How Edtech Can Help Post-Pandemic
Online learning is more essential than ever before as we navigate the current state of the pandemic and keep an eye toward the future of education. With some schools planning on opening back up in the fall, others trying out a hybrid of on-and-off-campus learning, and others still keeping all learning online, the question of how edtech will adapt and serve students and teachers is on everyone’s minds.
Can edtech tools help during the pandemic?
Zachary Pardos, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and the School of Information, says one issue during the pandemic is reduced teacher-student contact hours. In an interview with Berkeley News, Pardos says edtech can help.
“A lack of contact hours could be partially compensated for with adaptive technology, where in those moments where students can’t have synchronous learning sessions (with teachers, in real time), they can be interacting with a technology that has the capacity to personalize instruction — a limited capacity, but more so than a video or textbook.”
Some apps, like Quizlet, are already designed in a way that supports remote teaching. Quizlet not only supplements teaching and lets students engage with learning materials at home, but also lets teachers track their students’ progress remotely. Parents can get involved by helping their kids set tests and complete games through the app.
Technology can also keep low-income households connected to schools in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. For example, according to UNESCO, over 75% of households in most countries have access to either a television or radio.
“These are a quick and efficient way to broadcast lessons and continue schooling,” write Brajesh Panth and Jeffrey Jian Xu for the Asian Development Blog. “To support possible interactions between teachers and students, students can be given SMS or social media-based instructions and printed learning materials to accompany the broadcasting services. Without requiring heavy technical infrastructure, this phase serves as a practical short-term solution before schools reopen.”
How accessible are edtech tools?
Adoption and integration aside, one issue on educators’ minds is the cost of edtech tools during a time when schools are already making steep budget cuts. “Never before have schools and colleges so urgently needed digital tools and services to facilitate remote learning—and been less able to afford them,” writes Rebecca Koenig for EdSurge. Relief may be coming in the form of federal aid, but local and state governments aren’t providing enough to make the full financial picture secure.
On the other hand, investors are putting more and more money into edtech companies, foreseeing their importance during and post-pandemic, so look out for exponential growth in an already-burgeoning market. The demand is likely here to stay: In fact, one of the top online learning giants reported “more than 13 million new registered users since mid-March, a 535 percent increase from the same period last year.” It’s not only teachers and students who are taking advantage of these tools; parents, too, have had to learn how to educate their kids at home, and edtech makes that process much easier. The good news is that whether or not schools can afford to formally adopt new technologies, many tools are accessible and even free for individual students, parents, and teachers to use.
Those new registered users also include adult leaners who are interested in furthering their education through online learning in the vocational education sector. Edtech can help a wide demographic of learners continue on the right path toward completing their goals, even in the midst of a pandemic.
What will happen to ed-tech post-pandemic?
We can debate whether “post” pandemic is a realistic concept at this point, but the fact is that edtech will change rapidly from this point forward. Edtech will play a major role not only in traditional school settings but also as a way for adults to upskill and reskill in order to stay afloat in a fragile economy post-pandemic. Before COVID, the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2022 over half of employees would need to upskill or reskill to be able to do their jobs. Economists are now forecasting that these jobs won’t return as unemployment rates and cuts remain high.
Edtech companies and online course providers are rising to the occasion to meet this growing demand. Again, it’s a demand that was already there, but COVID has caused it to skyrocket.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate [changes in edtech], by doing what otherwise would have taken a decade or more, in a matter of a year or two,” says Kashyap Dalal, Chief Business Officer & Co-founder, Simplilearn.
As more people switch to online or blended learning, edtech will become increasingly adaptive, designed to meet the needs of specific groups and individuals. Personalized learning, along with accessibility through democratized education, is a big part of edtech’s future.
“If I am one teacher and I have 30 kids in my class, I will only have the chance to have a cursory look at every child,” says Sean Tierney, Microsoft’s Director for Teaching and Learning Strategy, Asia. “But if I had ten really experienced teachers in that classroom, they could watch three kids each closely and look for problems and opportunities for each. We now have technology that can act as those ten extra teachers.”
He adds, “Technology can recognize patterns and certain conditions that might need intervention. We can become much better at supporting them. Some educators describe this as data-driven learning. But that is a horrible term. It’s really people-driven learning.”
This is the future of edtech during and “post” pandemic: more support for students, teachers, parents, and adult learners in all corners of the world. In fact, the new normal may be more empowering than the old normal when it comes to putting education into the hands of the learners. The trends, habits, and patterns we adopt now aren’t temporary solutions; they’re here to stay. Let’s leverage online learning and take edtech into our own hands so we can craft a better future for ourselves and others.