How edtech is shaping the future and strengthening minds

By Vijay T S, Managing Director, Chegg India

New Delhi (India), August 16: Traditionally dominated by classroom teaching and limited digital infrastructure, the Education industry has transformed itself at a rapid pace due to COVID-19. The education system has been forced to evolve significantly. In particular, online education tools and platforms have made deep in-roads, backed by an exponential rise in internet usage and technology. Today, access to teaching and learning opportunities is unprecedented in scope, thanks to technology.

How should we educate the future?

Historian Yuval Noah Harari wondered in his seminal book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, “A baby born today will be thirty-something in 2050. If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100, and might even be an active citizen of the twenty-second century. What should we teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the twenty-second century?”

This is a moot question. How can we prepare the next generation for an ever-shifting, dynamic world? To avoid steep drops in academic enrolment, a variable framework which can adapt itself to the changing ecosystem must be created, and the learner has to be equipped with tools to keep learning, unlearning and relearning as per the demands of this fluid world. The solution lies in technology-enabled learning and the flexibility it allows.

Fostering sceptics and creative thinkers

For the longest time, formal education required learning by rote. Students would memorise everything from multiplication tables and formulae to even blocks of text. And this fulfilled the needs of a world where working environments were modelled after the post-industrial revolution factories, where the individuals (merely a cog in the wheel) were supposed to punch in their time and do their bit. But this is hardly the case anymore. The modern organizational structure is far more complex and dynamic, designed to expect creative decisions and critical thinking at almost every level.

An important attribute that tech-based learning can successfully inculcate in learners is the ability to think critically. It allows for more individual experiments and performance tracking, gamification, and several different exercises which can equip a learner with skills, adapting them to a fast-changing world. It encourages them to think independently and ask questions at every turn. Memorising will no longer help. The platforms are designed in such a way that they require the learner to be creative in their approach.

Immersive learning with deep tech

Using similar technologies that social media and search engines utilise while serving content that is most suited to the reader, edtech platforms can hyper-personalise content to the learners’ needs. Based on the learning ability of individual students and what triggers the most effective learning, specific content can be pushed to specific learners, helping them learn their course materials faster and internalise it better.

Even the delivery of education can benefit from the use of Artificial Intelligence. Aggregation of data from the students and individual evaluation can liberate instructors from the burden of manual tracking and evaluation, allowing them additional time to provide much-needed, individual attention to learners.

The disruptive potential of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Extended Reality (XR) is tremendous, and this can be as effective in education as they have been in distributing other content all across the globe. The implementation of advanced virtualisation tech allows learners to experience environments they cannot have direct access to. For example, the surface of Mars or Antarctic flora and fauna. This not only enhances and speeds up the learning process it also has the potential of firing up a person’s creativity and imagination.

Bridging the divide

With the increase in awareness and exposure to global standards of education, there has been a steady increase in demand for innovation in teaching and learning practices. Technology-enabled learning, by its very nature, requires innovation in development and intuitiveness in the delivery of such tools. Virtual classrooms have the opportunity to be enriched with the efficiency and efficacy provided by edtech platforms.

With basic smartphone prices plummeting and broadband tariffs being lower than ever before, online education is more accessible now. Domestic OEMs and other players in the subcontinent are pushing the price down for entry-level phones, with technologies like WhatsApp more widely accessible than most other technologies throughout history. This is helping bridge the digital divide when it comes to accessing online education.

Reinvention is the name of the game

The gig economy is finally coming of age. A constantly upskilling, hybrid workforce will disrupt the traditional world of work. Rapidly shifting dynamics have ensured that to stay relevant and be on top of their game, professionals have to constantly reskill and upskill for their respective industries. This requires them to be in a perpetual state of learning, and online learning remains the most economical and efficient way to achieve that.

At the launch of a new workplace initiative at the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Annual Meeting at Davos, Muriel Pénicaud, France’s Minister of Labour, said that one of the most important skills for future employment will be to “learn, learn, learn. It means curiosity…. It’s not a package that you deliver. It will be a continuous process” .

That is a skill that we should all learn.

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