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EduTech in Russia - going somewhere?

0 20 January 2014

The Educational Technology (EduTech) sector brings together electronic libraries of educational content, videos, blogs and online collective works of researchers, as well as other services related to study. It is an especially popular niche abroad that arose in the midst of the dot.com era, and has successfully weathered two economic crises. It's currently a booming market segment worldwide. However, the Russian market has been lagging behind other countries with regards to developing online educational projects. This infographic brings to life the current state of the Russian edutech sector, and suggests its likely future.

During the past decade, the web itself has been constantly developing and changing. This has made EduTech a lot more flexible in relation to its users. Now the educational resources are targeted at young audiences from different social networks and online communities and not just simply optimized for visitors from search engines. 

The audience of a typical EduTech project is undergraduate and graduate students, as well as managers and workers pursuing additional education in order to develop themselves through the ages of 18-35. EduTech projects promote the idea of lifelong learning - targeting university graduates that want to continue to receive training in new disciplines needed for their work, as well as certify their knowledge and skills.

RusBase estimates that there are about 400 projects which focus on EduTech. In the US, Western Europe and South-East Asia EduTech start-ups tend to focus on further education of students and university alumni wish to further their professional development. In contrasts, in Russian and other EEMEA countries EduTech programmes are particularly focused on secondary education and preparing students to enter natural science and other vocational university courses. 

Dmitry Ufaev, managing partner of global edutech VC fund Synergy Innovations, is always looking for news ways of providing distance learning.

“Older approaches, such as video lectures and text materials are only making learning more difficult. Coursera and EdX have been saying that only 5% of people that sign up to a course end up finishing it. A new approach could be to split learning into smaller segments of more manageable workloads. Perhaps a good idea would be to increase the amount of start-ups that make educational content available on mobile platforms so that people will be able to gain knowledge in smaller portions on their smartphones when it is most convenient."

According to a poll carried out by the Foundation for Internet Development 80% of students and 50% of parents believe that they are confident users of the Internet. However, in practice, only a third of parents and children are advanced users.

Market Prospects

The market has been growing at a rate of up to 20x a year since the late 1990s. In 2013 the segment of training services for the entire family became one of the top 5 most rapidly growing sectors. However, a high level of administrative barriers has prevented the sector attracting lots of interest from investors. One notable deal was a $3 million investment in GlobalLab, a social network for schools, from VEB Innovation and the Institute of New Technologies. Other projects similar to Coursera concentrate mainly on geography, biology and ecology, but are now evolving their focus in the direction of physics, chemistry and the humanities.

Business Model

Most EduTech start-ups focus on using one of three business models:

1. To sell the data of their users to advertisers in order that they can use targeted advertising.

2. Analyse downloaded content and sell this for research purposes.

3. Provide additional payed services such as online storage for work materials and organising discussion forums for universities. 

For example Questia Media, a Chicago-based project established in 1998 offers its 500,000 subscribers access to an electronic library of 2 million academic magazines and books, and advice on how to use them in research papers. The average subscription costs $99.95 per year. 

Another success story is online tutoring marketplace Student of Fortune, which was acquired by Chegg.com, while GripNote, a US-based provider of lectures and seminars merged with textbook price comparison site TextBo in 2011.  

Senior analyst at Prostor Capital, Stanislav Kosorukov, has noticed that professors at prestigious universities spend their time creating courses on projects such as Coursera in order to raise awareness of their name, and consequently monetize themselves.

Prospects

EduTech startups are likely to follow a similar path to social networks and video hosting. It is anticipated that existing projects may develop into franchising by providing their own software as an “assembly point” for local projects.

Igor Balk, advisor at Talent Equity Ventures 

“I see a lot of projects in the field of online education in Russia and I would say that the percentage share of start-ups in the field of online education in Russia is considerably higher than in the U.S., where the domain is traditionally not very popular among investors.”

Translated from Russian by Nadia Amroon

Homepage image via Shutterstock 

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