The global education industry is worth over $4 trillion, with the smart education and learning market set to reach a value of $446 billion by 2020. With the Asia-Pacific region particularly ripe for growth, the number of Australian EduTech startups keeps growing.
Newcastle education startup Futura Group, which won the Educational Solution of the Year award last year, works with clients including the Queensland Government and TAFE Queensland and NSW to deliver online learning solutions and courses. Through this work, they noticed a need for simplicity and built eCoach, a cloud platform which helps teachers build interactive courses online and then share them with students to help them go over work at home.
The focus on simplicity means the eCoach platform is fairly basic – even the least tech-savvy of teachers can easily create a course using one of 20 templates. They can then share the course link with students, who can view the course on any device through external platforms like Google Classroom.
Jude Novak, a product developer at Futura Group, said the idea for the platform came from the startup’s frustration with other authoring tools.
“We decided to make our own framework which started life as a flash-based solution which was managed by manually updating our database and XML files. We eventually converted the framework into HTML, making it responsive and adding a visual interface for rapid authoring,” Novak said.
“In late 2014, we made the decision to develop our own SaaS product for educators. There weren’t many other cloud-based solutions – actually none that we know of – that offered such a simple way to make great looking courses.”
Currently in beta, eCoach is planned to launch commercially in November, with the standard subscription costing $49.95 per month with no limit on the number of courses a teacher can create; teachers and other educators with an educational email address will receive a 40 percent discount.
With laptops and tablets almost mandatory in today’s classrooms, eCoach isn’t the only platform looking to help teachers and students work better together online, with Smart Sparrow and Blackboard big names in the space.
Though he acknowledges the similarities, Novak believes eCoach differs by providing a “consistent shape and form to lessons” through templates which both teachers and students may find easier to follow, which is an important consideration – while teachers are largely getting better at using new technologies, there are still those for whom sophisticated online tools are too difficult to learn how to properly master.
Novak added, “The other key difference would be that the time outlay to design and develop an online course would be significantly less when using the eCoach than other tools on the market, such as Smart Sparrow, which require a greater time investment to create content.” Given teachers are notoriously time-poor, this is another important point.
175 teachers have registered to use the platform in beta, with the majority having signed up after meeting the Futura Group at an EduTech conference in Brisbane this year, or discovering the platform through Twitter. The startup will be targeting individual teachers rather than schools, hoping to develop a devoted user base that grows from word of mouth.
Beyond schools, Futura Group aims to grow eCoach into a learning management system for training organisations that want to build and deliver their own courses. Launching in 2016, this platform will have a new feature set and pricing model, based on the number of active users in each calendar month, with a third tier to be developed for enterprise-level users and the HR market.