The future of education has always been contingent on equal access and equal opportunity policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately emphasized the discrepancies within current education establishments. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the gap between low- and high-income students nearly doubled in terms of expected average grades. The pandemic proved to be very disruptive, not only to students’ engagement but to their ability to succeed as well.
This impact is equally unprecedented and widespread in the history of education. Moreover, tremendous efforts were deployed to quickly adapt and innovate targeted solutions at the wake of this crisis both on the institutional level and by educators and school administrators.
A recent Harvard publication on the future of education explains that “the pandemic heightened existing gaps and disparities and exposed a need to rethink how systems leaders design schools, instruction, and who they put at the center of that design.”
With that said, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to be a groundbreaking opportunity for real change in the education sector, change driven by cutting edge technology. This is due to a number of reasons, namely the pandemic’s global ripple effects that touched all schools.
This presents itself as the perfect opportunity for students and educators to regroup, rethink, and revolutionize what many deem to be an inflexible and often outdated model schooling. Moreover, we have seen firsthand that educational institutions across the world can, in fact, implement collective change to their infrastructure, even without much preparation or digital proficiency. Accordingly, the foundation of schooling systems were able to rapidly and cunningly adapt to many of these unfavorable circumstances.
Education systems implemented these swift changes almost overnight and as the prevailing circumstances required, remote learning became the norm. While schools have managed to reopen, there is very little possibility that they will exclusively revert to traditional ways of teaching and learning. In most cases, schools and universities are now relying on a hybrid education model that combines both remote tools and conventional learning strategies.
EdTech, a budding industry pre-covid, has flourished in more ways than one, especially in solving many of the education sector’s pressing issues. With revolutionary education platforms on the rise, we can safely predict a promising future for schools, educators, and students across the world.
This begs the question: can digital learning become the main instrument of learning pedagogy instead of simply being a backup?
Below are three main learning platforms that all aim to answer that question through a variety of features, channels, and resources.
Engageli is a new EdTech startup founded by Avida, Daphne Koller, Jamie Nacht Farrell and Serge Plotkin. The platform’s main goal is to bring digital learning to universities by enhancing student engagement. Engageli is a videoconferencing platform that comes with a twist. The leading feature that distinguishes it from other alternatives is the concept of virtual classrooms Engageli has adopted. Within the platform, each student can share a virtual table with a small group of students. Within those ‘tables’, students can talk, exchange notes, and work together, all while listening to the professor’s lecture.
These tables can easily be rearranged to encourage student participation in different debates. Teachers also have the ability to assist each table without leaving their main screen. Engageli also comes with a notetaking feature that allows students to take screenshots or annotations of the slides presented during the lecture. Each screenshot generates a hyperlink that gives the student access to the live recording of when that annotation was documented. This feature can be of tremendous help especially when studying.
Class is a digital learning platform that integrates exclusively with Zoom. In addition to the standard Zoom features, Class offers a more customized classroom experience for both students and teachers. Although this platform is currently in private paid beta version, it does assist teachers with creating live assignments, recording attendance, and keeping tabs on student engagement in real time. Unlike Engageli, this platform is targeted at K-12 institutions in addition to higher-education establishments. This is mainly because Class is driven by access, convenience, and ease of use more so than specialized features. The startup currently accounts for 6,000 organizations ranging from high schools to universities all waiting to join following its public release.
3. Top Hat
Top Hat is more focused on dynamic learning experiences since its main selling point is the digitization of textbooks. With that said, this digitization far transcends the standard conversion into PDFs or documents in this case. Top Hat includes features like interactive graphics, slides, polls, and management of classroom discussions. The platform has proved to be incredibly appealing to millions of students on the premise of not only replicating a virtual classroom but making it bilateral and inclusive of everyone involved.
According to a recent ICEF Monitor article on the future of education, Mr. Silagadze, the CEO of Top Hat states:
“nobody wants to stare at a screen and then have the restraint of having to show up at a previous pre-prescribed time […] after COVID, universities are going to embrace the hybrid model: they’ll invest heavily in the instruction and experience students can get in person and use online tools to supplement face-to-face learning.”
Top Hat also launched Community as a way to allow educators more freedom in presenting their teaching materials. This platform provides a much-needed space for teachers and students to engage in discussions and keep track of the shared curriculum. Moreover, students can also use Community to create private channels where they can talk about assignments or work on projects, in addition to contacting their teachers directly.
The future of the education sector hinges on the implementation of new-age technology as a useful instrument to improve efficiency and increase engagement among school institutions, educators, and students. Adopting EdTech would not only enable a more enhanced level of teaching but it would also directly contribute to students’ success and accomplishments. This is why educational establishments should embrace digital learning as a fundamental part of their pedagogy.
This can only happen by getting a strong foothold in EdTech sooner rather than later. The burgeoning platforms and interfaces can provide students of these institutions with an inclusive and all-encompassing education that enriches their cognitive and creative qualities as well as their vocational prospects. Moreover, educational establishments ought to view their technological partnerships as an important investment not to be compromised, especially since EdTech has become such a necessity in our current reality.