17 Mar 2015
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How do ed-tech inventors stay ahead of the competition?

By Catherine Knowles

Educational technology brings with it a different set of needs and demands as instead of simply existing apart from our brain, it's designed to boost out natural ability to learn.

People learn in different ways, to different degrees and have a different purpose or ultimate goal, which increases the need for innovation in the educational technology space.

There are a number of ways in which players in this space stay agile and keep creating useful tools, says Jeff Fernandez, Grovo CEO and founder.

They find and stick to one area

Fernandez says successful ed-tech innovators recast their educational technology as a tool for achieving a specific function.

“By confining the scope of what your product accomplishes, you’re freed to go about definitively improving it. This isn’t to say that you can’t deviate from your original focus — just the opposite.

“Focusing on particular outcomes is the best way to see what works and what doesn’t,” he says.

They are open to a ‘pivot’

According to Fernandez, there is a crucial difference between deciding on particular results to improve upon and being married to that definition of success.

Instead, it’s important to learn and evolve with a product as it is being built.

He says innovators must be honest with results and incorporate this feedback into the product to build a helpful tool.

They pay attention to results

Following on from the previous point, it's key to pay attention to results beyond the building stage, Fernandez says.

“The purpose of narrowing your focus is to be able to cull honest results and judge outcomes as objectively as possible. It’s hard to go too far astray if your product is continually improved in response to concrete data. This is what separates novelty from learning science,” he says.

They ignore usage as a success metric

Most companies can reasonably equate their product’s usage with success because most companies sell products that don’t survive the market if they don’t work, Fernandez says.

However, those in ed-tech need to listen to as much feedback as they can, without deluding themselves into thinking good sales represents objective data on a product.

A company’s success metric is whether the product achieves the goals set out for it, and if it achieves something different it’s time for a pivot, he says.

They make sure their own people are using it

This may be the hardest challenge in the whole business of acculturating innovation into an ed-tech company, according to Fernandez.

“The best results you can get are from the people around you, but in order to be able to get good results, you have to establish a culture of absolute honesty. “Listen to the reviews from people you trust — nothing is more valuable when you’re building a product,” he says.

Grovo, Fernandez's company, is a learning technology company that trains organisations in digital and professional skills through 60-90 second videos. The company is currently serving Fortune 500 companies and businesses and universities in 190 countries.

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