Teachers and students who transitioned to remote instruction in the four months since the onset of COVID-19 accessed 89 percent more ed-tech tools on average each month than they did for the full 2018-2019 school year, including tools they had never previously used.
That finding is just one of the takeaways from a newly published analysis by LearnPlatform, a company whose technology allows districts and states to organize and analyze the ed-tech they have been using.
Based on the online activity of more than 1.7 million learners, including more than 1.1 million post-COVID users, the study found that 952 ed-tech tools were accessed, on average, each month during the past school year, before COVID was a factor.
Significantly more—1,327 ed-tech tools—were accessed on average each month after the coronavirus-related closures. That’s a nearly 90 percent increase over the previous monthly average for the 2018-2019 academic year, when just 703, were accessed.
“The implications for fall reopenings are massive,” said Karl Rectanus, LearnPlatform’s co-founder and CEO, as districts adapt to a “new normal” about integrating ed-tech into teaching and learning.
Rectanus said the dramatic increase also reflects the vast number of ed-tech tools that have suddenly been offered for free to parents, teachers, students, and schools.
“Technology will be a larger part of education than it was before,” he said, “so districts and states have to focus on ed-tech effectiveness—not just access.”
In its analysis of 6,707 ed-tech products used by U.S. school districts and institutions—called the 2020 EdTech Top 40 – COVID19 Special Edition—the researchers looked at both the type of tool accessed and its primary purpose.
“Free creation tools, and supplementary tools, are getting a lot more traction,” said Rectanus.
The most commonly used tools after school closures were operational in nature, with 50 percent fitting that category. These products include creation resources, learning management systems, and communications tools. The second-most frequently accessed category was curriculum, with 37 percent focusing on specific instruction to students.
The pie chart above depicts the distribution of product types and what they are used for, in the top 40.
Companies interested in learning where new products, or updated products, could meet districts’ emerging needs should be aware of the realities in the current school ed-tech landscape, said Rectanus.
“Providers have to recognize that the worlds of their consumers—districts and states—have completely changed so they have to be responsive to that,” Rectanus said.
Demand for products that engage students, support the work of teachers and parents, and are easy to use all have to be a higher priority than they have been in the past, according to Rectanus.
Another issue weighing on decision-makers in districts and states is broadband access and the digital divide.
“Great districts and states understand it’s not just about access. It’s the engagement they need to look at—and focus on—to close the digital learning gap,” said Rectanus. “It doesn’t matter if you have access to Wi-Fi if you’re not doing anything with it.”
When Schools Went Remote, New Players Came Into the Mix
As students were sent home to learn, and teachers also went home with a new requirement to teach online, schools need products that offered flexibility in instruction and delivery, and lots of ed-tech access.
Many school leaders and educators took companies up on their offers to try free resources until the end of the school year, or the end of the summer, and they are just now deciding how to transition to paid status.
Whether or not there was a cost involved, Google dominated the list, with eight out of 10 of the top ed-tech tools being Google products.
After schools closed, nine ed-tech tools that had never been on the list before became part of the top 40. Those new tools, and their rankings, are in the table below.
9 New Products in Top 40 After Schools Closed
RankingEd-Tech ToolWhat It Does 6Google Meet / HangoutsNow Google Meet, this is the enterprise group video conferencing solution offered by Google for all schools that pay for Google services for their users. 7ZoomA communications tool used for video, audio and web conferencing, web conferencing, and for webinars. 13FlipgridThis tool is used for creating and sharing short videos. 19EdpuzzleA supplementary tool, this product invites teachers to choose a video, make it into a lesson, and track students’ comprehension. 22Google DrawingsA creativity tool within Google Drive, Google Drawings allows users to start with a blank canvas and work on it alone, or collaborate with others in real time, to make diagrams and charts. 30ClassLinkA single sign-on tool to help educators spend less time logging into various ed-tech tools for their classrooms. 33PadletAn application to create an online bulletin board that you can use to display information for any topic. 34IXL MathA tool that offers personalized learning, with a comprehensive K-12 curriculum, individualized guidance, and real-time analytics. 40SeesawAn app that allows teachers and students to create and collaborate via interactive multimedia bulletin boards.
More information about this research, and the full list of the Top 40 tools, can be accessed here.