Creating and recognising an evidence base of education technology

Dorothy Lepkowska

Dorothy Lepkowska is the Communications Lead on the UCL EDUCATE Accelerator. She is an author, editor and former Education Correspondent on national newspapers, with almost 30 years of experience writing about schools and the education system.

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EdTech is one of the fastest growing areas of the technology industry. But with budget constraints and a plethora of online edtech platforms, tools and resources on the market, knowing how much to spend and what to buy are not easy decisions for schools.

At the same time, how does an edtech developer prove their product is impactful and fit for purpose?

The truth is, it isn’t easy. One way might be to publish evaluations of outcomes showing pupil progress from a recognised baseline over time, following the use of their platform or learning tool. However reliable and robust such a study is, though, it might be open to question about its veracity. After all, edtech innovators are in the business of building commercial products.

Another is to have that effectiveness verified with a quality mark to show that specific criteria have been met. Participants to the UCL EDUCATE research accelerator programme have a chance to do so by applying for the accelerator’s own quality mark, the EdWard.

In line with UCL EDUCATE’s core belief in the need to build an evidence base of edtech, recipients can apply to be rewarded with one of two levels of EdWard: Evidence-Aware or Evidence-Applied, depending on the extent to which they have met the set criteria. 

For the companies, working towards, and achieving, an EDUCATE EdWard is a process of reflection, self-challenge and, ultimately, the satisfaction of having achieved a formal recognition. For many, it has facilitated conversations with prospective clients because they have something to show for the success of their involvement with the programme, and their approach to research.

What it means for edtech companies to be “evidence-aware”

Recipients of the Evidence-Aware mark must demonstrate an understanding of UCL EDUCATE’s unique evidence-led approach and have understood the importance of using research evidence, by acknowledging pedagogical expertise and knowledge.

Moktar Alqaderi, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Progressay, which receives an Evidence-Aware EdWard, said: “As a hallmark of educational excellence, the EdWard has really helped us to validate our product. Now we are gaining a reputation for being an EdTech start-up that is rooted in evidence, which is important because schools deserve to use tech that is proven to work. 

“We boast of our EdWard with pride as it is a sign of our dedication and commitment to evidence-based research and lets our partners and customers know, too.”

Why edtech companies should be “evidence-applied”

Companies who receive the Evidence-Applied mark have demonstrated that awareness to research by applying it to improve the quality of delivery or development of their product. In some cases, Evidence-Applied recipients will have reviewed their idea or concept in the light of research evidence, to finesse their work. They will also have carried out their own research to evaluate the effectiveness of their product as it evolves.

Bella Alexandroff, Senior Fundraising Manager of Founders4Schools, which has achieved an Evidence-Applied Edward, said: “EDUCATE has not only given us the tools to evidence our impact, but also highlighted the importance of a robust monitoring and evaluation framework which is now integrated into our EdTech service allowing us to collect and evaluate data on a continuous basis. The EdWard is the acknowledgement of that.”

Participants who receive the EdWard mark can use it on their websites and marketing material, signalling to prospective users and customers that the product or service they offer has a sound basis in research, and its impact has been evidenced by what works and is effective in teaching and learning.

Professor Rose Luckin, Director of EDUCATE and Professor of Learner Centred Design at UCL Knowledge Lab, said: “EdWard recipients represent what makes the UK a world leader in EdTech development – innovation, creativity, commitment and enthusiasm – all of which are in abundance among these companies. They are among the very best in their field, anywhere.”

To learn more about how to get an EdWard, and how to add it to your EdTech Impact page (like Pobble and Tassomai), visit the UCL EDUCATE website.

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