The global pandemic has accelerated the need for the education sector to look at how it establishes a better out-of-classroom experience. Many schools learned the hard way that the classroom experience did not directly translate to remote learning. Universities, constrained to online teaching, remained under a critical gaze for still requesting full tuition fees.
As millions moved to online classrooms last year, those developing smart Educational Tech (EdTech) solutions found themselves a platform, and investors quickly followed suit. The necessary acceleration in transformational solutions intensified their interest. By the first half of 2021, Venture Capital related EdTech investment in Europe had registered 68% more funding ($1.8bn) than the entirety of 2020.
EdTech has enabled the delivery of a new form of learning architecture. Whether it be language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning platforms, there has been a significant surge in usage. While the future learning environment remains unclear, the use of technological processes will continue. Institutions must continue to adapt to carry on giving opportunities to connect, learn, and grow.
Embedded finance expert Weavr looks at the opportunities presented and how embedded solutions can help EdTech applications deliver superior student experiences.
The hidden friction of learning
Education payments run into much more than annual tuition fees. They encompass accommodation, printing fees, library fines, necessary course literature, and so many more costs.
The way institutions choose to facilitate these payments varies. Some will outsource to a third party while others, like Lancaster University, build their own payment interface.
While both approaches demonstrate that institutions are embracing more digital payment options, students’ payment experiences are not as frictionless as those in other aspects of their life. If students are directed back and forth between their chosen method of payment and their institution, it can often make a simple payment far from straightforward. Students’ expectations have moved on, so it's time for these educational institutions to keep pace with that in order to deliver a first-class, holistic learning experience.
Indeed, with fees now around £9,250 per year in England, universities are under pressure to deliver on student expectations. Fears are rife that institutions will be ordered to issue refunds if they do not offer face-to-face learning experiences, so it’s imperative that universities provide a service that justifies the price tag.
In order to do this, higher education will need to use a dual approach to teaching. This will give all students access to the high level of teaching they deserve. Alongside the reintroduction of face-to-face learning, the option of online teaching should still be available for those who aren’t able or don’t wish to join in-person lectures.
Various platforms have helped support this by making resources more readily available. While tutoring start-ups have driven EdTech forward, peer-to-peer content sharing platforms for teachers have also seen a rise. Thousands of teachers have begun sharing or selling their tried-and-tested lesson plans, activities, and worksheets online. This has created an open education resource for educators to support each other.
This isn’t about creating new financial models. The solutions will come from embedding financial services seamlessly into these learning EdTech platforms and applications.
Universities in the UK also receive more funding and higher fee payment from international students, but due to COVID and the lasting effects of Brexit, it has become increasingly hard for international students to come to the UK to study.
International students, often for visa purposes, will need to open a UK bank account but may struggle when receiving or sending funds due to exchange rates or bank fees. Embedded finance offers EdTech organisations the opportunity to create elegant student experiences to help manage multiple elements of their financial life – such as fees, travel, and insurance – and streamline international transfers.
By integrating payment capabilities that offer a variety of payment plans directly into universities’ platforms, universities become far more accessible and appealing to students from any background.
To further meet the needs of students against the backdrop of our increasingly digital world, EdTech requires more innovation. Many EdTech platforms are three-sided marketplaces, involving customers, content providers, and tutors.
Integrating payment capabilities directly within a marketplace offers each side an optimal experience; A choice of customised subscriptions or payment plans in manageable instalments for students and parents offered contextually at the point of need; For remote content providers, tutors, mentors and lecturers the automation of project-based contract payments, salary or even advance salary payments providing access to earned pay before payday, an employee benefit that is increasingly becoming more attractive, can be implemented with ease.
Embedded finance reimagines payment management processes that not only make them more efficient but also more reliable as background processes. The power of these platforms is the frictionless experience for students, lecturers, and the university. This ease of use is a standard expectation in the digital age, and institutions need to stay on top of this in order to deliver a gold-standard experience for its employees and students.
As classrooms and lecture halls start to reopen, the demand for seamless user experiences is a key driver for change. The invisible handling of money via embedded finance can help bring this about.