Insights and commentary from an edtech company CEO working in higher ed.

GUEST COLUMN | by Brian Rowe

Like most industries, education has undergone a digital transformation. Over the past years, the edtech industry has experienced exponential growth and is on track to exceed $250 billion worldwide by 2020

As a result, the 21st Century classroom is overflowing with new innovations that provide countless opportunities for educators to establish new learning objectives, experiment with new tools and design a learning experience that is meaningful to each individual student.

Furthermore, this surge also makes it vital to understand the endless opportunities aligned with edtech and how it can serve at the forefront of teaching. This also means training teachers on how to use technology effectively, which is something 78 percent of educators don’t believe they have received according to a study from SAM Labs.

As technology continues to infiltrate classrooms across higher education, let’s look closely at the vital role it plays in student learning and how it can dramatically improve student engagement.

1. Makes coursework more accessible

The proliferation of personal devices is changing the landscape for professors. Out of nearly 20 million college students nationwide, more than 95 percent of students have access to a smartphone and 72 percent have access to a laptop. By using technology to make course materials more accessible and more affordable, educators are able to better connect with students.

Using courseware that is easy for students to access boosts student engagement and helps them learn material better. In fact, a study revealed that 90 percent of students believe that digital curriculum make learning more efficient and effective for students. Another study found that 70 percent thought technology was important to their academic success. However, failing to adapt and make coursework more accessible could put students at risk for failure.

2. Improves the student-to-teacher relationship

Edtech has the power to enhance the educational experience while centralizing the student-teacher relationship in the following ways:

  • Maximizes time for educators: Technology allows educators to escape the administrative vortex while saving time to establish more meaningful relationships with students. For instance, some tools allow teachers to manage multiple courses within one, easy-to-use dashboard. Auto-graded labs and self-assessments also reduce grading, so instructors are able to spend more one-on-one time with students to solve problems, answer questions and develop trust.

 

  • Promotes flexible curriculum: Edtech and digital education tools have made learning ubiquitous by connecting students to their courses anywhere and at anytime. Using technology, educators also are able to customize coursework based on the needs and preferences of each student, which includes adapting courses to meet the needs of students with disabilities or who are sick.

 

  • Fosters long-term engagement: A new piece of technology may not keep students engaged on its own. However, it can foster long-term engagement by observing how students interact with the technology while simultaneously gathering feedback on how it’s effectively being leveraged for the sole purpose of learning. Therefore, teachers can make well-informed decisions on new learning techniques based on a trusting respectful relationship with students.

3. Cultivates improved learning environment

Societal roles play a huge role in classroom dynamics and may influence certain behavioral habits among students. For instance, students who are not fluent in English may be more hesitant to engage in open classroom dialogue to avoid potential ridicule.

This is why technology – such as virtual study groups, online discussion boards and more – is key to stimulating additional portals for students to engage in conversations, either with each other or the teacher.

Edtech is also extremely beneficial for those executing a “flipped classroom” approach to teaching.

For instance, traditional learning consists of remembering what is taught in class and then analyzing those concepts through homework or other assignments. In a flipped classroom, students can learn the material beforehand, so they can engage in higher cognitive levels of learning with peers and teachers present. Most importantly, leveraging technology in this method of teaching can help educators track work and assess understanding more effectively.

4. Analyzes efficacy of courses

As edtech emerges itself into more classrooms nationwide, university executives will be empowered to make decisions on the effectiveness of a class and its courseware. This is thanks to new technology unveiling an abundance of meaningful student data to help determine successful curriculum and pinpoint accuracy.

Recently, Kennesaw State University (KSU) experienced how technology could effectively analyze the efficacy of a course. In 2015, the university wanted to increase student engagement in a course called WELL 1000, which is a required core curriculum class designed to teach priority health issues through a focus on health promotion and disease prevention. It decided to enlist the help of a new interactive web-based learning platform with analytical tools that demonstrate the efficacy of student learning throughout the course.

Over a two-year period, the results were outstanding. The course’s DFWI (D, fail, withdraw, incomplete) rate was reduced by 48 percent. Most notably, the online section of the course – which traditionally carries the highest DFWI rates – saw a 55 percent reduction over the same time period. With this data, it was determined that moving to a more accessible and interactive courseware was able to increase engagement among KSU students enrolled in WELL 1000. The data also established a baseline to measure student engagement for the following years.

The future of edtech

As technology continues to evolve, the impact it will have across the education industry is incalculable. These innovations will only continue to transform the way traditional and non-traditional classrooms are managed. That’s why it’s vital for companies to provide solutions that promote a new and improved approach to learning. By working together, technology can continue to create groundbreaking change across education.

Brian Rowe is the founder and CEO of Perceivant, an edtech company serving the higher education marketplace. His company publishes and provides courseware replacing traditional textbooks with cost-effective and interactive learning experiences for web and mobile apps, with powerful analytics and real-time data to boost student engagement and provide educators with easier, more efficient solutions to analyze course efficacy. Write to: brian@perceivant.com