Exporting EdTech: Estonia’s Futuclass and Praktikal aim for international success

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It all began with virtual reality arcades. Kristen Tamm was in his mid-twenties then and working as the CEO of Futuruum, a company that operated virtual reality centres in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia’s two largest cities. These centres provided VR games, but Tamm sensed an opportunity.


“At one point, we saw that children were shooting zombies, but we knew the medium could be so much more powerful than that,” says Tamm. “So, we thought, what if we taught chemistry and physics, but with gamified VR experiences,” he recalls. “After that, we started experimenting.”

From this realisation, the education technology, or EdTech, company Futuclass was born. The firm was officially established in early 2019, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the arcades closed, and the company focused solely on creating educational content for VR.

“That’s what we are still doing today,” says Tamm.

The pandemic changed work and education, seemingly forever. Teachers had to move their classes to an online environment overnight, and interest in EdTech spiked. According to Tamm, interest in VR by firms like Meta and Apple has also driven adoption.

“Big corporations getting into VR has been more impactful than COVID-19 was,” he says. “And a lot of money is being poured into the VR industry by the richest companies in the world.”

Futuclass now offers a “complete VR solution for schools.” This includes software, such as VR headsets sourced from significant vendors, as well as software and support. It has developed and launched applications for learning chemistry, biology, physics, art, history, music, crafts, and safety. Tamm says that based on feedback over the past five years, students who use the applications are more motivated and engaged than previously. VR also allows them to do experiments repeatedly or do other things that would be potentially hazardous in real life.

“Things that are dangerous in real life aren’t dangerous in VR,” says Tamm. People can fire off rockets or mix acids, for example. And it’s fun for Futuclass’s developers, too. “We get to gamify these experiences and to scaffold the learning process,” says Tamm. “This is what drives us.”

Futuclass is based in Tartu with a lean core team and outsources any work necessary. Some of that is related to localisation, a significant focus for Futuclass. The company’s products have been translated and localised for adoption in the Netherlands and the Belgian Flanders region, for instance, and 700 schools in Flanders are currently using them, Tamm says. This year, the company is focused on localising the science learning VR modules to Germany and creating applications in Latvian. To localise, they rely on both machine-learning tools and teachers to review the applications.

Futuclass aims to sell outside of Estonia because the country has a limited domestic market. “What we are looking for is to get some kind of international success, which is hard to do in EdTech,” Tamm acknowledges. Toward that end, the company continues to strive.

It is not alone in this regard. “Estonia is not big enough to sustain most educational technologies,” states EdTech Estonia, an organisation representing Estonian education technology startups, on its website. Thus, designing solutions extending cultural and national borders is essential to providing the best education locally and internationally.”



“Estonia is the land of per capita,” observes Omari Loid, the CEO and co-founder of Praktikal, another Tartu-based EdTech company. In this small pond of 1.3 million souls, its EdTech startup scene is inarguably vibrant—about 70 such companies are registered in Estonia. However, to succeed and survive, they must export their products outside the Northern country.

Like Futuclass, Praktikal, which offers physical kits and digital tools to support physics and chemistry teachers and students, is bent on exporting its products. For example, Loid confirmed that about 50 German schools will use the company’s offerings by next year.

“We have set our export focus on Germany, as the market is huge, and there is a lot of pressure to revamp education there to use digital tools,” he said. Cracking such a large market does take time, but the company is confident it will close bigger deals towards the end of the year, he said.

Praktikal was established in 2021 by Loid, who previously led Three Piglets, another Tartu EdTech that offers science theatre, hobby classes, and products for children. The company’s other cofounders include Kaido Reivelt, a well-known Estonian physicist and populariser of science; Oleg Shvaikovsky, a physics teacher; and Eva Pedjak, who is also the head of Cronimet Nordic, a metal recycling company, who has a personal interest in physics.

“We’re quite an interesting bunch if you look at our backgrounds,” says Loid of the team.

Praktikal, an EdTech company, started out offering physical kits, as noted, for teaching physics and chemistry but later expanded to provide a digital platform alongside them. The firm generally aims to replace traditional classroom learning with more engaging activities.

“There are a lot of good textbooks out there, but at the end of the day, textbooks are textbooks,” says Loid. Praktikal’s materials are designed to connect students emotionally and personally with their study topics. He says that students can learn more by playing around and experimenting with Praktikal’s simplified products. Teachers also benefit from using the company’s prepared lesson materials.

“It’s not just the equipment; it’s the how-to and why and how to conduct the lesson,” says Lord.

The company’s digital layer allows teachers to create and manage lessons and worksheets using a template that can be adjusted according to the needs of the class or lesson. Teachers can use the platform in classrooms as a tool to display materials. Students can join the environment via a QR code. Teachers can ask questions and receive responses in real-time. “This is a classroom management tool from the perspective of the science teacher,” says Loid.

While Prakitkal started focusing on physics and chemistry, it now branches into other disciplines, such as language and history. Hypothetically, says Loid, its digital platform could be used to teach any subject, though the company will not create that content itself, instead relying on partners. It is also able to provide the platform in different languages. An Estonian teacher could interact with the platform in Estonian, while a Ukrainian pupil could answer questions in Ukrainian using the same interface, with translation provided immediately.

There is still a need for paper. Students who already use smartphones constantly often get distracted in a digital environment, so Praktikal has provided the ability to print out worksheets.

“Digital devices take away the important part of the lesson: the human connection in the classroom,” Lord says. “If everybody’s behind screens, you won’t have the connection. We are building a system where you can have the same content on paper.”

While the company continues to innovate, Loud acknowledges it will take time to see EdTech solutions like its own adopted en masse. And geography is not the sole limitation. Older teachers are accustomed to teaching their subjects in specific ways, while younger ones might look more favourably at adoption. “There are a lot of 50 to 70-year-old teachers with ingrained processes they used, which are not bad,” says Loid. “They might be effective teachers, and forcing digital tools might not make too much sense,” he says. As such, it could take a decade or more for Praktikal’s products to find their way into every classroom, Loid remarked.

But they will get there.


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