There’s a growing consensus that, in education, the pandemic has not so much changed things as its uncovered and accelerated existing trends. Two of those trends are the explosion in connective digital teaching technology and the growth of less-is-more education technology.
The first trend is easy to understand. Technology tools that allowed or helped instructors connect to their students, oversee their learning progress or share their lessons were, quite understandably, in high demand during mandated distance learning.
It’s the second trend that better proves the point about pandemic learning, though. Before distance learning was the only thing, education technologies that were simple to use, easy to learn and comparatively inexpensive were already seeing market growth. The pandemic has likely anchored that as the new normal in edtech.
One company, Screencast-O-Matic, out of Seattle, is right from central casting on both points.
Started in 2006, the company was created, CEO Matt Champagne says, “to build a set of tools to create video and to communicate very easily. Back then, that was incredibly difficult. If you were in a school or even in a company, you had to go to an expert and pay a lot of money. It was just way too difficult.”
That’s the company’s value proposition – helping both teachers and students make and share presentations, tutorials, lessons – even their screens in their classrooms – quickly and easily.
And if you think that feels like a solution tailor-made for the needs of remote pandemic instruction, you’d be thinking correctly. According to the company, they saw a staggering 825% bump in usage during the thick or remote teaching and learning – spinning up to more than 11 million users across 190 countries.
“Sometimes technologies explode with youth first and the professional and education markets don’t grow as fast. But with this massive spike we saw, everyone had to figure out how to do video,” Champagne said. Usage has leveled off since some classes have gone back to in person, face-to-face. “But it’s still higher than pre-pandemic, we’re still seeing very robust growth,” he said.
That’s the essence of the first trend. Companies and technology solutions that saw big jumps in adoption in 2020, may see their numbers retreat but they won’t wither. People know how to use their products and services now. Patterns and habits formed. Change is difficult and, when a product works, there’s no reason to stop using it. Pandemic learning winners will stay winners.
Additionally, the ease of use factor in education technology can’t be – should not be – overlooked. This is where the O-Matic and Champagne’s Screencast stands out. “That’s still our core value – that it’s easy to use,” Champagne said.
The product requires no fancy software licenses, no IT permissions, no specific cameras – users just go to the site, click a button, install the app and record and share. “We don’t even request an e-mail,” Champagne said, “you just start using it.” Better yet, it integrates with all the big names in learning management – Moodle, blackboard, canvas, even Chromebook.
And the price – just $20 a year. “Which is pretty incredible,” Champagne said. At that rate, even our criminally underpaid teachers can afford it without having to worry about, wait for, seek permission for reimbursement.
That’s nearly zero barrier to acquisition and use and the powerful new model for education technology. If a tool requires teacher training, ongoing development, updates and IT management and maintenance, it’s increasingly a hard sell. In that way, teachers are no different than anyone else. They want what works, what works easily and efficiently and is as inexpensive as it can be.
That’s the second trend. Companies that find a way to address a single problem with that level of easy solution will win. And keep winning. Now, in education, less is more.
It’s not too difficult to see why, even though Screencast has broad appeal, more than half their business comes from education, teachers specifically. As the company adds features – they recently added a green screen that students can use to do mock interview and “remote” reporting – there’s no reason to think they, and companies on a similar path, won’t grow their education foothold even more.
Right now, the company is private, profitable and not seeking funding, Champagne said. But they are looking for ways to expand their reach and services. “We want to try to fill out the complete picture for education as far as a value proposition around ease of access,” he said. “The vision is that using video is just another communications tool like e-mail or text, something else in your arsenal with no friction in the process.”