We explore the world of education technology, looking at some of the latest developments in edtech and their potential benefits.
The edtech industry is large, ever-growing, and made up of various different tools and technologies. Studies suggest that the industry was worth $89.49 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by 19.9% between 2021 – 2028.
We look at a definition of edtech while exploring the rise of online education. We’ll also be delving into the benefits of edtech and the latest developments within the industry.
What is edtech?
We can define edtech, short for educational technology, as any technology that supports learning. However, edtech is also often used to describe the industry that provides educational technology.
Essentially, any digital technology that is utilised to educate falls under the edtech umbrella. However, educational technology varies greatly and can range from computer-based lessons to immersive virtual reality experiences.
Edtech can also either be considered synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning takes place in real-time between multiple people, such as a virtual classroom or a zoom call. Asynchronous learning can be carried out at any time, and includes learning management systems and email exchange.
The edtech impact is revolutionary. It can really alter a learning experience and encourage engagement from learners. In many cases, edtech also offers more accessible learning, which could change education altogether.
The rise of online learning
Computers were introduced to the classroom in the 1960s, so educational technology is by no means a new concept. However, technology is continually advancing and becoming more prominent in education.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a complete shift in the way that education is offered. All areas of education have had to improvise and learn to work online as opposed to learning in a classroom, the way it has been done for as long as we can remember. As such, access to online learning tools quickly became a necessity within the education system.
This, of course, came with many challenges and struggles. Not all students are equipped with the technology needed to carry out their studies. Those that do have the means to study online are often faced with a newfound lack of physical, social interaction.
However, there are many aspects to online learning that have proven more effective than traditional methods. Since online learning has been such an effective tool, it will certainly continue to grow and be an integral part of modern education. Blended learning is also becoming more popular, which allows for a nice mix of online and physical learning.
Examples of educational technology
Edtech is a broad term, with many different areas of learning technology falling into the category. Let’s look at some of the types of educational technology used today.
Online learning platforms
As an online learning platform, we are particularly fond of this one. Online learning platforms such as FutureLearn provide an accessible way for learners to upskill and learn online from anywhere. Here at FutureLearn, we have over 16 million learners taking part in our wide range of courses.
Courses and lessons provided by these online education providers can be found in a huge variety of categories. These courses can range from free short courses to full paid degrees. They are a fantastic alternative to traditional study, and they allow learners to learn about the exact topics they’re interested in.
These online courses are often paired with a certificate or respective qualification, which makes them ideal for boosting your CV and preparing for a career of your choice.
Perhaps one of the most unique methods of learning, virtual reality is becoming more prominent in education spaces. VR really allows students and learners to feel as though they are in a simulated environment, which is incredible for keeping them engaged.
As well as providing a fun and immersive experience, virtual reality allows learners to see things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. Experiences where you can view historical events or geographical scenes from the past are available, which would otherwise be impossible to see for ourselves.
As we discussed in our virtual reality in education blog post, there are VR tools available that simulate a real classroom environment and allow synchronous learning amongst other learners. This is an incredible factor, seeing as one of the biggest drawbacks of edtech is often the lack of social interaction with others.
This area of edtech is diverse and is often combined with traditional learning methods. Research suggests that people spend a daily average of 5-6 hours on their phones. Other studies show that the number of smartphone users steadily increases each year.
Since mobile phones are such a huge part of many of our daily lives, it only makes sense to combine that technology with educational content. Smartphones can be used to access research platforms, ebooks, apps, and virtual learning environments. There are even apps or sites that can be paired with classroom whiteboards for engaging games and quizzes in physical classrooms.
One of the best things about mobile learning is the ability to learn anywhere, seeing as smartphones are so portable. The same goes for tablets too, which are another great learning tool.
This may come as a surprise since the platform is often associated with cat videos and lifestyle vloggers, but YouTube can be a massively effective educational tool. YouTube is the second most popular social network in the world and has 2.3 billion registered monthly users.
There is a wide range of edtech-specific channels on YouTube, as well as videos provided by teachers and professors with the intention of educating. What makes YouTube so powerful is its convenience and accessibility, paired with the fact that it is free to use.
People often gravitate towards this platform when they are looking to learn how to do something. Having a visual aid when learning something often helps. In fact, videos with a title that include the words ‘how to’ often see more views than those without.
Who uses edtech?
There are a wide variety of users in the field of education, and edtech isn’t an exception. We can see edtech used within a range of educational institutions, for personal learning, and even within career-driven learning spaces.
Educational technology is not restricted to one specific age group; the internet is filled with edtech opportunities, and internet users come in a range of ages. In 2019, studies showed that 7% of internet users were made up of those over the age of 65.
Edtech can be seen in primary school spaces, secondary schools and higher education. Primary schools can benefit from interactive educational software such as EducationCity to introduce interactive games in subjects such as maths, allowing students to increase their knowledge whilst having fun.
Secondary schools tend to benefit from learning management systems such as Moodle, which allow students to submit assignments and access course content easily online. Learning management systems also allow teachers to give feedback to students and contact students if needed.
During the pandemic, many universities have had to carry out lectures virtually via platforms such as Zoom. Course content can be accessed online too, as well as other study materials. The University of York even utilised FutureLearn courses to help support students and staff.
What are the benefits of educational technology?
