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Edtech startups prepare to become ‘not just a teaching tool but a necessity’

As Stanford, Princeton, Columbia and others shutter classrooms to limit the coronavirus outbreak, college educators around the country are clambering to move their classes online. 

At the same time, tech companies that enable remote learning are finding a surge in usage and signups. Zoom Video Communications, a videoconferencing company, has been crushing it in the stock market, and Duolingo, a language teaching app, has had 100% user growth in the past month in China, citing school closures as one factor. 

But Kristin Lynn Sainani, an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford, has a fair warning to those making the shift: Scrappiness has its setbacks. 

“[The transition to online] is not going to be well-planned when you’re doing it to get your class done tomorrow,” said Sainani, who has been teaching online classes since 2013. “At this point, professors are going to scramble to do the best they can.”

As the outbreak spreads and universities respond, can edtech startups help legacy institutions rapidly adopt online teaching services? And perhaps more tellingly, can they do so in a seamless way? 


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