By Ranganath Jagannath
The ed-tech sector was one of the first to adopt a digital model at the onset of the pandemic last year. Teachers and students collaborated to troubleshoot technical problems as they arose, while educational institutions adopted remote learning software to provide the best experiences.
Some of the technology trends that paved the way during the pandemic included a web-based curriculum and supporting artefacts; a switch to online textbooks. While this helped reduce the cost to students, it also made the curriculum accessible from anywhere.
Better, faster accessibility: With the roll-out of better, faster, and less expensive data plans, we should expect higher adoption of digital literacy and education in geographies and populations that were not connected as well earlier.
Real-time engagement: Easy and scalable access to technology and tools that allow multi-way engagement with teachers and students will become a minimum requirement.
XR-based learning: A logical step forward is the inclusion of XR-based learning tools for a more immersive real-time teaching and learning experience.
Increase in video calling apps: The pandemic steered the adoption of video calling applications. It became a prominent mode of communication for teachers and students, as well as parents. Digitization led the way from online classes to exams and meetings.
Edutainmemt (like co-watching in the OTT space) is emerging as a trend to allow students to learn at their own pace with friends.
Technology is there and challenges too
While great strides have been made in amalgamating technology into education, there still remain a host of challenges to be addressed.
Lack of real-time feedback loop: Since these are relatively early days of ed-tech at scale, there isn’t much by way of providing real-time feedback to students and teachers. One of the hallmarks of an in-class experience was the scope for interpersonal interactions and one-on-one tutoring. As much there has been development in this sphere, it acts as a barrier for many.
How much is too much: While it is tempting to pack a lot of features in a platform, app developers and product managers need to assess if they are overloading platforms with so many features that their users might get intimidated.
Gamification: There are early attempts to gamify the teaching-learning experience but are devices ready to render this gamification effectively, is yet to be known.
Costs and monetization: This is still an evolving model and it is up for discussion as to what are the right cost and price points so that all stakeholders come away happy given that the technological growth bought with it additional costs like cost of gadget, cost of data and others.
Lack of resources: With the pandemic, came to the need for digitization and technological advancements. However, not everyone can afford this advancement. For a large number of students, parents, and teachers procuring resources like devices, Wi-Fi, and data connectivity is a big challenge.
Implementation and adoption of real-time engagement will be driven by accessibility and affordability, both for small cohorts as well as for very large classrooms.
Online keeps it going
Currently, live online learning is the only way to keep the education system up and running. Coupled with real-time engagement, virtual education is doing a tremendous job of replacing in-person classes. Amidst the pandemic, with students and teachers spread across the country, interactive voice- and video-led software has helped retain the essence of a classroom by emulating the student-teacher connect. With real-time engagement, there have been a couple of new and engaging ways of delivering education with the help of an integrated approach like live video, a virtual interactive whiteboard, screen share, and full-length recordings backed by multilayer security for data protection.
A successful example of this could be upGrad, an online higher education provider platform. Its new platform replicates a real-time classroom learning experience by providing greater interactivity, real-time doubt resolution, in-class concept check, and session analytics. To summarize, real-time engagement platforms help revamp and re-strategize the learning modules for students as well as teachers.
Good times ahead
For those looking at building ed-tech solutions, there are still a lot of areas that are under-served. Apart from aspects like immersive learning (XR-based), gamification, extra-curricular learning, adult learning, skills training, language learning, there is the whole domain of how to make all this truly interactive and engaging, at scale.
One can also safely say that hybrid learning models – a mix of offline and online – are here to stay. Just like the workplace, a hybrid form of the education system is to be seen in the near future. To enable this, real-time engagement and gamification of the teaching-learning process will continue to evolve and will take center stage.
Edutainment (like co-watching in the OTT space) is emerging as a trend to allow students to learn at their own pace with friends. As fancy as it sounds, it will be interesting to see, how this shapes the educational fraternity. We will also witness the 360-degree involvement of teachers, students, and parents or employees in the case of adult education for better teaching and learning outcomes.
Lastly, the implementation and adoption of real-time engagement will be driven by accessibility and affordability, both for small cohorts as well as for very large classrooms. As a natural extension, XR-based learning tools will ride on top of real-time engagement capabilities to deliver many superior outcomes. The future is ripe for possibilities in education.
Jagannath is Director at Growth, Agora