What three words sum up 2018’s education technology scene for you?
Concept, not platform.
What have been the particular challenges of 2018 for education providers?
I see the primary issue as addressing concerns about security versus open access. We want our students to develop innovative mastery of technology rather than simply using applications as tools. Students need the freedom to discover and explore, which can often be at odds with robust IT governance. Similarly, teachers need access to their chosen tech solutions, and institutions must do more to accommodate their requests, such as accepting different geographic locations of cloud-based hosting services. IT networks, infrastructure, architecture and protocols need to be flexible enough to deal with increasingly complex student and teacher demands. Most legacy systems are unable to cope with modern day classroom requirements.
What technology have you seen making an impact in education this year?
Augmented reality is catching on with students, especially with the availability of free student licences for Unity, the cross-platform game engine development tool. As the Qatar Academy for Science and Technology begins to develop its curriculum, we are interested in utilising advancements in 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing or CAM.
I would like to see a framework that allows parents to have access to their child’s educational progress in real-time, allowing decisions to be made at an earlier stage
What has surprised you this year?
Three things immediately come to mind: digital transformation, big data/analytics and the light speed at which new sectors are maturing; and all three are related. Digital transformation of academia is introducing efficiencies and insights that were unheard of a few years ago. Through digital transformation we are able to harness data and translate it via our big data and analytics framework. The predictive data that the analytics provides us in turn allows us to stay ahead of the curve by being early adopters of new sectors; a few years ago the industry was talking about Learning Management Systems, that conversation moved to STEM, and this has now evolved into immersions such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
What would you like to see education providers put on their agendas for 2019?
Resolving issues regarding data exchange between various management information systems and other education software.
What do you hope that teachers and lecturers will start to do more of next year to really make the most of all these digital opportunities?
Using digital opportunities to enhance parents’ engagement. I would like to see a framework that allows parents to have access to their child’s educational progress in real-time, allowing decisions to be made at an earlier stage. In addition to providing them with access to real-time data, this framework would enhance two-way communication streams allowing both parents and teachers to exchange ideas in a seamless manner.
Buthaina Al Nuaimi is President of Pre-University Education at the Qatar Foundation