Do you understand Tangibility — in education

Tangibility is defined as to be “definite; not vague or elusive”

Tangibility is the most imp aspect in Education. In order to understand this we need to understand psychology

According to Maslow’s theory a person acts to satisfy his needs. The order of needs vary. First comes the physiological needs like food, shelter, warmth etc, then comes security, then social needs/belongingness and then higher order needs like cognitive needs, aesthetic and self-actualization. In this entire thing the need for education comes as a need to rise/progress in Life, security. A need above first order of needs. This in itself gets tough because very few people really enjoy the process of learning, it’s not entertainment, there is seldom any instant gratification…’s a mental strain, for any age. Exception to the rule is when a person starts enjoying learning. A rare aspect which requires creation of a habit in a positive reinforcement loop (note to myself: topic for a later post)

So the only way a person will go through the entire educational product is either by self-motivation(tangibility beckons motivation) or by imposition. In young age there is no way to tell the student of the tangible benefits of studies hence parental supervision and pressure. In later age the tangibility of betterment in life or progress creates that motivation.

Now in order to scale in education the product needs to have an exceptional tangible value — a clear proof that by going through it will directly improve the quality of life. Any educational product which fails to do this lies under ‘good to have’ and not ‘must to have’. It’s not to say that other not so tangible products can never fly but it’s tough for them. An important point here is that the Tangibility should be clearly established and recognized. Again if awareness is required for that tangibility then too its hard. Forex, an educational product is marketed claiming that it will improve Math skills of a student by say 50% (blah blah) but it’s a very new technique. It’s tough to sell/scale this as compared to say Vedic Maths. So the market perception of that tangibility is also critical.

The above is mostly in context for b2c products but the same is true for b2b — the only change is that for b2b the tangibility demonstration has to be done towards the business you are selling to. Again there it has to directly impact his most important things (mostly its ability to get more revenue or business)

The following can be good framework for early stage education companies to test the Tangible Quotient (TQ) of their product

1. Quick test to crosscheck for tangibility (direct to students, b2c)

a. Since most of the educational system is based around tests

i. It should help student improve marks for the test

ii. The more important the test the more the tangibility

b. If not tests then some certification or some authorization

i. This certification or whatever should improve the chances of the student to do better in life (its mostly equated to better job prospects, better salary, better chances to get admitted to some college/institution which provides more better certification loop)

c. If not in above two then the product/service should clearly demonstrate that it will (and has) improve the level/aptitude and hence will impact quality of life of the individual in near or long term

d. There are various other levels of needs which education satiates in terms of higher order needs in Maslow’s hierarchy( read cognitive needs and self-actualization) like Yoga, learning new language as a hobby etc. Those are not the context of this blog but those too have credibly demonstrated the tangibility of an upgraded quality of life/inner satisfaction

2. Quick Test of Tangibility for B2B educational product

a. As similar to b2c here the value prop has to be clearly demonstrated to the business you are selling to

b. In most cases the primary interest of a business is to increase its top line or bottom line. This product if directly is able to do that then highest tangibility

c. If not above, then this product should be able to bring better value to the users which will result in the users of the business being more happy which in turn will spread WOM and which in turn brings more top line

i. Note the number of turns above…..the more turns there are, the less obvious the tangibility

If the product doesn`t qualify as tangible from the above generic points, it’s going to be a very hard time monetizing/scaling.

Educomps Smartclass sold not because there was a proof that it improves learning outcomes (although every marketing brochure would claim to that). It sold because it made Schools charge more fees from parents or establish a better brand and attract more students.

Ignoring the importance of demonstrable tangibility in education is the single biggest mistake Edupreneurs can do.

Another equally important aspect is engagement. You will find many good investors and Edupreneurs stressing the importance of engagement in educational products. It directly relates to the above. Less engagement means less time spend which means no matter what, improvement will not happen and hence you cannot prove tangible learning outcome betterment. For offline educational or EdTech companies which are looking at high engagement and/or monetizing their products, tangibility and engagement are the holy grail.