another scenario. A teacher is uploading an assignment for all students to download and complete. Unknowing that the file is infected with a malware, the teacher merrily uploads the document into the EdTech platform. Students across the globe download the file. You know where this is going. It is now a monster on the move with a path of malware devastation. EdTech platforms owe it to their audience, educators and students alike, that content will be safe and secure to drive interactions between educators and students.

How can an EdTech platform deliver the best experience when content can cause damage in various ways? They would have to follow this checklist:

  • Content is appropriately filtered for it to be safe for work (nudity, etc)
  • Any other criteria of moderation is applied in an automated manner without manual processing of content. Human capital in such cases is expensive, not scalable and not sufficient.
  • Content is secure, free of malware and viruses, so that the consumers of content can collaborate knowing that content is secured. Any infected content should be quarantined.
  • Detect content that may have copyright protection on it and appropriately handle processing of it.
  • Help educators detect plagiarized content right within the platform.
  • Content is curated, moderated, filtered, processed and prepared just right for both educators and students.

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Convert content from one format to another reliably, no matter what

Microsoft has long dominated the office productivity software market. Yes, Google Apps is certainly a formidable competitor, but the scale and prevalence of Microsoft Office is just staggering. With over 100 million Office 365 subscriptions and possibly an equal number in its perpetual licenses, it is often the productivity tool of choice for documents, numeric calculations, presentations and more. It’s prevalence transcends industry verticals, sizes  and demographics. The richness of the Office product suite is still a huge appeal to millions of users, especially students and educators.

Creating engaging documents or presentations in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint may help get your point across to your audience in a beautiful way, it poses a different problem altogether. Documents are often not created for private consumption. They are the vehicle for communicating ideas, sharing information. But in order for documents to be useful to businesses and other consumers of the information, documents have to undergo transformations from one format to another to best engage the creator and the consumer. A Microsoft Powerpoint presentation from a student often has to be converted to a pdf, html or an image within an application to best present that information in an engaging manner to the reader. But more often than not, Microsoft document formats pose a large problem when they have to be transformed and converted into different formats. The rendering of images, fonts and text is a massive challenge to overcome.

EdTech companies often underestimate this problem. It is like being hurt with a million paper cuts. Platforms just don’t know which student or educator will use a font, image or symbol that will not render correctly when converted to a pdf, html or image. It is frustrating for both students and educators.

How can an EdTech platform deliver the best experience when certain content types are notorious for not converting and rendering correctly?

  • Ensure that all current and previous popular content types (especially Microsoft Office documents) can convert to pdf, html and png consistently and reliably – no matter which font, which symbol or superimposed media may be part of the original document.
  • Ensure that the EdTech platform can support a wide variety of documents as input (including Adobe file types, image file types, text, and others) and can render appropriately in a prescribed output format.

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Deliver the best experience to students and educators – no matter what device or network is being used to view the content

Content is viewed on various devices of various sizes. Content is displayed on TV screens, viewed on laptops, workstations, tablets, phones and even watches. It is important that EdTech platforms provide and exception experience to view content, no matter which device is being used.

In addition, content has to be presented to the viewer in the most appropriate and appealing manner. It is important that documents can be viewed in a viewer that allows the audience to immerse themselves into consuming the content. Any hotchpotch approach to present content is a quick turn off for the audience.

How can an EdTech platform deliver the best experience to view and publish content in a way that best fosters learning and collaboration?

  • Content can be rendered and displayed on the website or application with blazing fast speed. Integration with Content Delivery Networks is paramount for quick access to content.
  • Content can be presented in a way that helps load webpages that are optimized for speed (image compression, progressive images, video and image quality optimizations)
  • Documents can be presented to users in the most compelling way – in a viewer that delivers the most engaging experience for the reader.
  • Content can be consumed on any device – from TVs to watches in a seamless way.

Let’s boil this down …

EdTech platforms need a content pipeline; a workflow of all the operations that must happen on a piece of content before it is deemed appropriate and ready for consumption by the audience of that content. A pipeline where content must be accessed, personalized and embedded to deliver an experience that drives user engagement.  Content can be moderated and filtered by manual processing, but using human capital for content curation is expensive and not very scalable. With millions of content items to process, the manual method of filtering quickly reaches its ceiling. The only scalable and consistent way to process large quantities of “prepared” content is by integrating with a platform that supports content workflows.

Content workflows can be described as a pipeline of tasks that must operate on the content to meet the requirements of the application.  The content workflow will be different for the varied applications and the problems they solve. But in almost every case, content goes through a series of operations to make it ready for use within an application. Some of the workflow execution components are listed below:

  1. Access and ingest content
  2. Filtering
  3. Moderation
  4. Categorization
  5. Editorial reviews
  6. Transformation from one form to another
  7. Security verification (virus, malware detection and quarantine)
  8. Optimizations for size, performance and devices
  9. Analysis for insights
  10. Drive process automation using tailor-made machine learning models
  11. Integration with Content Delivery Networks

There are thousands of combinations of workflow tasks that can be coupled to create the content pipeline that works just right for your application. Let’s see a sample workflow for EdTech platforms that can be achieved with Filestack’s End User Content Management System. And the absolute kicker – create workflows in a beautiful graphical interface and execute them with a single API call.

An example of an Ed Tech workflow
An example of an Ed Tech workflow

 

We are privileged that some of the biggest names in the EdTech world partner with Filestack and use our platform to deliver an exceptional experience to their users. Teachable, ClassDojo, Digication, Portfolium, LearnZillion, Kajabi just to name a few.  We’d love to hear from you and see if we can help you deliver engaging personalized experiences for your customers. Connect with us at sales@filestack.com and have a trusted advisor guide you in your endeavor to delight teachers and students of the world.

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