Today I was invited (paid) to attend a focus group for teachers using MangaHigh. I taught Maths for two years at KS3 and found MangaHigh to be the most effective technology aid for Maths learning of this type. I also had a brief look at Mathletics and used MyMaths.
NB: I was not asked to write this post and I have already been paid, so I am not here to peddle any wares to line my pocket. I am very interested in the best business model for ed tech companies. It is only through making a good business model that the quality of technology software products will be able to blossom to full potential without advertising etc. That, and I am using focus groups as a research tool in my MA, so I was interested to see how they did it. The CTO and CEO were in another room listening to our recorded conversation as it happened, as well as two others taking notes and asking questions in the same room.
It was really encouraging to see an ed tech company spending their time and money to get *real* feedback from it’s users. It was insightful to hear different teachers’ stories about their school and MangaHigh implementation. MH has a key winner for me – the power of the games they use to learn Maths – my pupils really enjoyed them. Because of this key factor – and there is a lot of dry dross out there making big claims for game-based learning – I think MH have a great platform from which to build their product.
Clearly, like many tech companies, MH are at a crossroads about how they are going to make money. Currently, Manga offer the core of their platform for free, and then have a price plan for a school of up to 1000 pupils of £795.00 per annum. The money gets you what they call A+ Quest, bringing a lot of new features that make the investment worthwhile. What they were not really clear about is the budgets of Maths departments in different schools. Also, their marketing videos included very little footage of the tools in use, or of teachers talking about why they loved using the site. A website/video advert is more likely to achieve it’s purpose if you see what is inside the tin as well as what it says on the front.
Most notably, MH are looking to make sure their development work is in the right direction for teachers and schools, and ultimately, the pupils studying Maths (I wonder if they have gone into a school to talk to pupils?). I like this. Very much. And I thoroughly recommend any school, including those paying for MyMaths or another similar service, to sign up for the free MangaHigh, put it through it’s paces and make an informed judgement about which Maths learning platform you believe most fit for purpose. MH said they were going to give a one term free subscription offer to the paid-for tools as well so teachers could experience the full product. MangaHigh is fun!
It seemed like the company wanted to know whether to write A Level content or build tablet apps, and how to sell their product to schools. The teachers wanted a live updating dashboard that could be displayed as the pupils were busy playing the games in a classroom, and they wanted to get rid of some bugs, and they wanted apps on iOS (Manga said they were looking at Android first). One person had a great idea – build an app for each of the different game types and sell that to generate income, rather than charging schools so much. A little bit of a back-door sales tactics but it might work. After all, if they can achieve a business model that charges schools significantly less than the competition but encourages pupils to pay for their apps, they might be on to a winner. But is that ethically sound?
The staff at MangaHigh were charming and it was a pleasant experience. I almost wanted to teach Maths again. Almost…