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The big picture of online education business
The pandemic was dreadful, but one of the best things that drastically improved was online education. Looking back, in the last two decades, the Internet has evolved into the world's largest and most accessible database of information.
Apart from online shopping, e-commerce, and every other thing the Internet blessed us with, it also transformed people's perspectives on online education and training. Online schooling is transforming the look of traditional classroom settings and making education easier and more accessible than ever before.
As a result, many EdTech startups are gradually developing. Though many success stories are written about them, no one usually talks about the big picture of their business.
Evolution of online education
Online education, also known as e-learning, m-learning, computer-aided distance education (or CADE), is very popular these days. Who doesn’t want to save money, time, and energy, right? Thanks to online education, students may learn from anywhere with internet and electricity connections. 
Globally, schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 1.2 billion students from 186 nations were out of the classroom. As a result, education has evolved tremendously, with the emergence of e-learning, where instruction is done remotely and fully digitally. Some wonder if the acceptance of online learning would continue post-pandemic and how such a transition might affect the global education sector. Let’s look at some data regarding this.
Global EdTech investments reached$18.66 billion in 2019, and the whole industry for online education is estimated to reach $350bn by 2025. Since Covid-19, the utilization of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing, and online learning software has increased significantly. 
Pre-pandemic and post-pandemic world
Prior to Covid-19, distance education was growing slowly but steadily. In 2018, 34.7% of college students took at least one online course, up from 33.1% in 2017. People are now following this online education trend as it is ROI driven. For instance, people, after completing their undergrads, get into jobs, and it becomes difficult for them to balance work and higher studies.
That’s where the EdTech companies are also focusing on; flexibility, affordability, and domain specific skills. Another positive aspect is that earlier, we all had to go through a system of learning, for instance, primary school, secondary, higher secondary, university, and even work and higher studies.
But the concept of education is now broadening thanks to different EdTech platforms, boot camps, and trainings, resulting in lifelong learning and skills development. Children are also now learning coding and robotics.
Major players of online education in the international markets
The market is flooded with online learning platforms that serve millions of people. While Skillshare caters to creatives with animation, photography, and lifestyle courses, Coursera caters to academics with university courses. The world’s top universities are also democratizing education by offering online courses.
Both Stanford and Harvard offer online courses in computer science, engineering, mathematics, business, art, and personal development. All of this shows that people want to learn online.
The rapid change of the world may be the reason for the high demand and rapid market growth. Udemy president Darren Shimkus says, “The biggest challenge for learners is to figure out what skills are emerging, what they can do to compete best in the global market.” 
Let’s look at some of the popular EdTech platforms and their features.
- Founded by Harvard and MIT
- 2,500+ online courses for free
- About 145 of the courses are from Harvard, ranging from public health to history to programming and poetry
- These classes are free to audit, but you can pay $50-200 for features like graded homework and completion certificates for your resume or LinkedIn profile
- An online learning platform with lecturers from prominent colleges including John Hopkins and Stanford
- There are over 4,300 courses, 450 specializations, 440 projects, and 20 degrees available on Coursera's website
- Due to the pandemic, platform users grew by 66% in 2020
- Over 40 million students, 70,000 teachers, and 155,000 courses offered in 65 languages
- It is an open marketplace where anyone can build a course
- Students and instructors from over 180 countries have enrolled in over 480 million courses 
Capturing the EdTech market
The Indian EdTech ecosystem has also matured. According to KPMG, India has around 3,500 EdTech startups, and these Indian EdTechs have already made a mark on the global EdTech market. In 2020, Bengaluru-based Byju's became India's third decacorn and the highest valued unicorn at $16.5bn.
By 2018, US EdTech businesses had raised $1.45 billion. Moreover, 44.1%, equivalent to $16.34bn, of global investment in EdTech in 2018 came from China. The Chinese EdTech sector has grown exponentially, with 423 million online education users in March 2020.
By January 2020, a few EdTech companies were worth over $1bn. According to the EdSurge financing database, the US EdTech industry raised approximately $2.2bn in 130 acquisitions. Globally, EdTech investment is expected to reach $8 trillion by 2025.
Last Round Type
$350M Series F
$300M Series G Top Up
$1.6B Series E+
$150M VC/PE Round
$1.5B Series A
$440M Series H
Series F Top Up
$650M Series E
$300M Series D
Financial and non-financial benefits
Online education is frequently less expensive to students. Online programs eliminate the need for expensive campus accommodation, transportation, and other expenditures such as student fees, gyms, computer laboratories, etc. Hence, an online student can save hundreds of dollars per month. 
However, EdTech platforms made creating and selling courses more effortless than ever. Many of the tools and equipment required to develop a course are easy to use and produce excellent results. Online courses also provide a passive income source. Creating and selling a course can help you financially.
If your course is online, you can have students from any time zone. However, quality online courses take time to prepare. Your success depends on the demand for your course and your ability to attract your target market. Unfortunately, it's difficult to optimize your profits while keeping your course cheap for students. 
