The past 3 years have seen a buzz around education technology (edtech). The advent of technology in the education space has been hailed by some as the ultimate solution to the woes pervading the industry: high teacher-tutor ratios, over-burdened and under-trained teachers, the falling attention span of teachers and the over-reliance on traditional pen and paper methods in teaching and assessing.
However, the truth is that edtech is not new. The buzz may be recent, with the appearance of tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple into the picture and, it is merely a bigger industry and more prominent now. What is interesting, then, is to see the trends in the sector, with this increased hype around it.
Trend #1: Increasing acceptance of edtech
The education community used to be split into two – those who believed in traditional methods and those who believed in the new world of tech-enabled learning. The increased penetration of tablet and laptop devices, the availability of open-source courseware and falling costs of data have led to an increasing acceptance of edtech by even the most traditional educationists. The benefits of technology, harnessed appropriately, are immense. Parents are beginning to look to schools for evidence of modern pedagogical approaches and are keen that their children grow up with access to the best. This has propelled all educational institutions to take a look at their technology integration strategy.
Trend #2: Putting the ‘ed’ back in ‘edtech’
A fallout of trend #1 is the risk of the “over-use” of technology, hoping that just the fact that we equip all students with devices and the internet will somehow make them smarter. There are lots of challenges faced by education where technology can provide solutions. For example, the high student-teacher ratio can be broken by giving students personalized learning platforms. Similarly, interactive media which is engaging and enriching can help keep students engaged longer and improve the long-term retention of knowledge. With the use of 1:1 devices, it is also possible for students to access different learning material compared to their peers, since they can get instructional content tailored to their specific needs.
The key here, though, is that technology is used as an enabling tool. The ultimate learning outcomes will only improve if the educational content being used is pedagogically sound, interesting and engaging and interactive for students. Without all of these, whether a student is sitting in front of a textbook and day-dreaming or doing it with an iPad in front of them, is no different.
The recent failure of many edtech initiatives has brought back into focus the importance of putting the right educational expertise into edtech.
Trend #3: Using edtech to augment school learning
The beauty of edtech is that it puts power back in the hands of parents and learners. Free from the constraints of their location and the school’s curriculum, technology gives every student and parent the ability to choose to learn anything, anytime and anywhere. Online courses are flexible, cost-effective and are proven to be impactful. A great example is the students we see increasingly logging onto online platforms to develop specific skills or study subjects not currently offered as a part of their school’s curriculum.
The power of online learning is that it enables parents to break past these barriers and gain access to a world-class education regardless of what city or school they are in. We see an increasing number of parents opting to enroll their children into online courses which augment and supplement the school curriculum and equip them with other necessary skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving.
In conclusion, edtech is here to stay and get bigger, with a higher proportion of parents joining in and more sophisticated buyers within schools. Reports estimate that the edtech sector in India alone is going to grow and scale to US$ 1.96 billion. With such a large market opportunity at hand, there will be many numerous players in the market. The key is for purchasers to ensure they are not blindly buying the newest fad or gadget but investing their money wisely into quality products with proven impact on learning.