A look at the increasing demand for online education platforms and their responses

For the last few years, distance education and online classes have been on the rise with technology assisting the reach of anyone anywhere. While this saw a gradual increase, with the impact of COVID – 19, the entire world seems to be jumping into the online coaching model from schools to colleges to dance classes to workout sessions and what not? The internet is being used at its maximum potential. The most benefiting of all these is the EdTech industry proving its importance and relevance every day.

Countries are going into lockdown for even months together and it is the responsibility of the EdTech industry to step up and deliver now. Experts even believe that an entire generation of learners could depend on EdTech, given the current situation. There are schools and colleges still learning to adapt to this change and this is the gap to be filled effectively by EdTech companies. As of January 2020, there were 14 EdTech unicorn companies all over the world.

Before this, EdTech was a supplement to the existing schooling system and also optional. It is now becoming the new normal with deciding on the societal benefits and progress even during a global crisis. Education is one industry that hasn’t stopped functioning during the pandemic and in fact, has seen an upward curve in usage and profitability.

Luring the customers

While the customers have innumerable options, the market has definitely become more competitive than before. At this stage, several start-ups are attracting investors if they have a promising and competitive edge over similar products. This also provides an opportunity for students who have only followed traditional schooling to experience online education. When they go beyond the four walls of the classrooms, it opens a chance for them to explore more by themselves. This also brings teachers out of their moulds and adjust scheduling according to the new methods.

How possible is mass adoption of EdTech in Canada?

Historically speaking, EdTech has faced both boom and bust with time. In 2014, Michael Trucano, a World Bank specialist in education and technology opined that the world needed “tipping points” to resort to EdTech. Though his reference was to the SARS epidemic, a pandemic like COVID – 19 could very well fit into the argument. Now that the situation demands mass adoption of EdTech, companies and investors have that as their current vision because of the demand. So, mass adoption is the ultimate vision all these companies carry in their minds now. EdTech in Canada has seen gradual rise since 2012. However, now is the time to see massive surge in the numbers.

Is this only a crisis response?

Though the world will “go back” to its old self, from now, in cases of any such emergency, it would be easier for immediate and quick adoption of online sessions. Even after this is over, the number of people preferring this would be on the rise. Though the long-term impact is unclear, there is definitely a chance for EdTech to ingrain themselves in the minds of the consumers by making education fun and easy.

For instance, an app called Bridge Classroom started with the primary aim to connect teachers, parents, students and the school management on one platform. With increase in demand, the app now involves teachers including external study resources like blogs, videos and other materials. The aim to bring all stakeholders in the academia was resolved with this app. This would work fine in both traditional and online class set ups.

Mindshare Learning is another app that allows external sources to be included as part of the education, as decided by the teachers.

What are the current issues?

A recent research study suggests that students are less likely to drop out of traditional schooling systems but are more likely to avoid digital classes. There are also higher chances of students involving in malpractices and lack of concentration during online sessions. Though there have been mixed responses from students, it should be remembered that education must be inclusive and engaging. A recent study, focusing on schools in the US suggested that virtual schools are less likely to be effective if the poor performance of students are not reasoned and corrected. Such emotional connection with the students becomes lesser with less personal interaction with teachers or mentors.

From this discussion, one cannot ignore the importance of being ready with digital education platforms at all times. An integration of both, as seen in Bridge Classroom, would make it easier to engage all students. A crisis brings out the best in an industry like EdTech. When the world needs, technology should deliver. What was only a growing industry is now a necessity. However, to cater to all the needs of the students, more emotional support like availability of an online counselor should be the way forward.

This should not remain an education only platform. Another perspective from which these platforms should think is that they can include even students with learning disabilities as this lets them take their own time to learn and adopt to the “normal” schooling systems and not depend on special needs schools.