In this article, we explore the impact that Edtech is having in the education sector
Education technology (Edtech) applies to any digital innovation that impacts the education sector, from schools and universities, to multi-academy trusts (MATs) and private, individual learning. In 2021, the global Edtech market was valued at $254.8 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $605.4 billion by 2027.
Like most industries, education was rocked by lockdowns brought about by the global pandemic, and institutions of all kinds needed digital solutions to maintain operations remotely. Now, as we gradually come out of the pandemic, these approaches look set to continue evolving to stay relevant and valuable.
With this in mind, we explore how Edtech is making an impact in the education sector today.
Shifting to cloud
One of the biggest transitions seen at the start of the global pandemic was the mass move to cloud-based systems. Collaboration tools such as Zoom and Teams proved crucial in keeping remote teaching and learning operational, and the cloud is set to continue underpinning much of today’s processes in the sector.
“What is new is the seamless integration of that technology into schools, colleges, and universities, and in such a way that actually enhances learning outcomes for students, rather than just digitally transforming existing ones – whether that is through making a lesson more engaging due to the use of imagery; by helping students collaborate more through Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom; or simply creating a hybrid working environment where pupils can do some work alone, making face-time with their teacher all the more valuable.
“The widespread move to the cloud – as well as this move to hybrid learning – has played a crucial role in evolving the way lessons are conducted and it’s something that, at RM, we’re seeing first-hand; institutions are now using virtual lessons to ensure that students have access to the very best teachers within a Trust or even internationally, regardless of the school or students’ geographical location. Not only does this improve the quality of education on offer overall, but it exposes young people to a more varied curriculum to keep them engaged, while making that particular state school more in demand.
“What’s more, as technical and vocational skills become increasingly in demand in the UK, academic institutions are gradually using technology to digitally replicate on-the-job challenges, ensuring students are well prepared for the digital-first economy once they leave education – something that, in the past, has never been a priority for schools. And we’ll only see more of that now that the digital transformation of every sector has been supercharged by the pandemic.”
With this move to the cloud has brought enhanced data capabilities, which has helped staff in education institutions to better understand the experiences of their learners. This allows teachers and leaders to know where they can better support students going forward.
Simon Freeman, managing director for education at IRIS Software Group, explained: “Edtech has transformed and evolved far beyond where it was in 2019, adapting and accelerating existing technologies to meet the needs of remote and blended classrooms. Thankfully, we are now seeing real-time intelligence put into the hands of educators. Connected cloud-based Management Information Systems (MIS) bring real-time data together to deliver a new form of learning architecture.
“Today’s Edtech is creating a stronger link between what happens inside and outside the classroom. By making digital educational resources available at all times through apps and internal learning platforms, teachers are able to create a series of ‘touch points’ in a student’s learning experience so they feel a greater sense of support.
“The real-time intelligence Multi-Academy Trusts can obtain give teachers & senior leadership teams easy to access & analyse data so they can identify students’ level of working & where safeguarding support is required. By joining the dots with integrated, real-time data, they can create a consolidated, accurate picture of students and step in at the point of need.”
The value of hardware
An array of hardware tools have also been valuable Edtech vessels for teachers and students alike, leading to a more immpersive impact for learners. Remote devices especially saw an unprecedented surge from the start of the pandemic, and tools such as tablets and headsets are now augmenting classroom activities.
“In the last twenty years, tech’s influence in education has increased dramatically. From 1 computer per year group, to iPads and Chromebooks assigned to each student today, the learning experience has evolved with tech to support and enhance education,” said Matt Waring, education channel manager at Logitech.
“Like many other sectors, the pandemic has driven the education sector to fast-track its digital journey. We witnessed an incredible reaction from institutions, which moved fast to adapt and use new technologies to ensure continuity in teaching.
“Fast forward to today, and we see the sector retaining elements of remote learning and assessing its ongoing needs, investing in technology for ‘the classroom of the now’.”
From personal, to whole-class learning
Waring went on to identify the following particular use cases for hardware that are now facilitating Edtech impact:
- Personal learning — “Tablets and styluses have proven themselves extremely effective tools to support a student’s ability to work the way they need to for the best outcome. Their flexible set up helps them focus on activities like reading, writing, one-on-one instructor time, independent learning, and/or research.”
- Small group learning — “Headsets and webcams cater to smaller group collaboration when students are remote, enabling effortless student-to-student & teacher-to-student collaboration. These strong connections mean that teachers can help students build confidence, critical thinking, teamwork, and social skills.”
- Whole class learning — “Cutting edge technologies such as whiteboard cameras are helping to connect students with remote experts or peers in other school locations, and facilitating digital learning and content sharing as if everyone was in the same room. Video conferencing systems usually found in offices are also ensuring every student sees and hears the teacher, and vice versa, just as if they were together in the classroom.”
Needs and challenges to address
While digital infrastructure is set to be crucial to the future of learning, and will benefit education providers and students alike, research shows that barriers remain towards true innovation.
Edtech company Kuato Studios recently found that while teachers across the UK and US view tech as having a critical role within education, the top priorities towards making this a success are access to digital tools, and upskilling.
In terms of particular challenges faced, the top two cited were meeting the individual needs of each child and being overwhelmed by the situation over the past 18 months. Meanwhile, engagement with children and protection and safety of children were found to be the next two challenges.
Freeman weighed in, commenting: “To date, Edtech has sometimes been more of a hinderance than help. Teachers have been battling clunky legacy IT systems for too long.
“A staggering 90% of school leaders highlight reporting and data analysis as a significant issue impacting their workload. They are also lacking social reach of the internet, personalised learning and training that adjusts to an individual’s learning requirements and analyses big data in real-time to understand the most effective ways for learners to progress.”
As education providers continue to navigate through the pandemic, dealing with COVID-19 cases along the way, it’s vital that Edtech startups consider more personalised experiences for students, as well as helping ensure safety and security online. Without considering these aspects, the impact of Edtech on the education sector could end up being as much a curse as a gift.
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