The last decade has seen dramatic growth of tech adoption in education. Lesson planning software, interactive digital courses, revision platforms, submission systems and devices such as tablets and SMART whiteboards are common in modern classrooms. As digital natives, Generation Z are early-years adopters of technology, and tech is likely to already have formed some part of their educational experience even before schooling begins.
2020 has seen an extraordinary rise of EdTech, propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brick and mortar establishments were unprepared for widespread online learning, assuming that though a blended and more flexible model of online learning married with traditional practices was coming, it was somewhere on the distant horizon. A shock to the status quo has forced them to rely heavily on EdTech providers. Disruption of the education sector has been quickened by over 1.7 billion learners being out of the classroom globally. As social distancing restrictions fluctuate across the globe, the significant surge in usage shows no sign of slowing. Adoption is up across all platforms and demographics, whether language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software.
The future of learning
The landscape of the working environment is set to change drastically, even after social distancing restrictions have come to an end, especially in the tech industry. Many leaders, including Google, Twitter and Square, announced their intentions to continue at least some aspect of their recent remote working adjustments very early on.
Many are now wondering whether the sudden movement away from the classroom, and opportunities presented by the supercharged developments in EdTech, will prompt a shift in the dynamic of the traditional learning environment too. Research has suggested that many students have adapted well to online learning; with delivery taking less time and higher retention rates, the new methods brought in during the pandemic may well be here to stay.
The focus of EdTech providers so far in 2020 has broadly been to deal with the challenge of a sudden and massive increase in demand. Systems have been scaled at an unprecedented rate. But if the online education boom is to continue in a post-pandemic world, what other considerations will need to be made to hone the learning experience for students worldwide?
A poor user experience is unconducive to sustained growth. The sudden move to online learning has disrupted the education system dramatically, and the traditional methods of curriculum delivery which educators and students had been accustomed to have had to be re-thought in order to create a fulfilling learning experience for users.
Two major factors in developing engaging online learning are:
- Offering rich and diverse content
- Keeping effective communication channels open
Previous EdTech efforts had largely been focused on delivery of traditional structures: structured curriculum, presented classes and lectures, project work and assessments. The general assumption tends to be that, particularly for the youngest students, a structured environment is essential, but it is clear that the pandemic has disrupted a system which was already losing its relevance. To fully realise the benefits of online learning, EdTech providers must go beyond replicating this structure, and provide accessible collaborative tools and engagement methods.
“My lesson plans went out the window when the lockdown order hit,” says Geoffrey Williams, a high school Science teacher based in New York City. “I had to experiment a lot in the beginning and I still am. We spent a lot of time watching bored faces on video call lectures before we decided we needed to pull together and come up with some more exciting online lessons. Since then we’ve been filming videos, putting together packages of fun experiments students can do at home, recommending safe places students can visit to see some of the natural phenomenon we teach on. We still have a long way to go.”
You could certainly argue that when it comes to school and college age learners at least, Generation Z are the best suited to this remodelling. Born into the age of fast tech, they spend significantly more time using social media, more time with online mediums, and more time sharing online than any other generation.
Gen Z says that video is its preferred medium of learning, by a very large margin over millennials, and they are appreciative of rich, compelling online content versus conventional lecture-style lessons. “The students have really enjoyed doing live quizzes, seeing video content and playing games,” says Williams. Platforms which can offer a wealth of varied learning resources appeal much more to these learners, resulting in higher usage, and ultimately higher rates of success. Clever integration of games has demonstrated higher engagement and increased motivation across the board, but especially when it comes to younger students.
This is also particularly beneficial to allow students to tailor their own experience to an extent. Different learning styles amongst students are a difficult challenge to overcome in classrooms – online learning platforms could even represent a more effective solution to this issue.
Open communication channels are vital for all learners. Physical distance from classmates and teachers inevitably results in a degree of ambivalence from learners. It becomes even more critical to create a social connection. Teachers who optimize their communication techniques see a greater rate of success in their student engagement. By using live feeds, online chat and creating collaborative projects for students to work on together, teachers see regular, realtime responses of their students allowing them to assess the understanding of the content much more efficiently.
Activities like ungraded live polls are an effective method for gathering information on information retention. Students enjoy seeing live responses from their classmates and these tasks remove the need to call out individuals – many students will not raise their hand in a classroom, and are even more reluctant to do so in a video setting. Many online learning tools are more accessible to students who feel anxiety.
Regular and personal communication with teachers is essential to support all students, especially during such an uncommon time. By having a variety of channels available for students to reach out by chat, video, in documents, in groups and individually, educators can be sure they are caring for their students and providing the best substitute for the complex student-teacher dynamic.
Experts around the world have predicted that the integration of EdTech into traditional schooling will endure past the pandemic, and soon be an integral part of the traditional school system. Our job is to make sure the right tools are there to keep learners engaged and properly supported.
Pusher Channels is a hosted bi-directional realtime API which allows you to build engaging tools for collaborative learning. Use our docs to find out how you can bring dashboards, live polls, collaborative projects, quizzes, games, chats and more to your learning platform to boost engagement and help students to be successful online learners. Trusted by EdTech giants worldwide, Pusher’s team are the realtime experts, and are ready to help you get started using Channels today.