Best in class: what’s next for educational technology?

March 2021

Spring approaches and there is an unfamiliar feeling in the air that can only be described as hope. As we write, the end of the pandemic is, while not exactly in sight, a faint glow on the horizon. For millions of children and adults around the world, it is reason to rejoice indeed, for that means the end of homeschooling.

“Many won’t mourn the passing of homeschooling. But online learning isn’t going anywhere”

There will be many who won’t mourn its passing – the lost log-ins, the dropped broadband and keeping bored kids focused on chemistry while also doing zoom meetings and holding down a full-time job. However, online education isn’t going anywhere.

Educational technology was already in a growth spurt pre-2020 and the pandemic has given it one enormous shove forward. The many benefits of online learning – the ability to learn at your own pace, for example – are out of the bag forever, and many educational establishments will embrace ed tech for the long-term, whether it’s for full-time or hybrid teaching models.

So what aspects of it get top marks, and what goes to the bottom of the class? Here are just a few of the trends in education technology we think we’ll see in 2021.

Your personal tuition

The beauty of online learning is that it allows students to have a much more personalised experience. They can have a say in their own education.

Courses can include animation, audio, streaming, live video, online forums and discussions, as well as ever-more immersive AR and VR content. Students can choose what they learn and how they learn, and do so at their own pace, on whichever device and in whichever place they choose.

“Schedules, learning paths and instruction will be tailored to each student’s strengths”

Personalisation will become more sophisticated, with schedules, learning paths and instruction tailored to each student’s strengths, learning styles and interests.

The new brainbox: artificial intelligence

This personalisation will be spurred by AI, which offers all kinds of possibilities for both learners and teachers.

“Student’s essays could soon be marked by an algorithm. That’s a lot of teachers’ time saved”

For one, there’s grading. It’s already possible to automate the grading of multiple-choice questions, and it follows that students’ essays could soon be marked by an algorithm. That’s a lot of teachers’ time saved.

Students and teachers can also both benefit from the feedback that AI can provide. AI takes the data and can make personalised suggestions based on each student’s performance. And it can help in the design of curriculums and course content, providing insight into what engages students and what helps them succeed.

Playtime that never ends

Everyone loves to play, whether you’re eight or 80, so it stands to reason that people learn better when it feels like fun instead of hard work.

Whether it’s animated, interactive content that literally looks and feels like a video game, or the use of rewards, goals and ‘badges’ that fuel friendly competition between students, ed-tech platforms will enhance their offerings with more gamification.

The coolest school: social media

Teachers may roll their eyes over the amount of time students spend on social media, but it could also be a useful, engaging educational tool.

Gen Z already turn to YouTube and TikTok to learn about everything from history to baking. And many educational establishments use social media as a way for students to interact with each other, sharing study materials and having group discussions.

“Social media in education will grow, with lessons designed for sharing and going viral”

There’s every reason that this trend in online learning will continue to grow – with video lessons designed for sharing and going viral on social media.

Teacher’s favourite: better integration

When the first phase of the pandemic hit and schools closed, teachers were at the bottom of a steep learning curve. ­They had to get used to often new, unfamiliar technology, whether they liked it or not.

And they managed heroically. But many were using it to try and replicate exactly what they were doing in the classroom, which wasn’t always the best approach. And the platforms and tools themselves weren’t designed to work seamlessly as part of day-to-day classroom life., so teachers had to learn each one separately, and muddle through.

As time progresses, educators will demand more integration with their daily teaching process, and they will demand more support and professional development so they can use educational technology to its full potential.

Illustration: Barbara Alca