Five reasons why the future of EdTech will favour ecosystems
The EdTech market is growing fast. With expectations it will expand by 2.5 times between 2019 and 2025, this ‘big bang’ of investment and innovation could provide an expanding wealth of opportunity for educators large and small, as well as their own most important end customers – their students.
But it needs to be done right. With tech providers facing a choice between creating walled gardens that promote proprietary technology solutions or opening the door to integrating innovation from anywhere, there are two pathways that could create very different futures for tertiary education.
The big bang doesn’t belong in a bottle
An open EdTech ecosystem that encourages, supports and delivers the market’s best ideas and innovation through collaboration, integration and partnership is likely to take us further in the future – whether we are talking about the fortunes of a single tech customer or the sector as a whole.
This is not because one or another tech provider believes in this philosophy (although ReadyTech does), it’s because the reality of the world we’re entering as educators and technologists is one that favours flexible open architecture rather than the restrictions of a single platform provider.
Whether we’re talking about the diverse needs of a TAFE provider or university, or looking at the more niche, industry-driven needs of a Registered Training Organisation, allowing educators the freedom to curate the technology they want will ensure their universe can continue to expand.
There are a few factors here that are worth considering.
That education is changing at lightning speed might be painful for education providers to hear yet again, but it’s also the truth. We’ve only begun to see the ways technology will evolve how we conduct and manage education. This will require us to be ever more agile in the years ahead.
The EdTech ecosystem has the advantage of travelling at the velocity of change itself, rather than having to play catch-up. By bringing the best technology available to the surface at any one time, being open to a wider ecosystem allows technologists and educators to adapt better and faster.
Innovation isn’t easy to do when you’re stoppered in a bottle. It’s the product of fresh ideas, out-of-the box influences, genuine passion, experimentation, feedback, even failure. It’s this openness to integrating the new that ensures we avoid Clayton Christenson’s classic innovator’s dilemma.
Ecosystems as a whole have no need to impose the tyranny of the top-down. Instead, participants can take advantage of naturally occurring bottom-up innovation and channel those new ideas and solutions from the outside into working for providers as part of a single experience on the inside.
Educators considering their future technology people and skills needs don’t need to stop at the boundaries of their IT department. While the knowledge and skills of in-house teams are essential, providers will need the ‘team’ sitting outside their organisation as much as the one sitting in it.
With an ecosystem approach to talent, we foster the ability of organisations to make boundaries more porous and work collaboratively with people inside and outside to support projects, plug gaps, seek advice and engineer solutions. We give tap a much bigger source of technology expertise.
Even a well-intentioned single platform provider can never do everything as well as carefully selected and integrated best-of-breed solutions. While there are advantages of a platform that integrates everything (or as much as possible) the value it delivers will always be compromised.
Whether this is building a non-optimal solution for the sake of building everything, or taking longer to bring value to the customer due to the restrictions of an internal roadmap and development team, customers realise less value over time than having the ability to access best-of-breed options.
Taking a single platform approach to the future is agreeing to a subtle form of vendor lock-in. While you might seemingly be free to walk down the road to a new provider, while you are tied to the priorities of a single vendor roadmap you are essentially paying a high opportunity cost.
When we close off exposure to the wider EdTech ecosystem, we miss out on the best-of-breed technologies the market is creating and supplying that may be more attuned to the needs of individual providers, which an open ecosystem approach could deliver continually as added value.