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Reimagine Education: Innovative European Higher-Ed Startups

Posted by Admin on Dec 16, 2014

On the 9th of December, Charles McIntyre attended the Reimagine Education conference at Wharton and presented a European perspective about the EdTech industry and innovative higher education startups. He joined other leading academics, thought leaders, startups to discuss new pedagogies worldwide in higher education. 

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Photo source: Chiara Burberi via Twitter

Charles began his speech by providing a bit of background and emphasizing to the audience the importance of making technology more valuable to students, teachers, and society as a whole.

He aptly stated, "the challenge with the advances in technology is to avoid going down the road of trying to do everything faster and more efficiency, without regard to the individual."

When considering how to foster long term learning with innovative technologies, Charles underscored that content can be "more relevant and engaging" to increase the chances of retaining new information. 

Over 3000 European eLearning companies currently strive to create these types of technologies that allow content to be more relevant and engaging. However, they are still relatively small companies and need more funding to produce a widespread impact on the EdTech industry. 

European EdTech Industry Insights

Charles then provided a comprehensive summary of the current state of the global EdTech industry by illustrating to attendees the potential for European e-Learning companies to rapidly grow and improve.

Specifically, EdTech is a $10 billion industry, with 60% of that investment going to the United States. Of this amount, only $426 million of this amount is found within the European markets. 

As seen in the graph below on the left, this $10 billion dollar industry has also facilitated the rapid adoption of digital products, especially within emerging markets. By 2017, there will be more individuals able to access digital products and services in emerging markets than in mature markets. 

The second graph on the right shows that digital spend within education currently stands at about 3% as compared to 35% within the content industries more generally. This becomes even more meaningful when we realize that the global education industry is 3x the size of the media and entertainment industries: $4.2tr versus $1.4tr.

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To summarize the industry insights piece of his presentation, Charles emphasized that within the e-Learning marketplace, everyone is testing different solutions to make decisions on EdTech needs for their institutions, since the "tried and tested routes" remain to be discovered.

There are countless innovative European startups offering EdTech products to help improve the higher education industry and Charles profiled five of them as described below:


1. Labster: Engaging Immersive Content

Originating from Denmark, developed a program that unites skills from the entertainment and content industries to educate students. Labster created virtual laboratories for high school and college students to increase engagement and present real-world scenarios for participants. 

2. Immerse Learning: Engaging, Immersive Content 

Immerse is a UK based business that combines curriculum with storytelling for interactive 3D gaming environments. Charles offered a live demo of how teachers and students participate on the platform in real-time.

3. Area 9: Adaptive Learning

Recently acquired by McGraw Hill to provide adaptive learning solutions to deal with issues of personalization and competence based learning. Area 9 specifically integrates their approach into the familiar text book environment. 

4. RealizeIt: Adaptive Learning 

While Area 9 shows what can be done on the micro level, RealizeIt is a larger adaptive learning ecosystem that can be applied to any subject. This content agnostic learning platform was established in Ireland and has a quickly growing user base. However, the framework for making these pedagogical decisions is not widespread and the time and speed of implementation will be slower as a result. 

5. Mendeley: Networks and Social 

An academic network and reference manager that has close to 4 million users, Mendeley has adeptly incorporated a social layer to harness the collective power of online communities. Research can be stored in one central location and peer review is encouraged to accelerate the collaboration process. Mendeley originated in Germany but was acquired by Elsevier in 2013 and has the potential to have a disruptive impact on the relationship between content and its audience in the education environment. 


After showcasing a few videos and interactive demos of these various products, Charles concluded his presentation by again underscoring the importance of the individual learner. He stated that "the heart of learning lies in the individual" and we need to "empower the individual" so innovation can truly benefit students.

The European EdTech industry may be behind in e-Learning funding compared to the rest of the international markets. Yet, the five companies Charles showcased demonstrate that they are offering innovative solutions focusing on individualized learning and continuously aim to get more support for these meaningful initiatives.

Topics: Wharton Reimagine Education

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