EdTech: Finding its time to shine during coronavirus lockdown

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In the wake of the coronavirus crisis and resulting lockdown, educational technology has come into its own as a way to manage school closures as well as enable personal and professional development for everyone, despite self-isolation.

Jessica Jackson, Investment Director at GC Angels, discusses how EdTech is innovating through COVID-19.

 

EdTech has a crucial role to play in ensuring that schools, universities and workplaces deliver learning and training through means that resonate across generations and are intended to augment existing in-person delivery. 

Most of us have probably used digital training at work or in our personal lives, perhaps to learn a second language (we’ve all dabbled with Duolingo from time to time) or even how to code.

Yet as we enter this unchartered territory of lockdown at home, without access to the classroom, educational institutions and training delivery businesses have had to fully rely on technology as a means of delivery. That is, if they were even using any at all.

Joe Wicks has been delivering PE lessons over his YouTube channel live stream to get kids (and adults) active during the COVID-19 lockdown, ensuring that we get 30 mins of activity a day to keep ourselves sane. 

But how are schools delivering their curriculum? How will universities justify course fees for students studying remotely, and more importantly, deliver content that is engaging and augments learning over and above reading textbooks? How are we all keeping in touch with our workforce to check up on their mental wellbeing before we consider digital delivery to train our teams?

Thankfully, organisations already working with educational institutions and workplaces were poised to support in these key areas and are already working hard to meet the rise in demand.

Immersify Education is a company building the next generation of immersive content for universities using AR and due to release its first app in April for students studying dentistry. While universities were already seeking new ways to deliver education in order to accelerate students’ learning capabilities and improve how they are teaching the curriculum, they probably didn't expect students to have to suddenly work remotely. This gradual shift in universities changing their teaching mechanisms has now become an overnight reality.

Chloe Barrett, CEO and Founder of Immersify Education: “We know from our own research that universities were already seeking new ways to deliver education and improve outcomes alongside more traditional delivery. What was a gradual shift has now become an overnight expectation for the ability to study remotely. Universities are very keen to maintain the high standard of content they can provide during contact hours, but the content that is readily available online isn’t aligned with their curriculum and is often from questionable sources.

"Using gamification and AR, we’re able to deliver something that will really change things up and resonate with the modern student. We will be launching a free application with a selection of our lessons from expert authors onto Android and iOS to support students through this difficult time.”

Those of us with younger children will be feeling the strain of looking after them during lockdown, trying to work alongside them, and adapting to home schooling. With little to no standard technology provisions across schools nationally, many parents are getting creative with how they deliver lessons in this crisis. But what about the aspects of school that always end up coming home? 

When it comes to cyberbullying, being at home is sadly not a barrier. In light of the recent COVID-19 measures relation to schools, Tootoot’s founder Michael Brennan made some really quick decisions to get Tootoot ready to work for kids at home and make some changes to the user interface to make sure messaging functionality was prominent and easy to access.

The business has also launched a wealth of teaching resources specifically for teaching from home, as well as supporting children with mental health issues and anxiety. Tootoot is seeing a surge in schools requesting support, with customers such as Ince CE Primary School commenting on how essential the tool would prove to be in coming months. This has allowed schools to proactively send messages to vulnerable pupils to let them know someone is thinking of them and support is available.

Tootoot has also recently launched a version of its tool for businesses, called Stribe. Recognising the need for businesses to support employees who are remotely working in these uncertain times, the tool has been launched to give managers a simple way to understand what their employees care about and give them a way to talk.

Michael Brennan, CEO and Founder of Tootoot: “We have always worked with the mindset that a child’s worries or concerns don’t stop at the school gates, and we’re pleased to be in a position to help schools support their children during this worrying time.” 

Finally, it’s important not to overlook the education and skills gap in the workforce and the need for continual training, as well as upskilling. With many organisations required to retrain staff annually, and with others seeking to onboard large volumes of team members immediately, it’s crucial SMEs and larger organisations can do this remotely and as simply as possible.

Following the launch of its new e-learning authoring tool at the Learning Technology Conference earlier this year, Bolton-based Near-Life has already received huge interest from organisations seeking solutions to deliver internal training to their staff.

Near-Life’s CREATOR allows users to build and publish interactive video scenarios for learning in a simple, effective way. Although procurement across the board for large organisations has been heavily uncertain, Near-Life is confident and has already seen indications that the market will rapidly realise the value of being able to deliver training built-in house to relevant workforce segments remotely.

Mike Todd, CEO of Near-Life: “This crisis has come at a time of huge change for the Ed Tech and learning technologies landscape. Traditional e-learning was simply about providing users with information. We are now entering a new era of more immersive and interactive learning.

"Not only do learners find it more engaging but research has shown that it improves knowledge retention. We believe this period of remote working will only accelerate these recent trends.”

But what does this mean for EdTech as a sector? It’s more critical than ever that we have digital solutions, not just as optional content to access outside of the classroom or the office, not even as a critical part of business interruption planning - though this is crucial - but as a way of evolving how businesses interact with its disparate workforce.

With many businesses now solidly staring down the barrel of the remote working gun, there'll be a huge shift in how we perceive productivity and remote working as a society. Digital training tools and remote learning methodologies will be waiting in the wings, continually evolving, ready to empower us all.