Stand on the shoulders of giants
Top SaaS EdTech companies that are reshaping education in 2024 include Coursera, Udemy, Duolingo, Khan Academy, Skillshare, Chegg, Quizlet, Udacity, Byju's and many more. These companies are revolutionising education by providing access to new knowledge and flexible learning options through their innovative use of technology in education. In this article we will analyse a few of them in order for the new comers to learn and be able to stand on their shoulders.
They are transforming the education system by offering online courses, interactive learning platforms, personalised tutoring, and adaptive learning tools. Through these platforms, students can access high-quality education from anywhere in the world, at any time, and at their own pace. This flexibility in learning options has made education more accessible and convenient for learners of all ages and backgrounds.
These SaaS EdTech companies are utilizing advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics to personalize learning experiences and enhance student engagement along with some old and boring plain software engineering. They are also leveraging cloud-based solutions to provide seamless access to educational resources and collaboration tools.
New startups in the education technology space can learn from these examples by focusing on creating user-friendly platforms, utilising advanced technologies to enhance learning experiences, and prioritising accessibility and flexibility in education delivery. By understanding and leveraging these key factors, new startups can make a significant impact in reshaping the education landscape.
Taxonomy in Edtech Companies
Let's start with the primary categories of EdTech SaaS companies functioning in education industry:
Learning Management Systems (LMS): LMS companies provide platforms for educational institutions to manage and deliver online courses (e.g. corporate training). They focus on features like course creation, content management, and student tracking. Examples include Canvas by Instructure and Blackboard. Startups can learn from these companies by focusing on user-friendly interfaces and robust course management tools.
Adaptive Learning: These companies leverage technology to provide personalised learning experiences for students. They use algorithms to adjust the difficulty and pace of content based on each student's abilities. Examples include Knewton and DreamBox Learning. Startups can learn from these companies by understanding the importance of data analytics and personalisation in online education.
E-Textbook Publishers: These companies offer digital textbooks and study materials for students. They often include interactive features like quizzes, videos, and simulations. Examples include Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education. Startups can learn from these companies by adapting traditional learning materials to digital formats and incorporating interactive elements.
Online Tutoring: These companies connect students with tutors for personalized instruction in various subjects. They often use video conferencing and interactive whiteboards for virtual sessions. Examples include Chegg Tutors and Tutor.com. Startups can learn from these companies by focusing on creating engaging and effective online platforms experiences.
Education Gamification: These companies incorporate game elements into educational content to make learning more engaging. They use reward systems, challenges, and interactive storytelling to motivate students. Examples include BrainPOP and Kahoot. Startups can learn from these companies by understanding the power of gamification in education and creating immersive learning experiences.
Education Management Systems (or School Management Systems): These companies provide tools for schools to manage their day-to-day operations. They focus on features like attendance tracking, scheduling, and grading. Examples include Skyward and PowerSchool. Startups can learn from these companies by providing intuitive tools for administrators to streamline educational processes.
You may also want to discover HolonIQ`s Global Learning Landscape for the best technology in education industry summarisation.
Exploring the Top EdTechs tech stack
As the EdTech industry continues to evolve, it is crucial for new startups to learn from the successes of established companies that are utilising innovative technologies. AI software for educational technology, personalised multimedia content, adaptive learning systems, and a market-oriented approach are all key factors in the success of EdTech startups. By examining these features and costs, new companies can gain valuable insights to inform their own strategies.
Coursera is the global learning platform (one of the educational technology giants) where you can access online courses and degrees from world-class universities and companies. You can easily say that it is one of the todays online education pillars.
It started with a mix of PHP and Python running mostly on MySQL. The front-end website you see on www.coursera.org was built entirely on Backbone.js, with backend services provided by accessing an API layer written mostly in Python/Django and backed by MySQL. They are constantly improving and they were moving away from the legacy PHP stack into a new Scala / Play stack for the learning platform. They have various backend services running in a variety of different languages. Hosting wise: Amazon AWS services (S3, EC2, SES, SQS, CloudSearch, CloudFront and RDS) and others.
From the later sources you can only find out that "The technology stack is very unorganized and bloated". This is of course just one random opinion from the internet, but seems to be confirmed using technology scanning tools as well. Looks like Coursera leverages also: Express.js, Node.js, React and a few others.
Source: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Coursera-RVW20451383.htm and own research.
