Why Education Apps Can't All Be Free

Education does so much for people, it uplifts people out of poverty, it contributes to our economy and our well-being. Putting a price to it is like putting a price on progress. It’s priceless!

We’ve been told by some that education games should be made free, and people have puzzled over why we charge for something meant to benefit the masses. We understand the sentiment that education is something so vital today that it’s considered a right, yet to continue providing great education, we had to ask ourselves the same core question over and over: is it sustainable?


Difference in value

Free apps and paid apps both do different things, differently. Some free apps package information readily out there in a consumable, user-friendly format, and typically monetize off advertisements. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. They have different value propositions - it’s trying to compare apples to oranges.

A paid edu app probably cost that much money because it cost that much more to develop. Paid edu apps have to put in more to help with the things that are tougher to master, and more difficult to access. If you’re familiar with education apps, perhaps you’ve heard of ClassCraft and how they’ve helped engage students in classes worldwide? Or if you don’t use edu apps, maybe you appreciate the skill and quality ingredients in producing good food, versus the food you and I prepare at home. It’s unsustainable to produce at a high level without earning enough to cover how much more you put in!


There are little people in the world who want to make a difference

To be sure, there are free educational platforms/apps out there that bring people value and are free like KhanAcademy. But one also has to keep in mind that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates a lot of money to keep it free for everyone. It’s easy to look at apps like Duolingo and assume they are free, when in reality, they just figured an ingenious way to get their money elsewhere. We thought they operated for free too, until we looked it up - check the video we found!


What about you, and everyone else? We all want to make a difference in our little ways. And you don’t need a Microsoft supporting you to make a difference. Indie developers too have livelihoods and families to support, and support goes a long way in helping them continue making great apps and games that add massive value to people’s lives, while making a living. Doesn’t that give us the best of both worlds?


But education should be a right! Right?

Wouldn’t it be great if education could be made free to everyone? Education is something that many want to make available to everyone out there, whether or not they have the money to pay for it.


And there’s the matter of sustaining this kind of model: how are we going to funnel time and money into a project that produces no return? It just isn’t viable as a core business versus, again, what Microsoft is doing with KhanAcademy as CSR. Doing good should not need to be at the expense of self. It’s when we’re also taking care of ourselves while serving others that we’re able to continue doing so.


We, at least from our experience teaching, believe that our students and their parents being “consumers” to us is what let us keep improving our system; they’re always giving us engagement and feedback. It was only with paying customers who would tell it straight and honest (not to mention having their money on the line) who drove us to meet their needs and concerns.


It depends

When we went to Games For Change 2016, we were surprised to find only a few success stories for edutech out there, and most of the other companies have been supported solely by government grants for many years. They were designed almost solely for classroom use, and their programs were aimed for a different audience, a different purpose. Hence, their business models were also different.


For instance, with ChemCaper, we wanted a game which people could play as a game outside the classroom, and learn science from it - something like how people learn from Civilization. Being a company that wanted to create an educational game on a commercial basis (rather than relying on grants), it was something that hadn’t quite been done before. It’s like how new technology enters the market at a premium price, and once it gets cheaper and easier to produce after the initial support, it becomes cheaper for everyone.



It’s only with your support that we’ll be able to grow and create better games for even more people in the future. Education might not be free, but it certainly should be affordable!


Thanks for reading! If you’d like be part of our journey in Reinventing Education for kids and adults alike, you can download ChemCaper right here. And if you’d like to keep up with us, check out our Facebook page, website, and blog.