29JanBy OEC team Comments
Image: Flickr user Drew Coffman
There are an unlimited number of great ideas to improve education, but the Open Education Challenge will only select 10 proposals to join the European Incubator for Innovation in Education.
Do you want to be among the top 10?
No matter how fantastic your business idea is, if it’s not communicated well in the application form then it won’t have a good chance of being selected. We want to get as many stellar applications as possible, and we want you to present your project in the best possible way. Here, we’ll share some general advice on the application and then explain each of the questions individually.
1. Be concise
Think of the application like an elevator pitch. The evaluators will have hundreds of applications to read, so you only have a few minutes to impress them on their first read-through. You only have 100 words per question, so you need to hit the key points and leave out all the extras. That said, you do need to actually answer each question. Don't just leave a link and expect the judges to go searching your website to get an answer (they won't).
2. Use keywords, but not jargon
The evaluators want to understand the essence of your idea as quickly as possible, so use keywords related to your focus area to help them grasp where your project fits in the vast education field. Some examples of keywords are: augmented reality, learning analytics, flipped classroom, mobile learning, etc.
On the other hand, avoid jargon. Jargon is highly technical terms that only readers with specialized knowledge would understand. In a quick read, these words will confuse the evaluators rather than impress them.
3. Explain your unique value
What does your idea have that no other idea has? Your proposal doesn’t have to revolutionize education or be a completely new invention, but there should be something unique about your proposal that gives it value. Focus on what makes your project stand out.
4. Balance between education and business
Your project needs to have two qualities that are explained in your application. First, it has to have the potential to change the way we teach and learn from the better, that is, the potential to positively impact the world of education. Secondly, it has to be a viable business idea. It needs to be financially sustainable with potential to make a profit.
5. Question 1: What is the education problem you aim to solve?
This is the question in which you should introduce your idea. Lay it out for us clear and simple: problem and solution. To get to the root of the problem and why it's important, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “why” five times. Let’s use “classroom clickers” as an example.
“We propose handheld devices that allow students to respond immediately to teachers’ questions”
“It will give teachers direct and immediate feedback. It also keeps students engaged with the content.”
“Teachers can then modify their teaching strategy based on real student responses in real-time.”
“One teacher can’t monitor the learning process of a whole classroom of students at a time, and they might not realize that some students are not keeping up.”
“Every student learns at a different pace and has different areas of strength.”
“Each person is unique”
As you can see, by the end of the “five why’s,” the answer have gotten too vague. On the other hand, the first response is too precise and doesn’t really tell us about the problem. Try to choose a response that is general enough to express a recognized problem in education, but specific enough to show that your project can make a difference.
5. Question 2: What is the role of technology in your project?
Your project doesn’t have to be a technological innovation or be based on technology. Nonetheless, we expect that many of the proposals will use ICT or some kind of digital technologies. You don’t need to detail the technical side of what you’re doing, just explain simply how technology is used in your project, particularly in relation to the existing technologies that teachers are already using.
6. Question 3: What is your business and market approach?
This question asks you to explain your business strategy. We are looking for projects that have the potential to become profitable and that can attract investors. That means that you have to have some idea of how you are going to make money from your idea. If you haven’t thought about it much, a good place to start is the Business Model Canvas (click here for more information). It is a visual tool that will help you to diagram the different components of your business idea and identify the key components of your business, such as who your customers will be, what value you offer them, and where your revenue will come from.
7. Question 4: Why are you and your team the right people to develop the startup?
What are the most important knowledge areas and skills that are needed to carry out your idea, and who in your team has them? Beyond your team’s competences, explain the motivations and character traits that make your team the best one to take on this challenge.
8. The video
You will need to include a link to an online video (like on Youtube or Vimeo) that is 30 seconds or less and introduces you and your team. Here are a couple of points to keep in mind:
- The raison d'être of the video is to make a first impression and build trust. You should introduce yourself and your team (if you have one) and let your personality shine through. Don't worry about pitching your idea or project, you should have covered that already in the application form.
- 30 seconds is very short! Pick just one or two important messages to communicate, an make each second count.
- Your video has to be understandable in English – but that doesn’t mean you have to speak in English if you don’t want to! You can use written text, subtitles, or leave out words altogether and just use images or video.
- Don’t worry about video quality, worry about the content quality.
- Show us your creativity and enthusiasm!
For more details on what to include in your video, check out our other blog post, Four tips for making your application video.