4 Points For Designing EdTech Solutions For The African Market

How To Design Not Just EdTech Products, But EdTech Solutions For The African Market

Africa’s eLearning market doubled from 2011 to 2016, reaching USD 513 million, according to a report by market researchers Ambient Insights. There is no shortage of EdTech products in the African market, but are they addressing the right problems and most critical challenges? Whilst many EdTech companies believe that their “solution” is the one that will revolutionize education on the continent, very few solutions make it to the market, and of the ones that make it, very few are scalable. The misconception is that the best product wins out over all the others. Truth is, success is determined more by who is providing a solution to the challenges in education than who has the better product. You have to critically evaluate: What makes your edTech product so unique that people will want to use it? What measures have you put in place to ensure that your product's success is guaranteed in a highly competitive market? How can you be sure that you have built a product that customers will love?

What You Need To Know When Designing EdTech Solutions For The African Market

Here are 4 key points to take note of when designing edTech solutions for the African market:

1. Unique Challenges Require Unique Solutions

The first step to learning how to design solutions and not just edTech products is to really listen to your target market when they talk about their problems. Every African country is very unique in the needs and challenges that its education sector faces. It is impractical to assume that an edTech product that has worked in one market will automatically provide a solution to the challenges faced in all African countries.

You need to first understand how your services can untangle the local obstacles. The goal is to address the many challenges schools, learners, and education departments with digital solutions that need to be built in and for the emerging market classroom in order to suit the learning environment and be effective. Emerging market classroom issues such as low connectivity, minimal bandwidth, lack of hardware, limited electricity, and lack of teacher training need to be at the top of your agenda as you craft your solution. Does access to the content require internet? Does the solution require hardware installation? Is it mobile? These are all questions to consider. Not all schools will have the resources and infrastructure necessary to make the best use of your edTech product.

2. Develop Solutions That People Need, Not Products That You Think They Want

If the teachers, students, and schools that you are designing your product for do not immediately recognize the value you’re creating for them, stop. You’ll spend your days convincing people they have a problem and then trying to sell them a solution.

To make things much easier for yourself, first make sure that the customer understands the problem (and agrees it exists), and actually wants a solution. Think in solutions and design products that tackle real user problems; that way you reduce the risk of building something nobody wants. Build user centric edTech products. Products become meaningful when the provided solution fits the uncovered problem. When new edTech products are introduced, stakeholders will initially express excitement and optimism around the potential of the new technology’s impact on the future of education. However, no matter how great your product is, if the technology is poorly integrated into the school structure, it will eventually fail to deliver on its promises to create educational improvements, until a new trending technology arrives on the market, renewing the cycle.

3. Invest In Relevant Design

Well-executed design is not only a direct route to a successful product; the relevance of the design is what is most critical. If you firmly understand the challenges that you are trying to address, then you will be more inclined to have a product with the relevant design for the market. It should be considered early on, because it will ensure that the product has the characteristics and performance the customers desire, thus reducing the risk of creating a product that does not reflect the needs. Relevant design is about serving people. The real challenge is in trying to solve the human problem. It’s about understanding their needs, their aspirations, and providing an edTech solution that meets those needs.

4. Technology Alone Is Not A Silver Bullet

Just introducing technology into education doesn’t actually act as a silver bullet. What is needed is a  solutions-driven approach to designing edTech products for African countries that is collaborative and has coherent alignment across the critical stakeholders, especially students and teachers. In most African countries technology adoption in schools is still in its early stages; its full potential to have an impact on student learning in primary and secondary education has yet to be realized. Technology is not the solution in and of itself; however it is a critical enabler and key component of the solution to the challenges facing education on the continent. EdTech companies that yield the best results are those that are tailored to a country’s unique educational challenges.

Content Is King

Content-alignment is a major factor in African countries in choosing technology. Yes, teachers and students want colorful animations and interactive options in their technology tools, but what they want more is content that is directly aligned with the local curriculum. If you do not have the capacity to develop local content, then consider getting a local content partner to ensure that your edTech solution is relevant to the local curriculum.

Conclusion

A poor understanding of the needs and challenges being experienced in education in African countries lends itself to weak technology integration and edTech ineffectiveness in schools. People don’t buy products and services; they buy the benefits the products and services produce for them. Teachers, students, and parents want solutions. Design solutions, not just products.

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