Manan Khurma: ‘Education is not a physical product anymore’

Omnichannel learning is the future of education, says Manan Khurma, founder and chairman of digital learning platform Cuemath

What exactly is omnichannel education?  

Omnichannel education is a hybrid model that is a combination of in-person learning, clubbed with online tools that enhance the learning journey. In-person comprises a teacher, while the online model includes devises such as tablets, smartphones, and desktops/laptops.  

When correctly implemented, an omnichannel mode of education benefits students by providing them with a high-quality learning experience that ensures constructive outcomes.  

How can educators offer a true omnichannel experience in their teaching?  

A true omnichannel strategy seeks to eliminate disconnects between digital and physical education. Global education’s recent online momentum was catalysed by the pandemic, and whilst this has changed the world, many institutions have not been able to manage the intricacies of this form of education. 

From an edtech perspective, companies should not seek a fully digitised education, but rather to complement and enhance current modes of learning. Teaching will always be centred around in-person learning. However, education is not a physical product you receive in the classroom anymore, but an experience accessible in many different ways.  

Educators must understand this paradigm shift, implementing technology alongside in-person teaching, always with a view on the holistic experience. 

What impact do you think omnichannel and personalised education has had and will continue to have over the course of the pandemic?  

The pandemic sparked a wave of innovation regarding online education. In March 2020, during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.37 billion children were studying at home, according to data provided by UNESCO. 

In the UK alone, around 10 million school pupils have turned to online education, relying on several edtech companies to enhance their learning journeys, according to data provided by BDO UK 

In a post-pandemic world, edtech providers will continue as an after-school service to what children learn at school. This will be supplemented with the help of a teacher, who should ideally track the progress of the child as they enhance their learning journey.  

However, we are a long way from realising the full potential of omnichannel education – and that is very exciting, both from a commercial and vocational perspective.  

As we (hopefully) transition into a post-pandemic new normal, an omnichannel approach has a huge opportunity to embed itself as the go-to model for a quality education, globally.  

I also expect the demand for personalised education to rise, given the huge impact it can have in reducing individual learning losses.

How can technology work to support omnichannel education?  

The ubiquity of technological devices in modern life is impossible to ignore when considering an omnichannel education – especially as we move from the content era to the engagement era.  

Data analytics can provide a wealth of individual data, enabling analytics to design and implement a more personalised education. Gamification enables engagement with learning materials via digital platforms.  

The core responsibility of technology should be enhancing engagement, thus resulting in increased student outcome/performance. Looking ahead, programmes powered by AI will help tailor education solutions, providing valuable insights to teachers, and better accommodating children with learning difficulties.  

Optimum omnichannel education doesn’t just mean a multiplicity of technologies providing access. In-person teaching and technology must work together to create an education experience fit for the 21st century.  

In terms of mental health, how can educators support learners in their wellbeing amidst today’s digital learning environment?  

As with every rapid, transformational development – the digital age also has an impact on human consciousness. The potential impact on children’s mental health from growing up around ubiquitous digital devices is well-documented, and will inevitably impact how the edtech industry develops in a safe and efficient way.  

The internet remains largely unregulated, a status that will increase in relevance as students’ online lives merge between school, private learning, gaming, and social/leisure interactions.  

For edtech, the major task is dealing with this new reality and offering learning opportunities to mitigate negative side-effects of children’s increased time in the digital world.  

Edtechs’ ‘licence to operate’ will increasingly involve recognizing this delicate equilibrium, and proactively managing it. 

What can schools and educational institutions do to get involved in omnichannel teaching?  

The UK’s education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, recently encouraged educators to practise new models of teaching. Schools and educational institutions should accept this invitation, and rethink – with an open mind – what kind of education experience they would like to offer students.  

Initially, educational institutions should consider what they want to achieve via an omnichannel approach. They must identify, and then accept, what needs to change internally in their organisation, and hence where they need support from edtech.  

On an individual level, teachers must understand the changing role an omnichannel approach requires of them. They must be capable of creating an education experience across different channels and formats, as it requires technological know-how and new teaching methods. Upskilling of teachers is key for this.

You might also like: Technology in the classroom: From necessity to opportunity

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