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Last week, Eric Hilfer, VP of Software Engineering at Scholastic, led a class at LearnLaunch on software development in edtech. Throughout the night, Hilfer discussed the challenges relating to privacy, infrastructure, and testing and implementation for edtech developers.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Privacy Challenges

One of the biggest concerns for parents is protecting their children’s data. As a result, the government has issued legislation to protect students. This has resulted in student data getting treated as seriously as medical records.

Below are a few of the topics Eric covered:

  • Parents are supposed to have the right to inspect their children’s education records, and this may give parents the rights to the data that an edtech company has on their child.
  • Edtech companies can’t merge consumer data with school data. A firewall must be set up between the two to ensure data integrity.
  • Companies are not allowed to cross-sell to parents something that is relevant to their child unless the parent has opted in to receive the information.

 

For more information on current regulations related to privacy for edtech companies, check out The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and Section 508.

Infrastructure Challenges

Unlike Fortune 500 companies, schools have traditionally had fewer financial resources available to routinely invest in the best technology infrastructure. While this is changing, developers still need to keep in mind today’s infrastructure challenges when they build the edtech tools for the future. Below are some infrastructure challenges that all edtech developers should keep in mind:

  • When designing a product, SaaS is more likely to succeed in a classroom setting than an application or program that needs to be downloaded to a device. SaaS saves time for school IT departments and allows companies to have more control over the product. This centralized system allows for cleaner releases of new features and updates as a company’s product evolves.
  • Schools’ daily schedules also present usage spike challenges. With all users attending school during relatively similar hours,  the spikes in usage can stress already limited bandwidths at schools.
  • Schools often have older browsers so edtech developers need to make sure that their sites degrade gracefully.


Testing/Implementation Challenges

Teachers and students have very tight schedules during the school day. For an edtech tool to succeed, the company needs to constantly test their product in schools and make sure it is working effectively. If your product takes more than 15-20 seconds to load, you will quickly lose most students’ attention.

Here are a few tips related to testing and implementation in edtech:

  • Single-sign on combined with session timeouts help students who often forget their passwords while also protecting their privacy by ensuring accounts get logged out.
  • Most schools have locked down images, so plan accordingly.
  • Precisely timing a user’s response time from when the user has been exposed to an item will give developers a sense of how their tool will work in an environment where short instructional time is a big constraint.


Interested in learning more about student privacy? Check out the K-12 Student Privacy Panel LearnLaunch is hosting on November 5!