If you’ve been following my work for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve been advocating for edtech companies to collaborate with education researchers for a long while now. At the 2014 SXSW EDU  conference for example, my colleagues and I organized a panel titled Startups Should Talk with Researchers and Educators to highlight mutually beneficial relationships. Much has changed since then, but I often come across startups that can’t seem to grasp that the histories of online, distance, and digital learning can be informative and beneficial.

There are lots of reasons for this – and to be sure universities and researchers aren’t blameless, as a variety of factors limit the reach and impact of our scholarship.

Many have made the pedagogical case for education startups to  use the research available. In this post I want to make the business case for edtech startups to engage education research. Because it’s a win-win. And it’s simple.

By consulting with academics and/or learning designers, reading the research literature, exploring various pedagogical and learning design models, and understanding the relationships between teaching/learning and technology, you (i.e. startups) can save money and time.

How can you save money and time?

By identifying potential pain points and what education research has to say about your value proposition early on, you’d be able to develop minimum viable products that are at the very least  reflective of what we know about teaching and learning.

I’ve seen many startups fail because they took too long to understand the space. And too many startups accidentally stumbling upon what is common knowledge in education research after they’ve burned through initial investment rounds.

You (i.e. startups) do not need to start at 0 to get to 10. You can start at 3, 5, 7 even by engaging education research.

To make this example concrete, below is an excerpt of an email from an edtech startup that I received yesterday. This is a startup that’s been around for 2+ years and raised 2 rounds of funding.

Something unexpected keeps happening in our post-course surveys.

As you might guess, we regularly hear about the quality of [our company’s] instructors and the knowledge they pass on.

But we didn’t expect to hear so often of the value of the other course participants, of taking courses live, alongside other ambitious, generous professionals.

Turns out—it’s the other students in each cohort that make it special.

The power of peer learning and community isn’t a secret. Really, it’s common knowledge. All that post-course surveys do here is confirm what those of us who have been studying distance and online learning for decades already know. Only when startups fail to engage with the rich and long history of this field do they call the realization that motivated and knowledgeable peers working in community foster powerful learning experiences an unexpected discovery.

What if this realization came 18 months ago?