For several weeks in our blog, we have been focusing on innovations in various market sectors. We have already analyzed many interesting technologies, startups, and applications from the financial and medical industries. This time you are going to read about another area that has accelerated significantly thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today's topic is EdTech - innovations changing the face of education in these times of digital transformation.
It is obvious that the development of any field will not compensate for the enormity of the tragedy caused by the pandemic. In looking for any positive elements of what happened to the world in 2020, it is definitely worth noting that the need to switch to eLearning contributed somewhat to the development of many digital competencies and new technologies supporting education. Education week research shows that after schools were closed and teachers were somehow forced to master new forms of knowledge transfer, 58% of education professionals now have a more positive opinion of EdTech. The development of eLearning is therefore the first area that you must pay attention to when talking about the digital transformation of the education sector. In this article, however, we would like to look at EdTech much more broadly. Below, we will also look at technologies that can change the face of modern science, help students gain knowledge, and enhance their development, but also support schools, teachers, and educational institutions. Finally, as usual, we have selected a few examples of interesting startups that are worth watching in 2021. Are you ready kids? Then please open your notebooks and write down the topic of today's lesson…
Before we get down to business, as always, we have a handful of statistics for you that perfectly illustrate EdTech's potential in the modern world. If you came here from Google, there is a high probability that you are looking for numbers and percentages for your presentation, so feel free to use the following. You can find all additional sources in hidden links throughout the article. But we will of course be very pleased if you add bPol's blog to your bookmarks and check back more often. We have more content like this, and more articles appear regularly! Ok, end of the advertising section. Let's go back to the data.
Ok, since we already know that the surge of dollars isn’t going to stop pouring into EdTech, let's see what technologies will contribute to the digital transformation of this sector.
Before we move on to robots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and everything that is so innovative in modern education, we would like to highlight something that seems obvious to modern kids. Some of us still remember a world without universal Internet access and that is why we would like to point out what completely changed the game when it comes to gaining new competencies. Language learning has been dynamically developing offline for many decades but today, with the appropriate determination, we can simply do it at no cost using online courses and applications. For many areas, gaining knowledge on the Internet means hundreds of saved hours! Programming courses, learning to play musical instruments, learning yoga, or learning to draw are available today in hundreds of thousands of variants. A few decades ago, it could take musicians months to figure out a guitar riff by ear. Now they have access to YouTube, Udemy, and MasterClass workshops that allow them to learn new playing techniques within hours. Everything else is ‘just’ practice. There is no problem with the disorganization of the materials, finding a tutor, or the appropriate level of proficiency. This applies not only to developing passions but also to tutoring related to school or academic education. Take, for example, platforms like Tutor.com, Studypool, and Brainfuse that connect students and teachers. Knowledge transfer takes place not only at the level of the exchange of notes but also in the relationships that enable video conferencing. And all this without leaving home, and often even for free.
Nowadays, Big Data is talked about in the context of many different industries. In the case of EdTech, resources are primarily created by participants of various types of courses. It's about their progress, learning time, results, and what the learning process looks like at different stages. The benefits are primarily for companies that offer e-learning, but the effective use of the information obtained may contribute to the improvement of the quality of services, which will be an added value for consumers. Obtaining feedback through surveys is tedious work and Big Data delivers it in such a way that users do not really have to answer any additional questions. The data is available in real-time. No additional companies need to be involved in carrying out the research. Ready-made dashboards allow administrators to check many variables. Big Data allows you to analyze the way information is absorbed by users and to optimize courses and training. If it turns out that there are modules on which users spend much more time, it is worth considering whether this is caused by unclear content. In many cases, it will also be useful to analyze the trends and popularity of courses, allowing the platforms to plan further actions that may be in demand. All these benefits can lead to greater personalization of courses, adapting them to the diverse needs of consumers, as well as a better understanding of the learning process itself.
Machine learning allows computers to learn certain dependencies without programming each one directly. The online training and learning industry has high hopes for this technology, and it is related to the Big Data on which the algorithms are based. Courses can be optimized and improved based on predictive analysis. Tracking the progress of students and adapting exercises and tasks to their abilities and needs can significantly contribute to effectively motivating them and improving the quality of education. Machine learning algorithms can identify situations in which a user is spending longer solving a given task, is omitting some content, or is unable to cope with something. In traditional education, one teacher does not always have time to work individually and accurately identify the needs of each of their pupils and students. If machine learning does some of this work, the technology can also be used in traditional education to improve collaboration between teacher and student. Materials and assignments can be adapted to students based on the progress made so far. Knowledge sources will become more intuitive and easier to consume. It also offers high hopes for the dynamically changing labor market. Machine Learning will help to easily retrain employees for new positions thanks to properly constructed courses. Students often complain that learning programs are repeated at different stages of their education or are full of unnecessary content. Machine Learning is an opportunity for modern education that meets the needs of people who want to train in a specific direction. Another area that will benefit from new technologies is the various types of recruitment processes and assessment systems. Machine Learning presents an opportunity to standardize exams more, not only among selection tests but also written work such as essays or presentations. After all, no student will say that the computer lowered their grade because it has something against them...