The use of technology for learning is clearly here to stay, so what makes it so effective? Let’s look at some of the reasons why the edtech industry is thriving:
Online learning platforms such as FutureLearn are able to provide an incredibly accessible experience as opposed to traditional educational methods. Studying online allows you to work at your own pace, and around current schedules such as work or child care.
With platforms like this, opportunities are opened to those who wish to upskill and change career paths, allowing them to improve their quality of life and increase their skills. Online learning also gives those who may not otherwise have access to education a chance to become educated and qualified.
Those who are in underprivileged communities may not otherwise be able to access high-quality education, but with online platforms, they are given the chance to grow their skills. It also gives women a chance to join male-dominated courses without the fear of being a minority that may come with partaking in a physical course.
In our future of learning report, we discovered that notable proportions of the public in the UK, USA, and Australia believe that online learning allows for more diversity and inclusion in the education sector. Here at FutureLearn, our aim is to transform access to education, and we’re doing just that.
Engagement and immersion
Technology has the ability to raise the engagement of students, thereby allowing them to be more involved and interested in learning. As well as advancements in technology like virtual reality and augmented reality, methods of online learning using computers and phones can also be incredibly immersive.
There are educational games available, and interactive websites and whiteboards that add an element of fun to studying. This is especially helpful to younger audiences, who may have shorter attention spans.
Tech doesn’t just improve the learning experience for students, but also for teachers and educators. Learning platforms allow teachers to track student progress and collect assignments and test results digitally, which makes for a far more convenient and effective tracking experience.
In a recent survey, 74% of headteachers and 65% of teachers said that technology already had, or would in the future, contribute towards a reduced workload.
There are also tech platforms that allow parents to get involved and monitor their children’s progress, with apps such as ClassDojo. This powerful app lets teachers share progress and photos with parents, and even lets students upload their own work to their portfolio to share with both teachers and parents.
Prepares students for the real world
Technology isn’t just prominent in the world of education; it is widely used within many work industries. By students becoming familiar with technology and comfortable using computer software, they’ll be more prepared for the use of technology when they move into the world of work.
Seeing as technology is so vital to real-world scenarios, it almost seems essential to equip students with the knowledge of using this technology.
What are the drawbacks of educational technology?
Evidently, there are many incredible benefits of implementing technology ineducation. However, nothing is perfect and edtech isn’t an exception. Let’s look at some of the potential negative edtech impacts.
Access and affordability
Technology is extremely powerful, but it comes at a price. The technology and edtech tools used often have large price tags, and unless you already have a computer or a smartphone at hand, it will be a big investment to buy some of the educational equipment.
Unfortunately, not everyone is in a position to pay for technology to aid education. Families with lower incomes may struggle to afford some of the tools and technology used for learning, and could result in children being left behind in studies and struggling emotionally with being left out.
Digital poverty has become more visible since the pandemic. Studies have shown that 84% of schools with the poorest children do not have the devices needed to home study. By introducing technology as common practice within classrooms, we could be ostracizing those who cannot afford tech.
It’s no secret that there are health-related risks when using technology. Staring at a screen for extended periods of time can have major effects on eyesight or cause headaches, and sitting at a computer for a while can also cause back pain for some.
Since people often use screens in their spare time, introducing heavy periods of technology use during study time too could put learners at risk of some of these health issues.
As well as providing endless study material and edtech tools, phones and computers can also be used to access games and social media, which can be massively distracting. If students are encouraged to use technology to study, there is a high chance that they could become too distracted to focus on their studies.
Allowing students to have their phones in class could ultimately shift their focus and have negative effects.
Latest developments in edtech
Since the edtech industry is thriving, there are continuous advancements and additions to the preexisting arsenal of educational technology. Let’s look at some of the latest developments in edtech.
The rise of big data analytics applies to many industries, but it is recently garnering attention from academics and professors. Big data can be used to find out more about individual students’ learner journeys, and compare those with different personal situations to help support their learning, which will ultimately improve education.
Virtual and augmented reality
As we briefly discussed earlier, virtual reality is really transforming the educational landscape. With the ability to bring learners together from completely different locations, and the ability to partake in exhilarating experiences, VR is revolutionary.
Augmented reality is very similar to VR and is already having a huge impact in classrooms. There are AR resources that can be paired with physical learning materials, and allow students to interact with their course content in a virtual space. These methods are so different to most ways of learning and could completely change the classrooms of the future.
Investments in edtech
With so many technological advancements in education, investors are quickly picking up on the importance of educational technology. 2020 saw record breaking investments in edtech, with the US alone raising $2.2 billion in edtech investments.
The pandemic has caused an increased interest in the industry, so investors are keen to get involved in such a promising sector. With more investments, edtech will only continue to soar.
The combination of older people wishing to change careers and continuing education combined with the availability of online resources makes for a future where we are all learners. Edtech is the way forward, and more and more people are getting involved in education.
Some of the edtech trends we saw in our future of learning report include women being statistically more likely to partake in an online course, and younger generations showing the most interest in online learning.
Another huge edtech trend is the rise of accessibility within education. Traditional study has been an educational industry staple for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted how useful distance learning and online learning can be.
Hopefully, this article has helped develop your understanding of the edtech industry and how powerful educational technology can be. It’s safe to say that edtech is here to stay within the education sector, and is making a huge positive impact.
If you’re interested in learning more about educational technology, be sure to check out our innovation in edtech course.