Meanwhile, the era of the individual spilled out from traditional celebrities and thought leaders into... well, almost anyone. Although the end of the decade proved celebrities still held some sway...
The previous scene covered Edutainment’s awkward adolescence. At the end of adolescence, we begin to head out into the wider world.
Inevitably there’s a tipping point here: something shifts. Light emerges at the end of the (traditional education) tunnel; something new presents itself. Leisure and Academics begin to blend.
It’s exactly where Edutainment found itself in the early 2010s.
Early 2010s: Work & Play
Experiences Evolve, and Work & Play Intertwine
Established institutions took a page from the Experience Economy playbook. Instead of reading through a magazine or strolling through a museum creating an experience in your mind, these big institutions started offering their own one-of-kind, hands-on experiences to subscribers:
Between its Times Journeys program and Q&A sessions with figures from the film and music industries, The New York Times has created interactive experiences that have turned it from a traditional newspaper to a renowned experience provider.
Note: the company discontinued its Times Journeys program in 2021. We’re curious to see what their New Products team have planned next...
Tailor-made adventures from a museum? Whether you want to experience small-group land journeys, ocean cruises, river cruises, active journeys, cultural stays, or private jet trips, The Smithsonian’s Journeys program that offers “life-enriching experiences worldwide.” No need to wander through plain exhibits when you can join global experiences instead.
As Edutainment established itself as a combination of work with play, experiences secretly turned educational.
Serious games exploded onto the Edutainment landscape and quickly turned into a market size of $15.7 billion by 2019.
Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) games and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) are more than just entertainment. They’re a valuable tool for education because they enhance problem-solving skills, encourage goal-related behavior, and increase engagement and motivation in a virtual setting that makes learning feel collaborative and less stressful.
Globally, systems are growing and at the time of writing are able to support 50,000+ players at once.
MassiveCraft is a medieval fantasy role-playing server, where players assume the identity of a character throughout the game’s duration. Players must constrain their behavior to accepted background lore or risk punishment. To do this, players must have an intimate knowledge of the story or the rules. They share a tacit agreement to create an immersive experience together.
Zach Barth, developer of MassiveCraft said:
“I’m so glad to not have to label our game as educational. Because you know what? We’re going to sell so many more copies by having a game that’s not called educational, but is secretly educational. Just because we can sell straight to the people who actually want to play it, and find it appealing. And the educational qualities that somehow make their way in are strictly a value-add.”
At Wavetable we think of this as Work masquerading as Play.
The rise of EdTech
Today, ed-tech is no longer about standalone videos on YouTube, but is an umbrella term that refers to any technological initiative designed to streamline learning - be it in the K-12, test preparation, upskilling or B2B space.”
EdTech saw massive growth in the 2010s: from 2010 to 2014 more than 500% growth in investment dollars. Here are a few examples of EdTech companies that have successfully channeled Edutainment principles into their products:
Turning translation into a game. Duolingo, co-founded by Luis von Ahn, the inventor of the CAPTCHA, Duolingo uses game-like attributes to translate the web into every major language for free. How?
By using the collective intelligence of the internet. Players can simultaneously learn a language and work to translate the web.
Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform where people can learn anything from creating presentations to training employees in a fun and engaging way.
With 1+ billion players every year, learning at school, at work, and at home has never been easier.
The company recently announced Kahoot+, a series of paid-for subscription products to help kids learn and play at the same time with topics ranging from reading to math.
The Kahoot! team design its learning experiences for the heart, hand and mind. This makes how you learn feel:
- Logical and sensible (the mind)
- Tangible and practical (the hand)
- Emotionally engaging (the heart)
“You normally find that you’re missing one of these dimensions, and in edtech it’s normally emotion. Everything is clinical and forgets that learning is an inherently emotional experience. That’s the problem we were trying to solve with Kahoot! How can we make learning something everyone wants to connect with?”
- Jamie Brooker, co-founder of Kahoot!
Mid 2010s: The Evolution of Creators, Journalists and Celebs
Experience Economy → Transformation Economy
Pine and Gilmore (who coined the term “experience economy”) observed the rising importance of experiences becoming transformational – going beyond the actual moment and aiming at transforming a person. This is relevant to Edutainment because it transforms the way people learn, creating a positive and lasting change in education.
The next iteration of this idea is the Transformation Economy, where you’re not just paying for an experience, you’re paying to have your life transformed by this experience.”
One medium that encouraged transformation became widely available, and it was even cheaper and more convenient than a cup of coffee: podcasts.
Podcasts have an unbeatable competitive advantage in Edutainment - convenience. This versatile medium allows knowledge to be easily produced and distributed. And creators who produce their own podcasts (sometimes from their kitchen table) can grow a follower base just as easily and quickly as an institution or corporation. From public service journalism mixed with influencer culture to true crime solvers, podcasts have leveled the Edutainment playing field.
Some of the podcasts successfully weaving education and entertainment include:
The Creators & The Influencers
The ongoing democratization of digital tools, along with a shift in the working styles and the era of the individual saw the rise of the “Creator Economy.” Although this concept had been around since the 90s, it wasn’t until the mid-late 2010s that creators took advantage of the opportunity to use the internet to earn revenue from their work.
Platforms like Udemy and Coursera transformed traditional education while Teachable and CreativeLive focused on transforming creatives into teachers.
And in a parallel lane, YouTubers like John and Hank Green spun up their own TV shows from scratch. As Simon Owens notes, they now have 55 million social media subscribers and over 5 billion views on YouTube alone.
This form of Edutainment turned ordinary people into content creators and influencers who got paid for sharing their passions.
As the line between Education and Entertainment continued to blur, one company stood out from the rest, and also signaled the end of the Edutainment 2.0 era. MasterClass was positioned as an education company but was rooted in the world of entertainment from day one.
With its digital native nature and broad appeal, it was a huge success and led its backers to talk a big game:
Others take a different view:
But all that talk failed to actually reap successful results from the student side of things. The biggest criticisms of the platform are its lack of peer learning and community, and a focus more on entertainment and tips than proven pedagogy.
All these elements are key to Edutainment 3.0. How will Masterclass fare in the coming years? Only time will tell...