By Jerry Mooney
We’ve seen a worrying trend since the 1980s: the costs of education has risen faster than practically every other sector of the economy, except health care, perhaps. Many people aren’t happy about this, and so entrepreneurs are looking to tech to see if there is a possible way to bring the costs down.
We have seen some progress in this area in the digital age. For instance, Khan Academy offers online courses for free over YouTube and through its website with no advertising and no pay gates. It's a cool idea, but it’s not made any real impact on the overall costs of education because children aren’t allowed to go to Khan Academy instead of school by law. Instead, what the platform offers is essentially a remedial service for students helping them out where school has let them down.
But we are seeing progress in other areas of this sclerotic industry. According to a report from Ambient Insight, global tech education companies raised more than $2.6 billion dollars in 2015, nearly double what they raised in 2013. Here are some of the ways that they are trying to change the world of education and bring costs down.
Improving Global Access
Access to education is a massive global problem. According to estimates from UNICEF, about 58 million children don't have access to elementary school education.
A startup in New York called Pencil thinks that it has found a solution. It’s creating partnerships in developing countries between schools and local professionals. It’s then using these volunteers to help improve academic outcomes in remote villages, far from urban centers. They predict that they will be able to help more than 200,000 children over the next few years.
Reducing Admin Costs
According to the US government, total school debt stood at more than $406 in 2014, and the figure has only gone up since then. One of the reasons for this cost is the high admin costs involved in running a school. It takes a lot of time for staff to manually process all the information generated by students and teachers.
Now, though, entrepreneurs are looking for solutions. Software solutions, including some Pay Schools products, allow admin staff to automate the processing and collection of child expenses for things like food service and after school activity fees from parents. It’s hoped that this sort of thing will reduce the overall amount of time that administrators spend chasing parents for payments and working out how much they owe.
Another way educational institutions are reducing costs is through the so-called “flipped classrooms” or blended classrooms. This is where some of the learning takes place in the traditional brick-and-mortar setting, and some take place through online video instruction. According to a survey by Kaltura of education professionals, 48 percent said that they flipped classrooms, allowing students to connect to them over the internet.
Other companies are looking for ways to create cloud platforms to blend cloud-based services with university courses so that students can learn both online and offline at their leisure.