The evolution of Ed-tech: trends to watch in 2022
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Vinesh Bharadwa, Partner at BDO, discusses how the evolution of Ed-tech has transformed the education sector forever.
It goes without saying that the role of technology in facilitating learning has been amplified by the pandemic. Ed-tech as a sector has transformed far beyond where it was in 2019, adapting and accelerating existing technologies to meet the needs of remote classrooms. Now, as the world returns to something more-or-less like normal, it’s time to consider how and to what extent the evolution of Ed-tech has changed the way we learn forever.
BDO Partner, Vinesh Bharadwa, considers the emerging trends and challenges faced by Ed-tech:
Lower education: classroom-based learning
Teaching in lower education has arguably faced the greatest challenge over the last two years. Around the world, teachers and education bodies have had to formulate not only new methods of teaching, but also ways of marking, providing feedback, facilitating self-guided learning and examining children aged 4 right through to 18, from a remote setting. Technology has played a vital role in transforming the way lower education is delivered, utilising everything from video-conference software, to specialised learning apps in order to provide the most rounded methods of teaching. So, how will these developments translate in a post-pandemic world?
With children back in the classroom, there are of course certain Ed-tech technologies that will no longer be of use in lower education. Video conference software, for example, we hope to be a thing of the past in a lower education setting. However, there are a number of innovations that could continue to provide learning value, particularly in the AI adaptive learning space. This is software that enables education centres to provide students with a more personalised journey through the curriculum, Via individual devices, like laptops or tablets, students can gain access to their course modules, engaging in interactive learning activities while having their progress monitored by AI. The AI can then predict a child’s rate of progress and identify areas of struggle in order to provide a tailored learning journey, adding significant value to all types of learner from those with learning difficulties right up to the high-achievers. Prodigy Math, ClassK12 and Oli are just a few examples of AI based ed-techs that have gained significant traction over the pandemic.
"Some form of online or remote learning is here to stay, even if that's in the form of hybrid learning. I think it's important that education is teacher driven in the end, but what I think the pandemic’s shown us is that there's actually different methods of delivering that teaching that might be more beneficial to certain students.”– Vinesh Bharadwa"
Higher education: extended access
In higher education, any technology that facilitates remote working, including video conference software, will continue to be useful – allowing students to collaborate across campus without needing to be in the same physical space. It could also allow tutors the ability to provide remote mentoring – a particular asset for international students who may now be able to spend long study periods away from the university site.
However, the biggest leap in terms of Ed-tech for higher-education comes in the form of increased digital access to research materials. According to a four-year study by Educause, 30% of students opted not to purchase a textbook at least once during their course; 41% had delayed purchasing one, and 15% had taken fewer courses or decided not to take a particular class due to the high cost of textbooks. Over the course of the pandemic, when access to physical research facilities such as university libraries was prohibited, many institutions were forced to make new efforts to digitise material in order to provide remote access, utilising platforms such as Kortext and Perlego. More than simply ‘digitising’ physical textbooks however, the recent rise of e-textbooks and interactive e-books could soon provide students with a new level of depth to their learning. Pre-pandemic e-books were a fairly basic tool, widely considered far less usable than their print equivalent. Now, however, integrated features such as video, audio-transcription, annotation and search features are making e-books a far more attractive source, enabling students to gain quicker access to the information they need, often at a much lower cost compared to purchasing a physical textbook.
Adult learning: anytime, anywhere
Beyond the classroom, the world of adult learning is becoming increasingly exciting. With video conference technology making virtual talks and conferences easy to attend from anywhere in the world, and gamification apps such as Duolingo, Codeacadamy and Memrise delivering new, on-the-go methods of learning, accessibility to knowledge-based learning has never been greater.
But it’s not only individual learners who can make the most of these tools, businesses can also look to utilise specialised Ed-tech platforms to assist in upskilling or retraining their workforce by far more efficient means than running traditional in-person training. A 2018 report on the future of jobs from the World Economic Forum estimated that 54% of all jobs will require fundamental re-skilling or up-skilling in order to remain prevalent. The survey showed that companies recognised the importance of lifelong learning and planned to invest more, pre-empting the surge in demand for adult learning platforms we’re seeing take hold. Today, with subscription-based Ed-tech software, businesses can provide their workforce with access to training courses they can undertake in their own time, at their own speed. This is not only cost-effective, but acts to minimise disruption to everyday business activities, empowering individual employees to upskill independently.
Academic administration: automating the admin
Another often overlooked facet of Ed-tech is the benefits it could bring to the administrative side of education, saving teachers hours spent logging grades and writing reports, and freeing them up to focus on their holistic responsibilities. Sophisticated Ed-tech software can be utilised for everything from day-to-day progress tracking, to compiling end of year academic reports. It can help shoulder the burden of evidencing learning by building and analysing learner progress, passion and proficiency and even track student learning patterns using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms. Meanwhile, from a wider school management perspective, similar tools can assist in easing the complexities of candidate selection and timetable planning.
Integrated cloud-based systems can further facilitate automation, enabling more transparent communication between teachers and parents. A good cloud-based platform such as Moodle or Blackboard, can act as a central source of information for students, parents and teachers alike, providing access to self-administrative admission fee payments, sharing of grades and report cards, digital signing of authorisation forms, attendance management and much more.
"There’s no longer an excuse for the administrative side of a teacher’s job to add to stress. Tasks such as lesson planning, progress tracking, assessment scheduling and reporting can all be supported through clever application of ed-tech.” – Vinesh Bharadwa."
Increased investment in Ed-tech
The growth in these trends in the Ed-tech space has resulted in the sector becoming highly attractive to for investors, with a number of IPOs in the last 18 months, like Coursera and significant funds being raised by EdTech businesses – a prime example of this was Multiverse raising $130m to reach near unicorn status. VCs and PE houses have recognised the massive opportunities for growth in Ed-tech since the pandemic hit. BDO has advised on transactions in this space, including Aliter Capital’s investment into Sponge, a bespoke eLearning content designer that delivers globally across several platforms. As the need for EdTech technologies expands, further investment in the sector is set to continue in order to accelerate this growth.
Find out more about how ed-tech is advancing in our previous blog, EdTech: a golden opportunity for saving the world.
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