Apart from the core development technologies, Udemy employs various external tools for internal functions. Analytics are powered by Hotjar and Optimizely, while Asana and Trello support product design. The HR sector utilizes AngelList Jobs and Greenhouse, and productivity tools include Box, Dropbox, Slack, and DocuSign. For sales and support, systems like Elucify, InsideView, Intercom, Salesforce Sales, and Zendesk are integral. Marketing efforts are bolstered by AddToAny, Buffer, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Postmark, Yesware, and SendGrid. The platform also extends its reach through mobile applications developed using Java for Android, Swift for iOS, and other technologies for various devices, aligning Udemy with the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement and fortifying its potential for future growth.
Additionally, Duolingo leverages cloud infrastructure, machine learning algorithms for personalised learning, and a range of other tools and technologies to deliver its language learning educational experiences to users across the globe.
In 2017 they also rewrote (refactoring) their engine from Python into Scala with great performance gains.
Khan Academy was founded in 2006 by Sal Khan as a non-profit educational organisation in the United States. The goal is to create online tools for student education.
In the recent years Khan Academy switched from a Python monolith to a services-oriented backend written in Go. There is a very comprehensive article which I recommend if you want to learn more: https://blog.quastor.org/p/khan-academy-rewrote-backend
Skillshare is a platform that offers online classes, video lessons, project creation, and the opportunity to teach your own class, making it a learning community for creators.
The technology stack that Skillshare is using includes:
PHP: A server-side scripting language used to create dynamic web pages and is presumably used for back-end development.
GraphQL: A query language for APIs that allows clients to request data they need from the server.
Summary of technologies these companies are using
Edtech companies are leveraging a variety of technologies to enhance the learning experience for students and educators. This includes the use of AI for personalised learning, Big Data for analysing student performance, Blockchain for securely storing educational credentials, and Gamification to make learning process more engaging. AI also allows for online education to adapt to every users learning styles especially in remote learning.
Programming languages play a crucial role in the development of AI and machine learning applications. Python, for example, is widely used in AI development due to its simplicity, extensive libraries such as TensorFlow and scikit-learn, and strong community support. It is also popular for automating tasks and enhancing course material delivery through tools like chatbots and personalised learning platforms.
It is interesting to see some of these using Scala, which is becoming increasingly popular for building high-performance applications.
Some popular EdTech hosting and cloud providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. The AWS Cloud seems to be the first go to solution.
These platforms function by offering cloud computing and hosting services to host educational materials and provide a seamless online learning experience. They enable educators to upload and store digital content such as lectures, videos, e-books, and interactive learning materials. Students can easily access these resources from anywhere with an internet connection, enabling a more flexible and personalized learning experience.
Additionally, these platforms provide opportunities for interaction through features such as discussion forums, live video sessions, and collaborative project tools. Educators can engage with students in real-time and create interactive learning environments, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.
New startups in the EdTech space can learn from these examples by leveraging cloud computing and hosting services to create scalable and accessible educational platforms. By prioritising seamless access to digital content and fostering interactive learning opportunities, EdTech Platforms can effectively meet the evolving needs of modern learners.
Popular EdTech programming frameworks such as React, Angular, and Django are commonly used by companies in the education technology industry. These frameworks provide various benefits for building SaaS products in the EdTech space, including efficient and smooth user interfaces, scalability, and the ability to easily integrate with other technologies.
For example, React is known for its flexibility, reusability of components, and virtual DOM, making it a popular choice for building interactive and responsive user interfaces. The development process is made efficient and seamless. Angular is often chosen for its robustness, two-way data binding, and dependency injection, making it suitable for building complex and large-scale applications. Django, on the other hand, is well-known for its ease of use, modularity, and extensibility, making it a perfect platform for building web applications when your team prefers Python.
New startups in the EdTech industry can learn from these examples by understanding the advantages of utilizing these frameworks for developing their SaaS products. By leveraging these technologies, startups can build user-friendly, scalable, and innovative learning process to meet the needs of the education technology market.
The best technology stack for EdTech startup for 2024
Popularity of specific solutions is surely one thing to consider choosing your stack, but don't forget about maintenance. Choosing the technology that will not put your maintenance and development costs too high is especially important in the education sector, as it tends to be price sensitive. Building fast is important, but think about selecting technologies that way so you are able to support and develop it later on.
Choose a technology which your team knows well and those which will have the most probability to survive in the future longest.