All over the internet we are reading news about a spike in edtech users due to lockdowns imposed all over the world to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The surge in edtech use is partly due to a lot of edtech providers offering free or discounted content to users. For example, Byju’s, an India-based learning platform which is valued at $8 billion (the world’s most valuable education startup), is offering its learning material for free till the end of this month. This has led to a 60% rise in its new student registrations, as per a report in Forbes.
“The number of queries from students and parents for our home learning programs have more than doubled in the past one week,” says Byju’s cofounder Divya Gokulnath in March end.
Another platform Vedantu, based in Bangaluru, India, which offers live and interactive online lessons, has seen its users increase by 10 folds after they announced free access to learning material, live classes, tests and assignments.
Not just users, but even schools, who have no choice but to switch to remote learning, are looking towards adopting the offerings of various edtech companies.
EduBrisk from Kochi, India has trained 200-300 teachers for free, so that they can create virtual classrooms through the platform for e-learning.
Edtech Adoption Before COVID-19
Many believe that teachers find it difficult to adopt technology for teaching. However, the results of a recent survey in the United States of America reported that 65 percent of teachers said that they used digital learning equipment and tools everyday in class and 87 percent reported they used them a few days per week.
Eighty nine percent students said that they used digital learning tools a few days per week in class and about 70 percent used them to complete lessons outside of school.
However, one of the biggest challenges is access to digital devices and tools to students at home. About 17 percent of teachers thought their colleagues might avoid giving home assignments requiring digital devices or the internet outside of school due to the concern that not all students have access to them.
Only 41 percent of all students reported that they were assigned their own device by school, and just about 21 percent with family incomes below $25,000 per annum said so.
In schools, the coverage of digital access varies among subjects as well. About 70 to 80 percent of teachers said that enough effective tools are available for Math, Reading and English, while only 58% said so for Special Education.
The CARES Act passed on March 27, 2020 in the U.S.A allocated $13.4 billion to K-12 public education can help states and districts in addressing the most urgent challenges in relation to devices, hotspots, and meeting the needs of students with learning differences.
Edtech post COVID-19
There is no denying that post COVID-19 the world will be different than what we are used to. Social distancing, if not so stringent, might become a way of life and remote learning will be the new reality in many ways.
Schools will have to adopt edtech keeping in mind long-term needs of teachers and students. Till now, schools have been investing in edtech, but with little thought about its usage and benefits over time. As reported in Edtech Magazine, U.S. schools buy over 7000 education tools per year for about $13 billion. However, 85 percent of this expenditure is wasted on products that do not fit the requirement or are not implemented aptly for schools.
Therefore, going forward, schools need to invest in devices, IT infrastructure, software and hardware with proper planning. Here are a few things to keep in mind while buying education tools for schools:
Planning as per the needs of students and teachers, keeping in mind the capabilities of teachers to adopt the technology and of students to access learning devices during and after school.
Taking feedback from teachers, learners and parents and incorporating it for successful implementation of digital education tools.
Realistic investment cost calculation for devices, IT infrastructure, software and hardware.
Running pilot programs to ensure that the new technology and programs can be tested and perfected before large sums of money is invested in adopting them across schools, districts and states.
Here are a few edtech tools that are essential for schools and students across the globe for remote learning. Some of these will continue to be used post lockdown as means of teaching and learning.
Online classes through Zoom: Remote live classes are made accessible by Zoom video chat platform to learners trying to keep up with the curriculum from their kitchen tables.
Google Classroom for sharing lessons and homework: Classroom management tools like Google Classroom are being used by teachers to share lessons, give assignments, and take assessments and quizzes. Students can also participate in discussions and ask questions and submit assignments through such platforms.
Recorded lessons on Youtube, Khan academy: Such platforms offer video lessons for self-paced learning. These tools have been around for long, but their importance is heightened in today’s time.
Interactive edtech platforms: Platforms like freecodecamp.org allow users to learn with interactive lessons. These hands-one platforms make it easier to learn without much live assistance from teachers. Online discussions and forums supporting such platforms make learning collaborative and virtually social.
Digital, real-time assessment: Tools that enable online assessments help teachers to automate the process of assessment. Some assessment tools help collect data about strong and weak areas of students, helping teachers and students to focus on those learning areas in future lessons.
Gamification of learning: This will help in making learning fun, even when done remotely. Gamification of lessons encourages students to absorb lessons better as their minds are stimulated with activities, tasks and trivia.
As reported in TechRadar, as per the global education intelligence firm HolonIQ, the ‘Edtech’ field is expected to be worth $341 billion by 2025. This estimate seems achievable considering the increased demand of edtech worldwide.
Schools, teachers, parents and learners need to adapt to the changing realities of the world and it has to be done with long-term usage and needs of learners in mind.
The Edutech Post team offers news and reviews on edtech products for learners, parents, educators and edtech businesses.
Their aim is to assist in making education accessible to all with the help of technology.