Looking on the bright side, online learning provides teachers and students greater convenience, access, and flexibility. It also makes classrooms more engaging. Many teachers indicate that students perform better in online courses. Online courses that are well-run tend to boost student retention and satisfaction. Online education also reaches a large audience. These classes are not age, class, or location restricted.
On the other hand, for teachers or trainers who have been using traditional teaching methods for several years, learning about online learning may be difficult and complex. Online learning does not necessitate significant technical abilities, but participants must be comfortable using computers and the internet. Slow internet can also be frustrating, especially in rural locations. 
What are the challenges?
The EdTech market is bound to have some competition. The providers must fight for the right to sell their products to customers. The most notable examples include technological challenges in education due to a lack of funding. And this is in a market where potential demand far outnumbers supply, with millions of schools, thousands of colleges, and universities waiting for the right time to upgrade technologically.
There are also contentious EdTech business issues, such as whether scaling or monetization should be the top priority for providers in the field. Investors prefer to work with long-standing, established businesses that can consistently generate consistent profits.
As a result, the scale-first-monetize-later business development strategy is becoming more popular in the field. Some of the other challenges include a long sales cycle, limited budget, over-saturated market, slow-moving in accepting innovation, non-sustainable monetization model, achievability for non-technical users, finding competent tutors etc. 
Bangladesh in EdTech
EdTech is currently thriving in Bangladesh. 10 Minute School is a Bangladeshi EdTech pioneer. The company tested an EdTech operation in Bangladesh in 2014. The company was founded by Ayman Sadiq as a YouTube channel. It quickly evolved into the country's most popular EdTech company.
Many EdTech companies have arisen; some have acquired financing, gained traction, and begun expanding. Tracxn and Crunchbase estimate that at present there are 90 EdTech startups in Bangladesh. Let’s look at some of the popular ones.
10 Minute School
- Offers online video lectures for students in grades 1–12, university examinations, IELTS, and GRE prep
- Has 1.79 million subscribers
- 20,000 video tutorials and 50,000 quizzes,
- The 10 Minute School mobile app has been downloaded over a million times
- Launched in 2019
- Includes over 40 courses and 30,000 students
- Launched Complete Preparation on ISSB, a military training course
- Raised seed funding through BYLC Ventures' start-up accelerator program
- Launched in 2018
- Have 80 animated video lessons totaling 700 minutes, 3500 questions and answers, 700 notes, and 1000 illustrations for SSC General Mathematics
- Raised a pre-seed fund of $175,000 in December and a seed investment of $1.3m in July, the greatest money collection for a Bangladeshi EdTech business
- Debuted in Bangladesh in 2016
- Bridges the technical skills gap between job seekers and employers
- Offers over 34 video lessons for Tk3,000 per year
- Upskill Library now has over 22 certified trainers
- The company raised over $100,000 in seed capital in February 2021
However, in Bangladesh, we don’t really have enough online courses and platforms for the kids compared to college and university-level students. This gap can be reduced if more platforms take initiatives for kids.
Now, what might the future of the EdTech community in Bangladesh look like? Well, in the first half of 2021, Bangladeshi Edtech startups raised approximately $2m. Edtechs had a 5% market share in the education market prior to the pandemic, and it is expected to increase to 10% after the pandemic. Experts predict that the market for Edtechs in Bangladesh will reach 700 million USD by 2025. In the near future, this rapidly growing industry is expected to be the torchbearer of the Bangladeshi start-up community. 
The future of EdTech industry
Tech-based learning is the future of education. Establishing an effective environment that helps learners develop industry-relevant skills was previously optional, but now it’s possible just by a few clicks. This pandemic has demonstrated how useful and necessary online learning tools are; when the world came to a halt. Hence, online EdTech companies were highly benefited as their products became popular and also a necessity to the students.
Because of the sudden demand for online education, experts in education and learning believe the EdTech industry will only increase in the coming days. Entrepreneurs will use technology to develop highly tailored learning opportunities, make education available to all, and scale the industry in new and unexpected ways. EdTech has the potential to fundamentally alter education as we know it. 
From 2010 to 2019, EdTech VC investments grew to $7bn. HolonIQ predicted $87bn in VC funding over the next decade (2020-2029). So far in 2021, EdTech VC funding has reached $26bn with $10bn in the first half. So the initial $87bn prediction may reach $200bn by 2030. A $10 trillion global EdTech market is expected by 2030, according to HolonIQ. China leads the world in VC fundraising, with over 50% of funds raised, followed by the US and India. 
We can all agree that the transition from onsite to online learning was inevitable. However, after seeing the above data, we can all believe that we will still continue using online platforms to make learning effective and useful.
David Warlick said, “We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” I hope by now we all know the importance and the future of the EdTech industry. Last but not the least, we all must be welcoming to the new changes and new innovations.
Ahmed Shoyeb Iqbal is head of operations at Dhaka Tribune
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