5 EdTech startups that started shaping the way we learn in 2018

2018 has been a year full of innovative ideas brought to us by EdTech startups: virtual reality adventures, DIY drones and karaoke audiobooks have popped up on the scene, promising to transform the way we learn.

Technological advances spurred on by startup experimentation are subverting traditional educational practices and creating learning experiences that have never been available before.

As you may already know from our post on the 5 top EdTech trends in 2018, the EdTech sector’s spotlight fell on technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, chatbots, artificial intelligence and blockchain. It feels like the year has flown by (or is it just us?), so we wanted to take a look back at some of the trends we saw were set to impact 2018.

So, here are five exciting use cases for the past year’s top tech, and how they can provide educators and students with experiences that are pushing the boundaries of learning.

1. Immersive language learning in VR

EdtTech startup 2018 Play2Speak

Linguistic immersion is a powerful way of learning a language, but plane tickets and accommodation are expensive – and a lot of people simply don’t have the time or resources to travel abroad for extended amounts of time.

Thankfully, actually living abroad and being surrounded by native speakers isn’t the only way to have an immersive experience. Hailing from Madrid, Play2Speak uses virtual reality to create what it calls “adventure game conversations” that help students improve their English language skills.

Its method combines artificial intelligence and digital storytelling to create fun conversational experiences. In its first demo, a pirate tour guide takes the wearer of the VR goggles on a sea adventure filled with excitement, mystery and humour. The players can speak to virtual characters and practice their skills in lifelike conversations. Then, Play2Speak’s personalised report system evaluates their speaking proficiency.

As we predicted back in February 2018, virtual reality has become an important trend in EdTech and will continue its growth in 2019. While it is true that VR is still in the early-adopter phase, and has failed to conquer the world for the quite a few years now, startups like Play2Speak might well help usher it into the mainstream.

2. Learning to love STEM with the help of drones

EdtTech startup 2018 BonaDrone
EdtTech startup 2018 BonaDrone

BonaDrone is a Catalan EdTech startup that uses 3D-printed drones to not only teach children science, but make them fall in love with it. The company has created a kit that allows kids to design, print, assemble and configure their own drone from scratch, giving them a chance to witness science and technology at play as they learn how these flying robots work.

BonaDrone’s premise is that there’s a strange disconnect between children’s lives in and outside of the classroom. Most schools have not introduced technology as an integral part of the learning experience; the “smart phones away, text books out” mentality prevails. However, after the bell rings, the tech ban is suddenly lifted and kids are immediately immersed in the most advanced technologies of our time, without knowing where those technologies come from, how they work and how they are developed.

New research has found a significant, 12% drop in teenage boys’ interest in pursuing STEM careers. To combat this problem, BonaDrone has made it its mission to get students more excited about STEM, and to help educators use tools and technologies that are engaging and relevant for today’s kids.

3. Practising pronunciation with a karaoke reading app

EdtTech startup 2018 Beelinguapp
EdtTech startup 2018 Beelinguapp

People have been using smartphones to learn languages for years. Some of us have overdone classic language learning apps like Duolingo and Memrise to a point that we were able to anticipate their every move.

The startup Beelinguapp, headquartered in Berlin, has created a unique new solution for anyone looking to practice their reading skills and improve their vocabulary – and it would take a lifetime of commuting to max this one out.

Its app shows a page with the same text in two languages, side by side, so there’s no need to go back and forth between the text and the dictionary. It also has an audiobook function – they call it “karaoke reading” mode – so users can listen to a native speaker and practise their pronunciation as they follow the text with their eyes. There are many types of texts ranging from fairy tales and novels to news and science papers, in 13 languages.

4. Engaging students and creating learning communities with chatbots

EdtTech startup 2018 EdTech Foundry

There’s a common misconception that chatbots were invented solely to replace customer support agents. In reality, there is so much more they can be used for. Earlier this year, we felt convinced that EdTech startups would start using chatbots increasingly to develop new EdTech solutions. As it turns out, we weren’t far off.

The Oslo-based startup EdTech Foundry has built a platform called Differ that uses chatbots and artificial intelligence to make sure that students in higher education get the support they need to complete a course and remain constantly engaged throughout the process.

It provides a safe environment where students can ask questions and get help whenever they need it, without fear of judgment, as members of an online learning community. Differ is basically the assistant that teachers never had. It’s efficient, it motivates students to collaborate and provides a way for teachers to reach their pupils.

Moreover, automation is key: as EdTech Foundry Co-founder Geir Sand Nilsen explains, teachers cannot be expected to follow up with hundreds of students. The chatbots learn from course activity and help teachers encourage student collaboration.

5. Business training on an app-based microlearning platform

EdTech Startup 2018 EduMe

EduMe is a mobile-first microlearning platform that businesses can use to train their employees online. Its creators, based in London, have noticed that desktop-based training has become outdated in the mobile world, and created an easy-to-use app that combines learning with communication.

It’s a way for companies to create engaging content, upskill their workforce or increase productivity, while also using the platform to send quick updates and memos. This year, EduMe was selected as Uber’s preferred training platform across the EMEA region. In Uber’s case, it’s used for bite-sized, interactive sessions that guide drivers through the process of using the app and give tips on how to provide the best customer service.

This EdTech startup has already won several awards, and has a good chance to become a leading education solution for innovative companies.

Have you discovered any exciting EdTech startups this year? What are they and how are they changing things for the better? And what do you expect to see in 2019?

Let us know in the comments below.