Jul 31, 2022
Here are our evaluation criteria for products, which appear in the form of guiding questions with accompanying explanations. In the interest of time, we verify this information independently, as opposed to contacting the company. We will only contact the company if we believe it is totally necessary. Also, each company is assessed using the evaluation criteria that relates to their product or service.
Are the developers of the product in the educational field, or are they primarily techies?
Techies may be great at innovating, but they usually don’t know or don’t understand what kinds of features that educators need or how they will be used in a classroom. They simply do as they are told, and that usually makes for a product that only resembles something that educators need. If the developers were in the education field, or employ people who are in the field, then you are likely to have a product that delivers what you need. In our evaluation, we research the extent to which the company or product development team is comprised of individuals with a background in education.
Was the product a result of research and teacher input?
Products are usually a response to an identified need (whether real or perceived). In our evaluation, the question that we ask is, did the company take the time to work with teachers to ensure that the product addresses their concerns and needs, or did the company decide to tell teachers and educators what will work best? If the answer is the latter, you are probably going to be spending a lot of time working on things that are either redundant or unnecessary. If the answer is the former, the product is much more likely to solve problems unique to the educational field. If the company relied on research alone, you have about a 50/50 chance of the product meeting your needs. Ultimately, the best products are a result of listening to the people in the field.
Does the product serve a purpose?
It is important that an edtech product is defined and serves a purpose. Having a defined purpose is also vital when approaching investors. In our evaluation, we test the products to confirm that they serve the purpose that it promises to serve.
Is the product scalable and flexible?
If you are thinking about offering the product to a small focus group, then hope to expand it in the future, you want something that is scalable and flexible. Even if you are only planning on using the product in your classroom, there is the possibility that other teachers in your school will want to try it with their students if it proves successful. If the product is scalable and flexible, you will be able to coordinate with others to bring the technology into more classrooms. In our evaluation, we test the products to confirm that they are scalable and flexible.
Is the product engaging and unique?
Technology should engage students in the classroom, not isolate them. With a marketplace bursting with “innovative” products, the death of many edtech companies is because their product is not unique enough to compete. This is not to suggest that entrepreneurs are not forward thinking but that their products are too similar to products that are succeeding or already have an active user base. Investors are unlikely to invest in products that do not stand apart from their competitors and administrators will not be interested in buying products that they essentially already own. New edtech companies need to do their homework and ensure that their products do not mimic other products and that they offer something new. This is an essential factor if their products are to be a success. In our evaluation, we test the products to confirm that are engaging and unique.
Has the product has been validated?
This is a common problem for many startups in various industries. Customers want to see validation from other users, especially if the product is expensive or takes a lot of time to learn. Without enough visible customer satisfaction, schools may not even want to schedule an initial meeting, let alone invest their time and money. In our evaluation, we assess the extent to which the product has been validated. To score well in this section, companies have to demonstrate that the product has a positive effect on student success.
Does it save student information, and if so how is the data managed?
This is an understandable concern as most of the students are underage. You do not want them to be targeted by marketers and businesses because the students had to register to use the product. You need assurances from the company that this information will be kept private and will be properly secured from hackers. In our evaluation, we research the extent to which each product maintains the security and privacy of its users.
Is their product pricing realistic or sustainable?
The death of any edtech product is unrealistic pricing. As with any product, profit margins should be slim in the beginning. Aim to appeal to a broad market and be aware of pricing models. EdSurge provides a comprehensive insight into pricing models and how startups can optimally price their product in the hopes of both enticing buyers and making a profit. In our evaluation, we assess the product’s pricing model and determine whether or not it is realistic and sustainable.
Did they choose the right business model?
Many edtech products have embraced the freemium pricing model as the norm. This is attractive to new consumers (who like to get things for free) but can be detrimental to edtech companies if those same consumers do not buy the upgrades and in turn, bring money into the company. New edtech companies need to understand how to sell their product and how to build investor confidence. Not every product will benefit from a freemium model and creators need to understand what plans are available on the market. Without a thorough understanding of pricing and the different edtech business models, new companies will never see a cent in profit. In our evaluation, we analyze the company’s overall business model and estimate the extent to which it will help or hurt the product’s longevity.
How is the customer service, and how responsive are they to issues and defects?
One of the worst failings of a company comes in the form of inadequate or nonexistent customer service. You should always research products before you make a purchase, and that is when you should look into the customer service offered by the provider. If the sales representative cannot answer questions about customer service, particularly about responsiveness, that should be a big red flag on the product. Because of time constraints, in our evaluation, we will look at online reviews related to the product’s customer service.