Thanks to this platform, teachers are prepared for the future of the digital school

Thanks to this platform, teachers are prepared for the future of the digital school
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Thanks to this platform, teachers are prepared for the future of the digital school

31 October 2022

The number is impressive: 35,000 – that’s how many teachers are likely to be missing from German schools by 2025, the information service of the German Economic Institute announced in May. A huge gap to fill in the next three years. What needs to be done: support teachers and make the profession attractive again.

Two tasks that are actually the responsibility of the federal states, but which two women in particular have taken on: Diana Knodel and Theresa Grotendorst. In 2018, they founded Fobizz in Hamburg. Behind the name is a digital platform for continuing education for teachers. On the platform, teachers of all types of schools can receive additional training on various topics related to digitization in the classroom.

“You can only develop your full potential with a good education”

Diana Knoodle

According to Knodel, “You can only develop your full potential with a good education.” Both come from a digital product development background and recognized a gap in the market here. Initially, a SaaS solution was considered, but due to the protection of school data, the founders quickly realized that they needed their own platform. With the help of a developer who is now a CTO and a shareholder, the first proprietary platform was launched after just four weeks.

The platform was live for some time before the lockdown. “The need for digital training was definitely there before the pandemic,” says Grotendorst. Still, Fobizz was able to gain a lot more users in a very short time, especially with home education during the pandemic. And then something that “probably every startup secretly wishes for” happened, as Knodel says – the server crashed because the onslaught was so great.

Today, Fobizz servers flexibly adapt to the load, so the platform is secured for the next onslaught. In addition, the competition from competitors is not too great. There is still, for example, Schulflix or various academies, the Goethe-Institut, but none of the platforms seem to have as big a digital offer as Fobizz. A: Some providers are not independent.

“It’s not just important to provide resources to teachers, but also to empower teachers and give them the opportunity to empower other teachers,” says Knodel. That’s why founders rely on a wide variety of different tools. The platform is structured like any classic online course platform. The teacher logs in and can choose from a catalog of additional training, which now includes more than 150 topics.

All at your own pace

Many teachers obtain training licenses directly from schools. For everyone else, training costs from 9 to 49 euros. However, there are also some free courses that are offered, for example, to teacher students.

Special feature: Many online seminars run asynchronously. This means that each teacher can decide for himself when he wants to use further education for himself in his everyday life. “Teachers have a very stressful day at school, so it was important to us that they have flexible access to the courses and learn at their own pace,” says Grotendorst. In addition, Fobizz also offers live webinars where tutors can present their topics and interact with teachers.

Lecturers are teachers or media trainers who have already completed further training. They usually apply directly to Fobizz. In a close selection process, the team will then decide on the appropriate lecturers. If they are there, they will participate in the sales of Fobizz.

Topics sometimes vary greatly in difficulty. One course is about getting started with an iPad, another about using a 3D printer or even artificial intelligence. There are also workshops on Instagram and Tiktok “to show teachers the reality of young people’s lives,” says Knodel. Here, social media platforms are to be integrated directly into school practice, without which young people find it difficult anyway.

“We want children and young people to be digitally prepared for their future. We can do this with extracurricular workshops. But we only have the greatest impact if we empower the teachers themselves,” says Grotendorst. The idea: If teachers can do this themselves, they will reach many more schools and children. “That’s how we create the biggest impact,” Grotendorst continues.

And that can already be proven with numbers. More than 200,000 teachers have already used Fobizz. That’s one in four teachers in Germany, who in turn reach more than five million students. Roughly 70 percent of teachers are women, in the primary school sector it is even 90 percent. In terms of age, the founders speak more about balance, there are both young and old teachers who want to further their education.

The largest training platform in the German-speaking area

Fobizz grew out of its own cash flow, the only external funding at the beginning came from a 70,000 euro subsidy from the city of Hamburg. “Within four years, we have become the largest training platform in the German-speaking region,” says Grotendorst. And that’s not all: Fobizz wants to expand to other countries. The platform is currently used in the DACH region, but German teachers abroad also rely on Fobizz, for example in Turkey, Russia or Ghana. There are already 60 countries – the rest of the world should follow.

In addition, the federal states in Germany purchase Fobizz as a further education platform. “We are pleased to have the trust of the state,” says Knodel. Most recently, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania extended cooperation with Fobizz until the end of the year. “Teacher training is always understood in a very federal way. With Fobizz, we have made it possible for education to take place across national borders,” says Grotendorst.

Why shouldn’t a teacher from Schleswig-Holstein train teachers in Baden-Württemberg? Or someone from Berlin a teacher in Ghana? “We want to be the number one point of contact for all teachers,” says Knodel.

When asked about the secret of success, Knodel answers as follows: “Our high quality and strict selection process of authors.” Another advantage is that the co-founders actually come from the development of digital products and thus have a sufficient distance from the educational world. The edtech startup now employs 30 people.

Fobizz’s latest launch: Tools like little digital helpers that can be used to create digital bulletin boards and to-do lists or provide feedback to students, among other things. Things that seem obvious in the tech industry, but in no way made it into everyday school life.

Small tools with which school education is being re-evaluated in Germany. As a result, lessons are digitized bit by bit and the teaching profession is becoming more attractive again. Fobizz certainly cannot close the gap of 35,000 skilled workers alone, but with their contribution, the goal no longer seems so utopian.

This text comes from our 5/22 issue. We’ve got 7 hot takes on tomorrow’s careers to get you fired up without the risk of burnout. Also: iPod maker Tony Fadell parties with Steve Jobs, remote-controlled sperm, Lush soap opera with founder Mark Constantine. You can order here – or stop by your trusted kiosk.

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