Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the term “new normal” over the past 18 months, as many of us have tried to imagine what a post-pandemic world will look like. We’ve already seen major changes to healthcare, travel and hospitality, with these industries having to innovate in order to survive. However, disruptive technology in the education space has yet to be recognized and embraced in-full, with the assumption that students will prefer to return to school and resume learning as we’ve known it for the last 100-plus years. This notion really doesn’t give kids the credit they deserve as young people who are some of the most forward looking, adaptable and ambitious amongst us. The shift to virtual learning has been a major driver of edtech innovation which is one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this, I believe students now have the tools along with the drive to aim higher than a return to “normal” and are capable of creating an exceptional future for education.
We’ve known for decades what kids need to thrive – personalized support that allows for them to grow and learn in their own unique ways: I agree that there is a difference between “learning” and “being taught”. Prior to the pivot to virtual learning, students had direct access to teachers and other students to collaborate and succeed together. However, the pandemic and shift to virtual learning changed the playbook entirely, access and interaction was limited, and outcomes reflected that. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Co. showed that K-12 students had fallen behind five months on average, with the future impact assessed to cost each individual between $49,000 to $61,000 over their lifetimes.
As students return to school this year, two major questions remain: how do we help those who’ve fallen behind catch up, and how can we future-proof the learning experience to be more adaptable for the next generation, while also remaining mindful of new potential disruptions, which could be caused by future pandemics, disruptions during infrastructure improvements, staffing challenges, or even environmental incidents. Students are eager to embrace multiple pillars of support and leverage new tech, AI and machine learning solutions to buffer against disruptive events and enhance the classroom experience. This has been the focus of the next wave of new edtech platforms, providing students with multiple avenues for support, learning and collaboration.
Future Proofing Learning to Come Back Stronger
Many edtech platforms such as Coursera, Khanacademy and Brainly surged in popularity during the recent period of remote learning, and we should expect them to stick around. That’s because these platforms don’t seek to replace or stand-in for traditional learning processes but instead work to enhance them. More than ever, students are embracing technology to solve some of the biggest challenges they’ve faced in school all along and are approaching the future of learning as a hybrid experience. This future will see students collaborating outside of school with kids across the globe on various platforms, working through study roadblocks in collaborative and digital peer-to-peer settings. With these tools they’ll be able to go from frustration to understanding, at their own pace and on their own time.
In the past this kind of supplementary support was provided by way of in-person tutoring, for the privileged few, allowing students to work through challenges with experts and stay ahead on coursework. However, tech platforms have revolutionized this kind of access for a new generation, allowing students to receive support through collaborative, on-demand crowd sourcing products. edtech platforms are now giving students tools to connect with live, expert support whenever and wherever they need it most, making costly, pre-scheduled tutor sessions a thing of the past. Brainly Tutor specifically connects users with experts in seconds and is available via an affordable subscription giving an even larger cross section of students access to expert subject-matter help.
Empowering Students With New Tech Tools
Can any student thrive when given command of all the resources they need for study? Absolutely. Can tech help disadvantaged students catch up with their privileged peers, when given access to the support they need whenever they need it? For certain. Technology can democratize education in ways that weren’t possible before. With students all learning at their own pace and juggling school work with busy schedules of extra-curricular activities, edtech platforms are giving kids more personalized control of when and how they learn.
With some of the biggest platforms in edtech now counting hundreds of millions of users across the globe within their communities, economies of scale coupled with innovative AI technology can connect students with the support they need instantly. Platforms which also leverage machine learning solutions are now able to help students get ahead of coursework with predictive content offered in tandem with in-class curriculum.
There is a saying that “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” This is especially true for how we set up kids for learning. Returning to the idea of “learning” versus “being taught”, the next generation of edtech platforms are about empowering kids to know where their resources are, before they’re even needed. Giving kids opportunities to bring down walls and open doors on their own helps them bypass bottlenecks caused by the pandemic, and the limitations of education as per usual.
The pandemic may well be a once in a generation disruption to education, but it does have some silver linings. It was a catalyst for rapid adoption of edtech platforms that are set to continue supporting students upon their return to in-person learning. I believe the pandemic has revealed just how resourceful and ingenuitive kids really are at creating the kind of future they want to live in. Students have embraced a whole new suite of tools that they’ll have at their disposal for the rest of their education, which helps them push beyond average into exceptional.