AI is related to Machine Learning, but it is worth explaining how they differ. Artificial Intelligence (as the name suggests) aims to simulate human behavior. Machine Learning's task is to train and modify the system based on the provided data. The more data the algorithm receives, the better the results will be. What is the relationship between these technologies? Artificial Intelligence enables machines to learn independently and make decisions based on data. Machine Learning teaches machines to develop algorithms that recognize trends and patterns. There are many applications for such solutions in education. AI and Machine Learning can change the face of modern education. Personalized learning can help students find those courses, sources of knowledge, and materials that are relevant to their interests and even the way they learn. The old-fashioned education system in the era of digital transformation can be improved and adapted to the needs of various individuals. Artificial Intelligence will also prove useful in monitoring the strengths and weaknesses of students, giving real-time feedback on what can be improved. Thanks to AI, learning can cease to be linear - both when it comes to e-learning and interactive classes in schools and universities.
The National Survey conducted by DreamBox Learning, PBS, and The Education Week Research Center shows that as many as 90% of educators agree that VR technology is an effective way to provide differentiated and personalized learning experiences for students. The industry is well aware of the great potential this technology offers. Education is to be the fourth largest investment sector for Virtual Reality. Research from Statistica estimates VR in education will be worth $700 million by the end of 2025. No wonder - VR is a technology that allows students to move into a digitally generated world that includes realistic sounds, images, and sometimes other experiences, without leaving the lecture hall or any other place where a suitable workplace has been prepared. In many sciences, such as physics, chemistry, or biology, the knowledge taught in theory or learned only from books can have many limitations for students that lead to an incomplete understanding of the issues. Virtual Reality opens up completely new possibilities in this field. Attractive, realistic 3D models are not only a chance to understand what is happening inside the human body or inside cells. Students learn more willingly and effectively when they can experience experiments in a digitally generated reality. It is attractive and exciting for them. It's also hard to imagine that a student who is wearing a VR headset and is currently participating in a surgical operation might be more interested in those Facebook notifications that are ringing in their pocket. Focusing students' attention on learning is another benefit of VR technology that many of us might not even have thought about.
AR is still associated by people primarily with Pokemon GO and the ever more realistic filters that Snapchat, Instagram or Messenger users put on their faces. However, this technology is successfully developing in other market segments, including education. The interactive learning environment, as in the case of VR, engages students much more. Even an apparently ordinary book scanned with a smartphone can become something extraordinary and magical. Here we also have the advantage that the virtual environment is integrated with the real one. These solutions will be perfect for young students who will be more involved in exploring, for example, planets seen on the ceiling ‘through’ the smartphone screen or the world of dinosaurs appearing in the classroom. However, this is only the beginning of the revolution. Augmented reality will save a lot of money in industries such as aviation, military, or medicine, where interactive training will avoid certain dangers, while training specialists to use expensive equipment in controlled conditions.
When writing about the Internet of Things, we mean both popular devices, such as smartphones and computers, which are already a permanent part of many areas of our lives, but also wearable devices and other connected gadgets that can be used in various parts of the education system. eMarketer conducted research which shows that 83.2% of teenagers aged 12 to 17 have their own smartphone. 73% of parents of children aged 11 to 13 declare that those kids also have their own device of this type. For children aged 6 to 10, this figure is 31%. The popularity of the devices can be successfully used during the learning process as well as fast communication between teachers and tutors using various applications. Smartphones are the most visible, but the Internet of Things is much more. The digital transformation of the education sector based on continuous access to the Internet allows for better management of institutions at the administrative level and faster information exchange. It is equally important to track student progress and make it easier for them to access educational materials. We cannot forget about security as well. The Internet of Things is on-demand monitoring, smoke detectors, and in the future, maybe even drones that will escort children to school. There are also wearable devices. Those with commercial use will help to ensure the safety of children when a parent receives a notification that the smartwatch has appeared in an unusual place. However, we cannot forget about devices designed for specialized purposes. Combined with VR or AR technologies, they can provide realistic experiences in interactive lessons. Creating various types of simulations can be made even more attractive thanks to the Internet of Things.
