Has EdTech Changed Learning For Good?
Technology has proven to be a saving grace for many of us in the past year. We have video calls to stay connected with far-away friends and family. Small businesses have embraced new commercial functions on apps like Instagram. Companies of all sizes have benefited from the use of workflow management programmes and co-working platforms. The education sector is no different, with students and staff alike adapting to online teaching and learning thanks to the advancements in Education Technology (or EdTech).
From live-streaming lectures to the use of AR technology to enhance learning, EdTech is booming. Here we take a look at how EdTech is changing and improving the way that we learn and work.
The rise of the digital classroom
EdTech can be seen most frequently in the use of the digital learning space over a physical classroom. This has been brought about in part due to necessity; the COVID-19 pandemic has closed or limited access to schools and university campuses for nearly a year now. Technology has been the key to keeping learning going across the educational sector.
Cloud computing has enabled students around the world to continue to use materials and revise lessons virtually from home. Provided they have a device and an internet connection, students can access assignments, exams and even whole campus libraries from the comfort of their bedrooms.
This technology will continue to provide benefits to those in education post-pandemic too. No more carrying heavy textbooks, important papers being misplaced or that frustration of someone else having the book you need out on loan. With everything stored digitally, students have greater flexibility and ease of access to the materials that they need to learn. Moreover, this gives universities and other educational organisations the ability to adapt and improve courses in real time.
Take a virtual field trip with AR
While not brand new, Augmented Reality (AR) technology is now transforming how students can learn. Forbes predicted that AR, under the umbrella of extended reality technology, along with virtual and mixed reality tech, would be a key disruptor of education in 2020. In 2021, it seems that trend will continue.
AR provides a more immersive and interactive way to learn. It offers students alternative perspectives and the opportunity to understand topics as if they were ‘on the ground’. Take for example the idea of a virtual field trip supported by AR. Back in 2013, physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel taught a class from inside the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Using GoogleGlass, his students were able to see exactly what he was seeing at the same time. The technology allowed them to all be in the same space, albeit virtually.
Of course, virtual field trips don’t have to be to the other side of the world. AR can be used to connect learners with local businesses or community groups. It enables them to collaborate with other campuses or universities. While we are still unable to travel or interact in person, technology is helping to bridge the gap and enhance the online learning experience.
Online assessment and the use of biometrics
Maintaining quality and integrity is of high importance to universities and schools. Nowhere is this more imperative than when it comes to exams. While some are modelling on-going assessment and portfolio submission, the education sector must still deliver rigorous and comprehensive assessment of students.
For some, there is a worry that the move to online and home learning will increase levels of cheating or mismanagement of exams. In fact, studies have shown that in fact there is little or no change in the number of students who cheat in online exams compared to offline. Nonetheless, there are ways in which technology is supporting institutions to ensure fairness across the board.
The use of biometric technology to identify and authenticate users’ identity is one growing area of EdTech. Through fingerprint ID, facial and voice recognition software, universities can ensure that the person taking an online exam is who they say they are. Equally, detection software and Lockdown Browser tools can be used to prevent students from navigating away from the examination, either to print out the test, look at other sites or use a search engine to find answers.
Biometric technology can also give students greater flexibility around when and where they complete and submit assessments. It removes the need for an external examiner or teacher to grant access. It also reduces the need for students to travel to an exam.
EdTech: a more flexible future for education
2020 definitely sped up the large-scale adoption of technology in education. That said, there is little evidence that the rate of change is slowing. EdTech is a growing sector and improvements in technology continue to benefit both students and staff. With greater flexibility, accessibility and increasing confidence around security, more institutions are leaning into a digital way of doing things long-term. While there are certainly arguments for the benefits of face-to-face teaching and learning, it is clear that the rise of EdTech is not just a temporary solution for a pandemic-induced problem.