Education Without Classrooms: A Whim or a Reality?

A venture capitalist, higher education leader muses on what’s next.

GUEST COLUMN | by Anjli Jain

When people hear AR/VR in education, do they imagine a student with headsets, holding a gaming console?

If that is so, it makes me wonder how many people are even aware of the technological advancements happening in the education sector.

Today, where on one side I see folks like University Ventures or Owl Ventures investing 100% of their funds into higher education, many parents are still on the hunt, finding the right school with the best of infrastructures.

Surprising, right?

Back in the late 90s, when I was at Columbia University, I would’ve thought of education without traditional classrooms as a whim.

However, now I feel that the flexibility of time and place that technological advancements are bringing in the education system is something every student deserves.

No wonder why many leading venture capitalists still swear by the education sector.

According to this report, the Global E-Learning market is expected to reach $275.10 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 7.5%. Certainly, researchers don’t believe in education without traditional classrooms as a whim any longer.

AR/VR: Why Living The Moment Is Better Than Reading About It

I think one should know how AR/VR can help students accelerate their educational journey.

Instead of just shaking shoulders to the change, one must know how bringing learning to real life via virtual environments can help students to be engaged for a longer time.

And what I have seen from my experience as an edtech investor is that the key to success for any college, university or edtech venture is all about student engagement and giving them the best of experiences.

“…the key to success for any college, university or edtech venture is all about student engagement and giving them the best of experiences.”

Consider, on one hand, you are reading about Wright Brother flying the first plane in 1903, and on the other, you can enjoy the flight with the Wright Brothers, which one would you choose? I would say, ask your students!

This report said, “93% of teachers say that their students would be excited to use virtual reality, whereas 83% say that VR might help improve learning outcomes.”

I am pretty sure that living an era, instead of just reading about it would lead to fun learning experiences, indeed!

How Far Is The World Accepting Tech-Powered Education System?

To list a few:

-In 2017, we saw EVERFI (an E-Learning platform) backed by Jeff Bezos and other investors, who pumped in about $190 million to advance EVERFI’s vision for online education innovation, thus making it one of the historic investments in the education space. 

-BV Investment Partners, gave Hero K12, $150 million to shop for edtech companies.

-Grammarly bagged a $110 million investment from IVP, Spark Capital and General Catalyst.

It’s good to see such investments which definitely put a stamp on the positive future of the education sector.

Today, professors and mentors all around the world, record lectures to ensure their lessons and training cross boundaries.

When someone does not have the wherewithal to study abroad, online learning shows up as the safest bet.

Reasons like these ensure the need for technological advancements in the education sector.

The rapid upsurge of digitalization in education by the use of laptops, iPads and smartphones has already driven students from the conventional blackboard and chalk education system to more engaging learning experiences. I am excited to see the flourished inclusion of the latest technologies like AI, Blockchain, AR/VR etc. in the edtech world.

The education world is not just embraced by the leading names in the industry, many startups have also joined the league.

Platforms like Nearpod uses mobile VR to make the classroom education interactive. Other platforms like Coursera, edX, Udemy, etc. is always working towards enhancing the e-learning experience.

It’s good to see ventures like these advancing in the world of education with the inclusion of latest technologies, thereby giving students an engaging and customized learning experience.

Apprehensions – But Are They Enough To Hold Back The Biggest Advancements?

All these pros, including the flexibility of time, place, and funds have their own ramifications.

First, I think, students are going to love the minimal-to-no teacher interventions.

But, I am also considerate towards the fact that imparting knowledge face-to-face has its own charm.

Furthermore, pre-recorded videos may become a barrier to doubt clearing routine, which seems to be only possible in traditional classrooms.

This report, in 2017 said 51% of the world population has access to the internet. However, if we see the flipside, sadly, 49% still didn’t have access to the internet.

The same report also stated that in 2010, only 30% per of the world’s population had the access to the internet.

By the fact itself, you can see the growth curve. The number is only going higher and the ongoing trends promise the same in the future as well.

The Bottom Line Is

I can’t help resonating with John Fallon (CEO, Pearson) stating, “Online program management and virtual schooling are two of the biggest areas of growth for the company. The weight of the activity will be in blended learning, and how you combine the benefits of face-to-face with purely online approaches.”

The lone support of technology in education sector might not be able to assist the students with all the learning aspects, for instance, doubt clearing.

Still and all, I believe the blend of both, the tech and face-to-face, can do the job.

With time and the type of awareness the edtech industry is creating, I am pretty sure something massive is coming our way.

In the end, the only yet overriding question that crosses my mind is, how far will the parents, teachers, and the authorities go with these technological additions?

Are you wondering, too?

Anjli Jain is a Managing Partner at EVC Ventures, a $50 million Chicago-based venture capital fund and the Founder and Chairman of Campus Consortium, a global consortium of 2000+ colleges and universities.


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