Regardless of how the EdTech industry is developing in the post-COVID era, each of us associates at least a few platforms that have been gaining popularity in recent years thanks to the possibility of extending knowledge and competencies in almost every field. Names such as MasterClass, Udemy, or Teachable already have a reputation around the world and are appreciated by both amateurs and professionals who want to train in selected topics. However, it is worth remembering that many new players have appeared on the horizon. Comparing 2019 to 2020, VR financing in the EdTech industry increased by 95%, reaching a value of $13 billion. Interestingly, 71% of this amount is made up of Asian companies that invest globally. Experts point out that Europe is lagging a bit behind North America and Asia when it comes to creating huge EdTechs. However, the potential of startups that are at an early stage of development and can still mess up a lot is recognized. These are companies valued between $100 million and $250 million with high growth potential.
As in the case of our previous articles in this series, we have selected a few of the most interesting startups that can get really loud in the coming years. Meet our favorites.
When discussing VR technology, we mentioned exact sciences such as physics, biology or chemistry. It turns out that virtual reality can also be successfully used to learn languages. An innovative solution in this field was proposed by the startup Immerse, whose headquarters are located in the US and Tokyo. Language skills are practiced through structured learning experiences in virtual reality. To move into the digital world, students wear VR goggles. There, they communicate using avatars, solve English exercises, take up various topics, appearing in various settings and themes. Students work on problem-based and task-based projects. The teacher can interact with them as they discover and experience the language in virtual circumstances. Thanks to VR, the emotional connection is deepened, social interaction is practiced, and fluency development is achieved.
Brainly is a Polish is a social learning network created in Kraków, which today is also based in New York. Students can find answers to questions that arise in their homework. The website offers detailed expert support for each subject. The platform can also be used by students, parents, and teachers. It is distinguished by elements of gamification - users collect points that allow them to achieve a specific position in the rankings. It cannot be denied that Brainly turned out to be a great source of knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of Brainly users in 2019 was 150 million. 2020 closed with a record 350 million users.
During the isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge problem was not only remote education but also networking with colleagues from new schools or universities, whose students were often unable to meet live for months. This startup, which was founded in 2015 to increase social inclusion at universities, could be a great help in making contacts and building friendships here. For introverts, who are not always able to talk to strangers even online, it is a real gamechanger. A chatbot helps in breaking the ice. As the authors of the application write, ‘Differ helps you connect with peers and start those first awkward conversations.’ The name of this chatbot is Bo and its task is to introduce individual students or entire study groups or classes to each other. Algorithms based on shared interests and hobbies are helpful here. Differ, in cooperation with the university, creates an informal online community where students can chat with each other without sharing too much personal information. That is why it is also a great tool for communication between lecturers and their groups.
Photomath is an educational tool for smartphones and tablets that can be downloaded for free from Google Play and the App Store. The aim of the developers of this app was to remove the frustration of learning math and bring peace to students' lives. Photomath is designed to help interpret problems with comprehensive math content from arithmetic to calculus to drive learning and understanding of fundamental math concepts. Augmented reality technology is used here. It is enough to scan the task with the smartphone camera and the application will present the student with animated calculation steps, just like a teacher or tutor would do in real life on the blackboard. The application has already been downloaded 220 million times, which best confirms that such a solution is the future when it comes to combining traditional mathematics with new technologies.
In the learning process, not only the sources of knowledge, the way they are presented, or the interaction with colleagues and the teacher are important. Education in the world of digital transformation also involves many challenges related to a short attention span and content that distracts and distracts from the goal, and even peer violence. GoGuardian offers innovative solutions in this field. The platform is designed to facilitate safe learning for students and provide teachers with protection from harmful and distracting content while working online. GoGuardian allows you to unify filtering, classroom management, and school mental health tools into a single suite which helps maximize the learning potential of students. The AI engine learns and dynamically updates the database of blocked harmful content, preventing children from accessing it. The platform helps deliver instruction, keep students on-task, and stay connected to students wherever they learn. In times of increasing depression among young people, it is worth highlighting one more GoGuardian functionality. The platform helps identify students who are at risk of suicide or possible harm to others through threats, violence, and bullying. A flexible alert system - Beacon - can bring in the appropriate school responders, help notify parents after hours, and even provide students directly with resources. It is undoubtedly a very valuable tool that in many cases can even save someone's life.
We have selected various examples of technological solutions that make learning in times of digital transformation better for students, teachers, and the entire education system. We’d be very pleased if you would add your comments about your discoveries in this area. And if you liked the article, please share it further. See you in the next installments of our series and new publications on the bPol blog.