EdTech is changing the way how schools and universities engage with their students. After my graduation ceremony at King’s College London, I went to the Edtech UK Conversations conference and the British Educational Training and Technology Show, also called BETT Show, which is the world’s largest education technology show. Apart from having met many EdTech enthusiasts, I also gained a few new insights that will be useful for building my EdTech startup Skilltransfer. Here are my five main takeaways.
#1 The development and understanding of education technology is at a crucial stage across the world. Many educational intuitions are creating strategies and extensive policy programmes to support the roll out of this new technology.
Senior education leaders have to choose, among others, Learning Management Systems (LMS) to host and communicate their content, AI-based online verification tools such as Proctorio for authentication purposes, curriculum enhancing AR or VR technologies such as from ClassVR, or other transformative learning tools that are offered by Microsoft (also check these Microsoft slides here that were presented at the BETT Show).
I think that teachers will not be replaced by technology but teachers who use technology will replace those who do not. This is why leadership in this education technology field is vital and the partnership between educators, manufacturers, vendors, and EdTech companies is of utmost priority. There is a need to work smarter and with more focus on utilising EdTech.
#2 Education is often culture-, institution-, and location-dependent. What works in Western societies might not necessarily work in African or Asian ones. Furthermore, schools and universities often adapt their curriculum to the needs of their surrounding industry. This is why you encounter an excessive amount of finance-related study programmes around London and a countless number of automotive- and engineering-related study programmes around Stuttgart. Different local needs also aggravate tracking the impact of education since it would require a complex system linked to a constant feedback loop from students, graduates, and employers. Considering that most study programmes are developed around the desires and needs of local employers, online education cannot always be rolled out to a national or even international audience.
Only when education is not linked to the goal of upskilling the future workforce of local industries, can EdTech become a powerful force for scalability. For example, education for coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs can be delivered to a national or even international audience when purely focusing on Western societies (Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, UK, and US). The reason for this is two-fold. First, the principles and processes of these professions are mostly culture-, institution-, and location-independent and second, Western societies share similar characteristics. I know this first-hand because I lived in most of these countries myself. Of course, there are slight differences, but they are not even worth to mention in comparison to the stark differences in African or Asian societies.
#3 When focusing on a group of similar societies, EdTech can lead to various benefits. For example, educational institutions have no resources to upskill lecturers whenever new knowledge is publicised. By the time they teach, unless they stem from a research-intensive university, their knowledge is already outdated. It would be financially impossible to upskills thousands of lecturers and teachers every few months. However, through EdTech it is possible to employ just a small team for processing the newest knowledge and forwarding it to millions of students. This would be impossible through traditional teaching, which requires one lecturer or teacher for every 100 or less students.
#4 Implementing EdTech within a school or university is not easy. The EdTech environment is always changing and a constant stream of new products or services makes it difficult to navigate the field. You have to see it has a journey without destination. You will always be traveling. At most, you will stop a couple of times along the road but you always keep moving. The best way to handle this is to have a clear set of criteria and a digital strategy that helps to eliminate available options and reduce them to a bare minimum. This way, the decision-making process becomes more bearable.
#5 Through EdTech, everyone can become an online teacher or lecturer but this can also become a problem when instructors have zero education- or work-experience but still flourish because of their strong social media community. Educational institutions should not only have a digital strategy for their institutions but also start thinking about a strategy to develop celebrity teachers, lecturers, and/or professors for attracting talent to their student body. This is how educational institutions can compete with and differentiate from others and why we curate a pool of celebrity instructors at Skilltransfer. If you have the brightest minds in your departments and potential students know about them, then their study decision might favour you instead of another institution that has zero clue about building communities and online marketing.
EdTech will support, not disrupt, the education industry but it is important for educators to become aware of all the possibilities and start crafting and implementing an EdTech strategy. Do not panic, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. See what works at other educational institutions and adopt what works for you.