Advancement in technology has given rise to a multitude of possibilities and the global Covid pandemic has accelerated digital disruption across all sectors, including education.
Education technology (edtech) refers to the use of digital solutions in the education sector that aim to enhance the educational experience and support a digital learning, research and dissemination environment. It is having a huge impact on traditional learning practices and teaching methods and redefining them in line with the contemporary needs of today.
Effective use of digital technologies in the sector can be beneficial to everyone involved, from students to teachers and administrators. There is a wide range of technological applications that can transform an educational institution and help build competitive advantage. These are crucial not only for survival, but also for institutions to thrive in a challenging and competitive environment.
Tackling top challenges with technology enabled solutions
Financial constraint triggered by multiple contributing factors
One of the top challenges is the financial constraint resulting from the recent rise in running costs (including increases in employer’s contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and higher national insurance contributions) while balancing educational fees at a time when parents are also dealing with high inflation rates and soaring energy prices. Educational institutions must therefore look to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of their work to minimise their cost base and improve their financial standing. Undertaking process reviews of administrative functions to re-engineer and streamline them can potentially deliver quick wins for the team and help identify high-impact areas for digital transformation.
There are various cases of deploying digital solutions in the administrative realm, for example:
- Digitising admissions and applications
As part of the admissions and application process, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots can be deployed to handle standard queries and provide 24/7 assistance. Paper-based application forms can be easily digitised with on-the-go solutions, such as mobile scanning
- Data reporting and analytics
Data management solutions can support with time-consuming management information system updates and with the reporting of covering information that may cover such data as pupil attendance and performance. Moreover, overlaying data analytics can provide actionable insights and enable or improve data-driven decision-making.
- Smart inventory management
Use of smart inventory management systems can help staff monitor school supplies in real-time and proactively handle re-ordering to replenish stock levels.
- Automating simple administrative tasks
Automation capabilities can be leveraged for simple administrative tasks such as sending email reminders for fee collection. Setting up automatic email reminders to be sent on pre-set timelines can help reduce the workload.
All these solutions would help free up valuable time for the administrative team and allow them to focus more on what matters most – students and education.
Delivering ‘quality-first’ teaching and learning in the new normal
A key aspect on the agenda of educators is to ensure ‘quality-first’ teaching and learning is delivered. The global pandemic has challenged the traditional education model and there is now a need to have a more adaptable education model.
We already see the emergence of ‘flipped’ classrooms wherein students navigate through the curriculum sitting at home via online lectures and use the classrooms to have more engaging discussions and collaborative learning experiences. This has helped foster close collaboration and deeper learning as students actively participate in classrooms.
There are many more opportunities to use edtech to improve students’ learning experiences and embed ‘quality-first’ in the education model, for example:
- Personalised learning experience
Machine learning can be leveraged to drive flexible and personalised learning experiences for students instead of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Each person has a different style and pace of learning that can be supported using digital solutions.
- Data-driven specialised learning
Big data and analytics can play an important role in driving data-driven improvements, as it can help measure a student’s learning progress and identify key learning patterns. This learning data can provide valuable insights about the student’s strengths and development areas, allowing teachers to design specialised learning plans and implement intervention protocols as needed.
- Optimisation of teachers’ focus
AI tools can be leveraged to support teachers with their laborious administrative tasks, allowing them to spend more quality time with students. An example of this is automatic marking of exams, especially where the testing is of an objective nature, such as fill-in-the-blanks or multiple-choice questions.
- All-in-one classroom management tools
Comprehensive classroom management tools enable teachers to assign homework, manage multiple classes, personalise learning, and even communicate with parents, all on one platform.
Investing in long-term digital strategies to futureproof educational institutions
The advantages of edtech in the typical classroom are significant, and educational leaders should look to invest in longer-term strategies that would futureproof their institution. With growing competition, educational institutions are being pressed to enhance the value they deliver to continue attracting parents and their hard-earned money.
As an impact of the global pandemic, we have already seen the emergence of digital classrooms with interconnected devices and cloud-enabled solutions that enable real-time communication, collaboration and access to online lectures/material. These can be further supplemented with smart technological tools to enhance the educational experience, for example:
- Interactive educational content
Building learning platforms that leverage audiovisual interactive presentations and gamification of educational programmes can help stimulate students and capture their attention for longer periods. Sentiment-analysis engines can be embedded to assess student engagement levels and provide actionable insight to maximise classroom interaction.
- Blended learning environment
Adopting ‘phygital’ tools that combine the physical and digital environment (such as interactive smart boards) can revolutionise hybrid teaching and foster inclusivity with remote learners. This may even help revive lost revenue streams from international students who are geographically dispersed.
- Learner-centred experience
Applying design thinking methodology can help administrators focus on learner-centred education and enhance the end-to-end student experience, from application and admissions to graduation and future opportunities. Mapping out the student journey and understanding the pains and gains could open a plethora of options to re-imagine their experiences and further enhance learning outcomes.
- Immersive learning experience
Looking further into the future, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies will undoubtedly offer opportunities to facilitate immersive learning experiences. Specialised VR headsets can enable students to interact with computer-simulated environments and learn by doing, such as exploring 3D models of the human body or visiting historical heritage sites. AR can be useful to animate educational content for ease of comprehension, especially for difficult concepts like those in physics and chemistry.
The technology behind VR and AR is moving at an astonishing rate and these will start to become a viable option for educators in the next five years.
Edtech has disrupted the educational ecosystem and will continue to do so as further technological advancements are made. Even learner needs and preferences have evolved in the new normal and it has become more important than ever for educational institutions to adapt, adopt and advance in the digital age. Edtech offers multiple benefits, including increased access, ease of collaboration and wider communication to promote overall quality of education. It has the potential to enable better learning outcomes, improve student performance and, in turn, school rankings. The role of data and insight in the education realm can have far-reaching and impactful outcomes for all – students, teachers and administrators. Educational leadership teams must be at the forefront of this to leverage learning innovation and ensure educators of today are well-equipped to provide ‘quality-first’ teaching to the bright minds of tomorrow.
Read more in Education Matters