Technology is meant to make our lives easier–at least in theory. Over the past couple of years, edtech has exploded as an industry fuelled by the emerging learning setups brought by the pandemic. This is all well and good, but it’s probably high time we ask: are our learners finally drowning in tech?
The State of Edtech
As of 2022, the Australian Edtech Directory has listed 144 Australian Edtech Companies ranging from tools catered to early learners to platforms for workforce training. This doesn’t include edtech that are owned and operated outside of Australia but are still part of the tech stacks of many training organisations and educational institutions. In fact, as of 2022, there are at least 750+ different e-Learning vendors and suppliers vying for your attention. There are hundreds in Australia and UK alone. HolonIQ reports: “As of 29 July 2022, there are now 36 EdTech Unicorns around the world who have collectively raised over $30B of total funding in the last decade and are now collectively valued at $105B+”.
Education technology is a booming industry and while it may seem good for economic growth, it may have a latent and indirect negative effect on technology adoption and learning.
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A Gold Rush in Edtech
The overload didn’t just happen overnight. Like many other things, it was brought about by a confluence of different factors. Let’s get into each here:
It has been commonly argued that the traditional models of the education system is stuck in the industrial age. This is often characterised by the seemingly factory-like, production line approach to learning where learners are seen to be blank slates meant to be filled, tested, and graded throughout a predetermined path towards a defined job or skill. This mass production approach could be a product of chasing efficiency and standardisation. Such concepts were deemed valuable in the industrial age, when technology was analog and limited, growth was linear, and the supply of opportunities were controlled by the few.
As technology progressed, opportunities for livelihood became infinite, and growth became potentially exponential. Education eventually transformed from focusing on standardisation to nurturing specialisation and catering to individual differences. It reopened previously-niche paradigms like experiential learning, social learning, and just-in-time learning. It merged previously unconnected paradigms like education and game theory, and re-imagined long-held traditions of instruction like flipped classrooms and work-integrated learning. All of this was made possible AT SCALE by edtech solutions.
Humans are creatures of habit. As we get introduced to new technologies, we get introduced to new ways of doing things. As we constantly do things the new way, we form new expectations, eventually demanding the same experience, the same convenience, from everything we do.
The emergence of on-demand streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+, has brought in an expectation for on-demand learning. Youtube and Facebook (now Meta) has trained learners to consume video content at a magnitude never before seen. As a result, learners expect higher quality video content or, at the very least, animated learning materials. Social media and the metaverse has laid the groundwork for collaborative learning, and gamified systems like fitness apps and reward loyalty cards has primed learners to seek micro-rewards for accomplished tasks. Finally, the personalization brought about by ecommerce, search algorithms, and social media has primed learners to seek personalisation from their own training materials as well, demanding a bigger focus on learner analytics– all via edtech.
Needless to say, the arrival of the pandemic is like pouring gasoline into the fire. Before 2020, edtech was mostly used by early adopters who want to get a headstart in innovation. Within a year, the tech adoption has been sped up dramatically because everyone, even the laggards, suddenly had to migrate to remote delivery of learning through edtech. To quote Christopher Pommerening of EU Startups:
“The H1N1 pandemic drove the growth of edtech in Mexico in 2009, as SARS did in China in 2003, setting the pattern for change. The COVID-19 pandemic went much further, not only because it is global and enduring, but it also comes at a time when the archaic model of standardized education at all levels is more ripe for change and ready to be replaced by a new lifelong and personal learning paradigm. Edtech has finally managed to win the argument that its place in learning is not a fad, but a fait accompli. The perfect storm.”
Drowning in Edtech
While it is true that a digital revolution has its advantages, the harsh truth is that many adapting institutions are struggling with keeping up. Too many tech tools are in development with promises to revolutionise the education sector, but many often end up staggering the progress of those for whom they are intended. Here are some ways in which having too many tools negatively affects education as a whole.
This is especially true in the case of the trainers, whose jobs are to make the most use of these technologies to better train students in real skills and the underpinning knowledge. Trainers find it completely frustrating dealing with poorly performing tools that make it harder to carry out activities, assessments or deliver content to students. When a trainer spends more than half of their time working on the edtech tools than actually training, then there is a clearly an issue.
Education and Training is carried out on a specified schedule, and when the schedule is interrupted, the most obvious impact is often wastage of time. Trainers and administrators alike experience frustration in keeping up with all the available technology at their disposal and the disparity makes carrying out normal functions more time consuming that it needs to be. Administrators spend time and resources trying to manage systems when they should be focusing on their core roles. A migration to digitally enhanced learning should serve to save time, not waste it, which is what happens when there are too many tech tools in use.
When any training provider is having a tough time making use of the numerous disparate tools and systems put in place for them, it thus follows that the ROI for these systems becomes greatly reduced. There is often also a decreased rate of adoption of these tools because it is too cumbersome and time consuming to learn and make use of them, which also results in a decreased ROI for the system as a whole. We’ve written about the ROI of eLearning in more detail if you wish to know more.
When the tech tools put in place for learning become difficult to use, more of the school funding ends up diverted towards IT services to help. What follows is an endless cycle of dependence on IT services that are often only temporary since the problem is the fact that there are too many systems to manage in the first place.
Time and time again we see clients who complain about the above 4 points. The efficiency of the system, the wastage of time, the low ROI and the increased spending in IT.
So, what is the solution?
The solution is using a LMS that has the capability built into the core system to do nearly everything you need. Any LMS software worth its salt should focus on reducing the time spent learning the software as well as in making said software easier to use.
Case Study: Canvas
FORGET looking to improve your system by implementing the latest plugin or LTI. Upgrade to a system such as Canvas that allows you to build amazing content in an easy to use way. If you are already using a system like Canvas, forget about plugins and LTIs and use the core features provided. It includes all the tech tools without needing to go outside.
If you want a personalised review of your online system to see how you can use the core functions in canvas better? Ask us about our annual LMS review package we offer for RTOs and Training providers.
Perfect Tandem: Strawberry Solutions + Canvas
Open, intuitive, and born in the cloud, Canvas streamlines all the digital tools and content that teachers and students love, for a simpler and more connected learning experience. Strawberry Solutions is an authorised Canvas partner. We’ll bring your lessons to life.
There’s a sweeter way to learn. Talk to us.
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