How will the edtech boom transform the existing education system?
The smartest edtech platforms are able to customize and identify the best learning pathway for each user
For centuries, education has been confined to the walls of schools, colleges, and institutions. Enter the education technology (edtech) boom since 2020 and the very ideology around teaching and learning has been revolutionized. Edtech has completely redefined how knowledge is imparted and how skills are acquired. Highlighted by the coronavirus shutdowns, edtech has emerged as a viable–arguably superior–alternative to traditional education systems. At the very least, the technology has well and truly earned its seat at the table of valuable education methods. The question is, what does the future of edtech look like, and how will this boom fit into our existing education system?
The edtech boom accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic is just the beginning of a paradigm shift in the ways we view education and work. In fact, the need for a genuinely 21st century education system that reflects the needs of the economy is long overdue. Edtech companies are offering solutions to many of the issues–such as skills gaps, inequality, and unemployment–that have troubled economies globally for the past decade or more.
In the USA, the curriculum followed by education establishments centers around subject study, with students gradually honing down interests and passions to follow a set career path. But is this process adequately equipping our young people with the skills they need for today’s job market, much less tomorrow’s? What if ultimately, students are ill-prepared to meet their full potential and offer meaningful value to the working world?
We are moving beyond the information society age into the impact or imagination society, where there is a digital layer across almost every aspect of our lives. Over the course of the next decade, with the rise of artificial intelligence and automated technology, increasing numbers of traditional, manual, and customer service-based roles will diminish and there will be a reduced need for this workforce when computers and machines can do the jobs equally well.
The internet as we know it is set to be replaced by the metaverse–an immersive 3D virtual world that mirrors our world, outmoding the 2D search-based internet. According to Forbes, the metaverse will totally change the way we live, learn, earn, and connect.
Online gaming is leading the way. Fortnite, for example, has an enormous 350 million players who are spending over 3 billion hours a month in this virtual world. Then there is Minecraft, which has 480 million players, and Roblox, boasting 160 million players. It is estimated that by 2024, we will be spending more time in 3D virtual worlds than in today’s 2D internet.
It’s impossible to avoid this technological shift, and our education system must recognize and reflect these changes in society’s structure.
Gamification is a powerful tool in education that can be harnessed to really inspire and motivate students. Learning games and apps, from times tables to languages, are set to be increasingly and widely included on the traditional curriculum.
Yet the future of edtech and education systems will be the classroom in the cloud–combined with high tech delivery and high touch tuition–that will become the heart of education, not merely the wrapping around it.
The smartest education technology platforms are built with artificial intelligence at their heart, enabling them to be able to customize and identify the best learning pathway for the user to reach their goal. Driven by powerful algorithms, these app-based platforms can match courses with skillset and actively learn from the performance and learning style of the user.
Adult learning or corporate training, including online courses, webinars, and masterclasses, has seen an increase in popularity since the pandemic. The future of edtech means that lifelong learning will become the norm. With technology blurring the lines between sectors and speeding up processes, working adults are more likely to jump from one job to another, picking up new skills and acquiring new knowledge.
The 2020 World Economic Forum ‘Schools of the Future’ report highlights the urgent need for a more relevant curriculum to prepare both young students and working adults for the future. According to this report, education systems have become increasingly disconnected from the realities of global economies and societies due to rapid advancements in technology and globalization. It calls for education systems to deliver an increased focus on improving skills in global citizenship, creativity, technology, and collaboration; as well as accessible, personalized, and lifelong learning.
For many young students, the traditional education experience, operating as something of a one size fits all model, can be disengaging, irrelevant, and redundant. Edtech enables increased opportunities to shift to a model that is personalized and individualized, bringing out the unique genius in every child, encouraging the next generation of innovators and changemakers.
Edtech also has the power to offer increased inclusivity, regardless of geographic constraints. Schools are now competing with global online high schools, with Stanford University’s Online High School leading the way. More progressive universities, including Harvard and Cambridge, are also providing online education at lower cost, with a global reach.
Coursera and EdX are providing degree-level online courses in partnership with universities including the University of London, at a fraction of the cost of an in-person degree. An entirely new breed of edtech institutions has sprung up, with BYJU in India and Yuanfudao and Zuoyebang in China all now worth over $10 billion each with millions of students attending online classes daily.
There is a shift in attitude towards traditional education and this has been heightened by school closures and the millions of hours of lessons missed throughout the pandemic.
Education systems must not ignore edtech’s role in keeping up with the pace of technological, economic, and societal change in order to equip future generations with the skills needed to create a more inclusive, productive and prosperous world.