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COVID-19 in Education: SBIR Small Businesses Respond

Post Date:
April 23, 2020
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Most schools across the United States have been closed for more than a month to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The closures have impacted tens of millions of students who have been attending classes virtually, as well as parents and teachers who have been creating new methods to support learning.

To help respond to the crisis, a group of more than 40 small business developers have been providing education technology resources for use in distance learning to support teachers, parents, and students at no cost. The developers received funding to develop their education technologies in recent years through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Agriculture.

“In addition to being founders of an ed tech company, we are also moms who are balancing working from home and our kids' remote learning,” said Kara Carpenter, an entrepreneur from Teachly. “As soon as we started hearing about schools closing and realized this could go on for weeks or more, we decided our company needed to commit to providing schools with free accounts.”

“As our educators take extraordinary actions to support students during this challenging time, we are committed to partnering with our communities to continue student learning,” said Jared Bernstein and Mike Crepeau of Analytic Measures, Inc.

The SBIR developers are responding with different forms of resources as follows:

  • No-Cost Education Learning Games and Technologies: More than 40 SBIR-supported developers have made their learning games and technologies available at no cost until the end of the school year. See the list of SBIR and other government supported resources in this blog here. The resources are appropriate for young children to postsecondary students as well as for teachers in education and special education across a wide range of educational topics, such as for early learning, in STEM, reading and language learning, and social studies. In recent weeks, thousands of teachers and more than 100,000 students around the country have accessed these SBIR-developed learning technologies at a distance.
  • Educational Music Video to Promote Awareness: National Science Foundation SBIR awardee Muzology (@MuzologyEdu), a music-based math platform, produced an educational music video "All Over the Map (the #CoronavirusSong)" featuring industry musicians Chris Blue (Winner of Season 12 of The VOICE TV program) and Juno (singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Lizzo and Bruno Mars). The purpose of the video is to promote awareness and provide information to students and citizens alike on how to stop the spread of the virus. Muzology’s math program is now free for educators, parents, and students affected by school closures. Watch the video here.
  • A Series of Virtual Education Unconferences: A group of more than 20 SBIR developers are collaborating to host free virtual “Unconferences” on different topics for educators, parents, and students. The events feature innovative models and approaches to teaching and learning during this time of distance learning and in-depth looks at the learning games and technologies created by the presenters, available at no cost until the end of the school year. While presenters will describe the delivery of online interventions via computers and devices, sessions will also focus on innovative approaches to implementing the interventions in low-resource settings.
  • The Virtual Math Unconference occurred April 23, with hundreds of math educators joining the event across the day. The next event will focus on Young Learners and will occur on Tuesday, May 5  (see here for the agenda and to RSVP). Other upcoming virtual events will focus on Social Studies, Special Education, and Science. See this post for the schedule for upcoming events.
  • National K12 Student Challenge: ED/IES SBIR awardee Future Engineers (@K12FutureE) launched a nation-wide challenge for K12 students to submit entries to “invent a way to make someone smile or feel appreciated during COVID19.” Teachers can sign up a class to participate or students can participate on their own. The submission deadline is June 1, 2020.  See this page for more information and to submit an entry.


During this time of uncertainty for everyone (including small businesses), we give a special thanks to this group of SBIR education technology developers for playing a role in responding to the crisis in education.

Edward Metz is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Please contact with questions or for more information.

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