Classrooms are not the only places where people learn. Corporations, vocational training, and language centers all need remote education technology solutions, purpose-built for education.
GUEST COLUMN | by Lee Wilson
Learning is the most important 21st-century skill, a fact brought into stark relief over the past 18 months. The ability to learn, adapt, and respond to the challenges of lockdown revealed how education is part of every aspect of our modern lives. In this context, tools originally crafted for classroom learning are productive additions to businesses and non-profits in a huge range of contexts. Initially business solutions like Zoom and Teams were used in classrooms. Now, with the lessons of lockdown, education solutions are moving in the opposite direction.
Learning is the most important 21st-century skill, a fact brought into stark relief over the past 18 months.
From career coaching to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), people began to seek creative solutions that addressed the more precise educational needs of their learners. Now, as the idea of the “new edtech normal” further crystallizes, organizations and businesses are exploring how educational technology specifically designed for students will add value to their technology offerings and strengthen overarching education initiatives.
Pandemic Learning Lessons
When the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, teachers quickly realized business communication platforms, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, were not equipped to handle the unique needs of their classrooms. Already frustrated with lack of student engagement, teachers had to completely change their style of teaching and the curriculums in order to compensate with the lack of interactivity and personalization business tools offered. Ultimately, this took up time and resources, leaving teachers extremely frustrated.
What was happening in the classroom was also occurring in many businesses and organizations as well — these mainstream communication platforms failed to meet the unique needs of specific types of organizations. For example, employee training that was monitored in person now had to be monitored online, but how? Managers using business tools could easily take attendance, but could not measure engagement or participation.
EdTech Outside the Classroom
Soon, businesses and organizations began to research education-specific technology that could integrate easily into their existing technology suites as a tool for their individual purposes. Thanks to creative thinking, education technology finally was seen as more than just a tool to use in a school classroom. The pandemic’s silver lining for edtech, is that it finally bridged a critical gap for real-world education solutions. Below, are examples of organizations and business using educational technology:
- Corporations – Bulsatcom, a mobile operator company, needed a solution to manage internal training, both in-person and virtually. After experimenting with different business solutions, they found education technology platforms better served their HR department to manage trainers, trainees, and course schedules. Online follow-up meetings with the staff trainees were conducted in an interactive virtual classroom, fostering more participation and engagement, allowing more employees to be involved in training at once. In choosing an education technology solution purpose-built for education, employees were evaluated just like in a real classroom, and assigned group or individualized learning to make sure they understood the curriculum.
- Non-profits – The Trust for Social Achievement, a Bulgarian-based NGO, found education technology was an improved cost-effective method to better serve disadvantaged youth in remote areas, teaching them skills crucial for their development and future careers. On a daily basis, the NGO works with 200 disadvantaged youths in English language training in virtual and hybrid learning environments, as well as in person when feasible. Education technology allows these youth to access their lessons, while giving the NGO employees the ability to create compelling content and deliver it in an engaging online format.
- Vocational Training – Knowledge Train, an accredited vocational training program offering certifications in project management, IT service management, DevOps, business analysis, and more, decided education technology works better than business communication solutions. When training moved completely online, they found education technology provided trainers with all of the necessary features to teach highly interactive virtual training. Education-specific technology allowed participants to share ideas through online whiteboards for collaborative activities, breakout rooms, and classroom chats for a more engaging experience in large group discussions and small group activities.
- Alternative Schools – Many schools and centers in this category were staunch supporters of education technology from the beginning. For example, coding schools for kids like Code Ninjas and MakerKids, Bittersweet Farms (a school for students with autism), and MathAltitude School of Mathematics have all found that education technology is a superior solution that meets the unique needs of their students. The flexibility of education technology allows these students to learn at their own pace and interact with the content in their own way, making it so they can be more successful in their learning paths.
The Future of EdTech
As we venture now into hybrid learning environments for both work and school, will education technology withstand the pandemic? It’s a no-brainer in my book. Every student, employee, teacher, instructor, and person who uses this type of technology has a specific need. Purpose-built education technology, for teachers by teachers, allows for greater flexibility and increased creativity when it comes to providing education solutions. My hope is that as schools reflect on the past year, the original use case for this technology will only become stronger as businesses and organizations set new standards of learning.
Lee Wilson is a Senior Advisor at VEDAMO, a leading collaborative web conferencing tools provider offering virtual classrooms and learning management systems for educators in language teaching, K-12, vocational training, higher education, corporate and other environments. Contact Lee through the company website.