25 Dec 2017 19:40 IST

Technology impact on education and learning

Here are the key EdTech trends of 2017 that will drive further change in education through 2018

India’s education sector is poised at an interesting juncture — on the one hand, there is a growing focus on achieving learning outcomes, while on the other, technology is being adopted quickly and content is being rewritten and redesigned to adapt to a variety of emerging media.

Among all modern-day developments, technology has clearly emerged as the single biggest theme to have impacted education in the last few years. This augurs well for the present-day learner, and for educators and others in the teaching-learning process.

The advent of digitally-enabled classrooms, cloud-based content, e-books and online assessments, among others, have enabled our education system to reach an inflection point. Let us look at some of the EdTech trends that have the potential to upturn the education landscape forever.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

VR and AR have been the most talked-about trends of 2017.

Virtual Reality (VR) immerses the user in a virtual environment, and immersive educational settings are already being used to provide learners a life-like experience in subjects as diverse as history and chemistry. Augmented Reality (AR) is used to present an enhanced version of reality, where elements of the physical, real-world environment are augmented with digital learnings.

These technologies can help learners experience and interact with digital objects to support their learning. Educators, who earlier used print or digital images/animations for teaching support, can now leverage these cutting edge educational experiences to achieve better learning outcomes.

Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning through artificial intelligence has the potential to solve a crucial challenge in classroom learning — engaging with learners of different abilities in the same classroom. The system uses machine learning and helps personalise the presentation of learning material based on a student’s learning speed, interests and problem areas.

In the hands of teachers, this can become an important tool to ensure a more uniform learning environment. Machine learning, along with natural processing and speech recognition technologies, is also facilitating the development of conversational programs, called chatbots. These bots can be programmed to provide a wide variety of services, including tutoring.

Learning analytics

It is often said ‘what gets measured is what gets done’. The focus is shifting from big data to ‘little’ data, a personal activity data which, when analysed by intelligent systems, is able to provide key insights into the way students learn.

It may well become an important source of information and insight for educators to make decisions. It may also unlock new potential for personalisation of tools and content. By adding the right information capture mechanisms and real-time insight capabilities, traditional learning management systems can now vastly enhance the teaching-learning experience.

The implications of a data-driven approach will be far-reaching and permeate not just teaching and learning but other areas, including career guidance. One of Oxford University Press’ more recent integrated learning solutions, launched last year, provides detailed learning analytics for the student, teacher and the parent.

Online assessments

New forms of technology-mediated assessments have enabled a big shift from fixed-in-point summative assessments to more continuous and adaptive assessments.

Online assessment solutions are clearly more customisable, interactive, secure and quick to deliver. They work across multiple platforms (mobile included) and offer detailed interactive dashboards to analyse performance from various aspects. The ability to store historical assessment data and compare progress over time can be used to establish a trend and draw inferences on the learners’ progress in the context of learning. Online testing also brings the benefits of anytime testing, remote proctoring, real-time audio-video integration and more personalised testing.

Need for upskilling

The new year promises to be an interesting year for education, with EdTech disrupting traditional methods, pedagogies and mindsets. Its seamless integration with print and classroom practices will be central to its success in the Indian context, and wider acceptance by stakeholders is key to its longevity.

It is important not to lose sight of the evolving needs of the educator in the context of fast-paced EdTech developments. Teacher training programmes offered online, offline or in a combination, are key to upskilling our educators, who are often the primary consumers of EdTech solutions, and play a pivotal role in seeding and growing the adoption among learners.

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