Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), gamification and big data are all concepts that are finally spilling over into the education sector in a monumental way. Education technology (edtech), if delivered right, could be game changing in the way that it transforms traditional ways of teaching and learning.
According to recent reports, the global education technology market size is anticipated to reach US$404bn by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 16.3% from 2020 to 2025. Applications such as VR and AR promise more immersive learning experiences through simulations that are almost as authentic as the real thing. When you consider the learning process in high-risk areas such as the medical or fire services, you can quickly see the need for these applications. They can bring a level of competence to learners that will be invaluable when faced with the real thing, de-risking training and boosting confidence.
Where is the edtech industry now?
In the education system, these are still fairly new concepts, but they could in time transform the way we learn about disciplines such as construction, architecture, mechanics and engineering. Whilst maturing, however, uptake of this technology as a delivery tool is still relatively small. By comparison, we’re quickly hurtling towards an industry fuelled by data-driven insights, where personalisation of the learner journey is creating Netflix-style experiences. AI is playing a big role in gathering information on student preferences such as learning styles and what they like or dislike. The result is more engagement from learners, but better outcomes too.
“By comparison, we’re quickly hurtling towards an industry fuelled by data-driven insights, where personalisation of the learner journey is creating Netflix-style experiences”
Trainers are currently using the insights harnessed by machine learning to predict outcomes based on current performance trends. But at a higher level, we’re getting to the point where the technology will also suggest specialist tasks to help increase performance. This intelligence will help streamline a to-do list for the trainer and allow them to take action when the learner needs it most, rather than wait for a late submission or for performance to further deteriorate. For example, if a learner is in the bottom percentile, it will suggest a task or exercise that will help increase their understanding and boost their percentage score. Edtech is currently aspiring for this to become the norm and the impact could be significant.
From a practical perspective, expect to see more learning on-demand, the filing of paper-based forms to become obsolete (a concept that is obscure for Generation Z) and for the digitisation of almost everything.
Training delivery to complement digital skills
These advancements in training delivery are both exciting and necessary. Computer science as an industry is growing exponentially and is projected to grow much faster than any other industry over the next few years. The role of the data scientist is currently the most in demand job in the UK and US, highlighting a demand for these skills. Training the next generation of software engineers, data scientists and product managers is needed to keep pace with sector growth. China is seeing the biggest growth with a whopping 1 in 10 Chinese graduates coming from computer science degrees.
In the UK, there’s a growing interest from companies in apprenticeships in this area, with many seeing this as the way forward. Eighty percent of Generation Z hope to work with cutting-edge technology. Qualifications such as the data analyst level 4 apprenticeship programme are becoming far more attractive. The very nature of these qualifications plus consumer behaviour of Gen Z demands a specific learning style that’s delivered by a mobile-first web app build approach as standard. Ninety-eight percent of Gen Z currently own a smartphone, but the hardware challenge that occurred when the pandemic struck demonstrated that the training sector hasn’t fully responded to this trend. This was a key learning of the sector and one that we can now expect the industry to address.
People, processes and then technology
The advancements promised by edtech can present an extremely challenging yet rewarding avenue for educational institutions and trainers. It’s important to remember that technology is there to make it easier for the trainers, but not to assume that it will do their jobs for them. The overall value of the training provided is increased with less time spent on administrative tasks and more time spent on high value activities. The concept for each new application of technology then has to come back to the main two objectives for every education practitioner and trainer; learner engagement and learner outcomes.
“It’s important to remember that technology is there to make it easier for the trainers, but not to assume that it will do their jobs for them”
Edtech should be designed with not only the learner in mind. Technology won’t get learners to their desired state without the people to harness it correctly. It should strengthen the educational pact between the training provider, college and employer as they all have a vested interest in learner engagement and progress. There may be some resistance to change, which is only natural, but to deliver training differently, it all comes down to people, process and then technology.
“Technology won’t get learners to their desired state without the people to harness it correctly”
Yes, the most desired outcome of any new piece of edtech will be the impact on the learner’s qualification at the end, but to get there, be realistic about the requirement to upskill trainers and bring them on the journey. If trainers aren’t able to leverage all the new capabilities offered by technology, it will simply gather dust.
The future is digital
Edtech is already helping educational institutions, trainers and businesses reshape the learning process. Digital learning that’s driven by data is helping to customise learning journeys, track progress and deliver a learning experience that’s both engaging and in-line with real-world work. We’re seeing lots of exciting innovations being tested and whilst they’re currently in their infancy, if delivered with the trainer, institution and business in mind we could really see these come to life in the not-too-distant future.
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