Student Fellowships: The Not-So Secret Ingredient for EdTech Success

Activating the full power of student perspectives.
by Tia Holiday

Opportunity for EdTech

As technology continues to advance at a breakneck pace, EdTech sits at an urgent inflection point: how do we develop collaboratively with our end-users - specifically students – from the very outset, rather than keeping them in mind after development has already happened? Can educational technology (EdTech) companies ensure they start with their end users – their students – in mind from day one?  It is an axiomatic, but rarely integrated strategy: ensuring that students are involved in the development of the solution at a ground level, instead of, as so often is the case, experiencing the solution after the fact. Student fellowships represent a unique opportunity for EdTech companies to learn from the ground up, rather than making decisions from the top down. 

EdTech companies fill many unique learning gaps: from students seeking more customized learning to busy teachers desiring supplemental resources for their lesson plans. These products have the potential to completely redesign teaching and learning. However, students are often the least involved in product development whilst being the primary users.

Understanding Student-Centered Innovation

The core philosophy behind student fellowships positions students as key participants and innovators in solutions developed for them – essentially, a shift from passive to active. Students bring a wealth of firsthand knowledge and perspectives that can address real-world challenges, but are often overlooked in the product development process. 

Creating a fellowship program requires structure, intention, and organization in order to engage students and create the conditions for them to successfully support the development of your platform. At iF, we wrote a brief overview of the process to build a student fellows program from the ground up here.

Moving Beyond Traditional Research & Development

Engaging with student fellows allows EdTech companies to transcend traditional research and development limitations, engaging with a new group to provide wealth of data and knowledge. The fellows program empowers students to lead initiatives, such as:

  • Co-creating strategic plans with insights that reflect current educational needs and future trends.
  • Leading mentorship and training programs for other students, cultivating a culture of peer learning and support.
  • Designing student-centered advising structures and educational pathways that align with diverse learning needs and goals.

This engagement fuels a vibrant ecosystem where innovative ideas are nurtured, tested, and refined in real-world educational settings – benefiting students just as much as the EdTech companies that serve them. Students have the opportunity to gain and improve their leadership, critical thinking, and communication skills. Moreover, utilizing student fellows aligns perfectly with the ethos of developing educational tools, which seeks to personalize learning experiences and optimize educational outcomes through data-driven insights.

Leveraging Fellowships for Market Leadership

By partnering with iF to establish student fellowships, EdTech companies stand to sharpen their competitive edge. This partnership not only enriches the product development process but also expands the possibilities for educational equity and innovation. Showcasing the impactful work of student fellows can also serve as a strong piece of an honest and compelling marketing narrative, one that appeals to educators, institutions, and investors alike. Additionally, the fellowship program itself becomes a testament to the company's dedication to amplifying student voices early and often in the name of educational equity and advancement. Such initiatives serve to significantly enhance brand reputation, deepen trust with educators, attract talent, and open doors to new collaborations.

Building the Future of Education Together

As educational technology continues to evolve, we invite EdTech companies to explore the vast potential of student fellowships. By collaborating with students – the heart of education – we can co-create solutions that are not only technologically advanced but also deeply meaningful and impactful. By opening the door for students to have an active stake in the very tools that help them learn, EdTech companies stand to be enriched by a wealth of fresh and exciting perspectives. 

Consider partnering with us in order to structure and implement a fellows program for your organization. To inquire, please contact Alison Gazarek at

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