The nature of human life, its endeavors, and its pursuits are being overhauled or reconfigured by the presence and advancement of technology. This applies to how we work, interact, live, and learn. If there is one area that has seen significant change- and has needed it- it is education. The digital experience is transforming education in a number of ways, including how it is delivered, who it is delivered to, and who does the delivery. This transformation is happening because of some trends supported by key technologies. These trends are numerous and evolving, and this article will focus on five of them:
- Gamification and Game-based Learning
- Remote Learning and Accessibility
- Personalized Learning
- Redesigned Spaces and Educational Devices
This refers to Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality. These are digital technologies that involve varying levels of digital immersion applied in the real world. It allows the user to interact with the created environment and its use has become increasingly popular in a number of areas, from game development to ecommerce.
In education, these technologies are being used to improve the learning experience, by placing learners in environments that improve their understanding of different concepts, introducing them to learners, and training them on different skills. Google for example has virtual tours and exhibitions freely available to learners on its Arts and Cultures site, and it presents it as an opportunity for students to access visual experiences they might not otherwise be able to because of location or other constraints.
In terms of training, there are a number of companies which apply the technologies to improve the performance of staff. In the automotive industry, companies like BMW are employing VR and AR to train their employees. BMW’s use involves training on prototyping and design, using realistic environments, and feedback from the process to improve the process. In finance, Bank of America is employing VR that integrates Artificial Intelligence to an extent, to teach staff tasks as basic as opening accounts to more complex ones like providing customer service.
Gamification and Game-Based Learning
Games are part of the growing-up experience. The 20th century made them digital, with early video games being developed in the 1950s and 1960s. While the value has mostly been in entertainment for players and revenue/income for developers and companies, our understanding of its value has expanded today with gamification and game-based learning.
Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. These contexts include website, online community, learning management systems and business. The purpose is usually to encourage participation as well as improve learning by using a method that is both engaging and entertaining. In education, game elements like completing tasks, scoring points, solving problems and increasing levels of difficulty are integrated into the process.
Game-based learning on the other hand is more digital oriented and it is the use of games to teach. While gamification introduces elements of gaming into the process, game-based learning uses games as the method of delivery. These games can be real-life, board games, or games using digital technology. There are a number of platforms that provide game-based learning, including EdApp, and Archylearning. The features available include quizzes, real-time performance management, video modules, and games, of course.
Pollicy is an organization working at the intersection of design, data, and technology, to redesign government for citizens. Its work includes the use of game-based learning to educate people on a range of issues within its scope. This includes interactive games like “Digital Safetea”, and “Choose Your Own Fake News”.
Remote Learning and Accessibility
Learners are no longer limited to the physical classrooms they can access and this has become possible because of the technologies that support remote learning. They include the internet, cloud computing, AI, and devices such as computers and mobile. Anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they have connectivity and access to a device can learn from a massive number of platforms, courses, and instructors. Remote learning can be as simple as USSD-based applications that are used on mobile devices, to structured online classes or programs that can include video conferencing and live virtual training.
Remote learning is being used by individuals, traditional school systems, and organizations. Individual learners can register for courses for personal development. Schools are either creating online courses which are made available to their students or those outside and using courses produced by others to teach. Paid courses are a source of revenue for instructors and institutions who develop course content, as well as the platforms which host them.
Closely related is accessibility, which is simply about breaking down barriers to accessing learning resources. It involves solutions like providing cheaper mobile devices, simpler technologies that work where network coverage is poor, and even tools like text-to-speech which target people with disabilities like visual impairment. Accessibility focuses on leveraging remote learning to improve learning and educational outcomes for people who are excluded by traditional systems.
Our upcoming Knowledge Paper “ Exponential Technologies for the Bottom Billion” is a deep dive into the subject, including how technology is shaping education and how it can transform the experience and outcomes for the world’s poorest people.
People are different, in any number of ways, including how they learn. Educational systems are acknowledging and responding to this by designing learning experiences based on an assessment of students’ needs, skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
Personalization can mean that the curriculum is tailored to each student, or students are categorized based on similarities and taught in a way that is best suited to them. This takes a number of forms like one-on-one tutoring, mentorship, online courses and even the results that Google provides from your searches, Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers an even more advanced approach to creating personalized learning experiences, and its application can be seen not just in traditional school settings, but also in corporate environments. AI is able to assess the strengths and gaps of learners to deliver tailored instructions which adapt to their progress.
Further Reading in What Curriculum Innovation is and Why it is Everybody’s Concern
Eneza Education is a social enterprise in Africa that is using AI to tutor millions of rural students in Kenya, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. Eneza aims to make 50 million rural students in Africa smarter by using low-cost mobile technology. Its virtual tutor provides content on SMS and web for primary and secondary students in all subjects; It recorded a 23% improvement in student’s performance after using its platform for 9 months. Its iEduk platform also gives students access to teachers, they can chat with them and ask them questions every day during a set period. The company works with mobile operators like Orange group and MTN to enable students to pay for content using airtime. (excerpt from the upcoming Knowledge Paper)
Redesigned Spaces and Educational Devices
Physical educational spaces are being redesigned to integrate and optimize the use of digital technology. Besides mobile devices and computers for learning, there are also a number of other devices which are designed for educational purposes. These devices can either be for delivering educational content, or for administrative purposes like taking attendance or keeping school records. From putting smart devices like smart boards and smart desks into classrooms to redesigning universities to informal learning campus spaces, these changes facilitate collaboration and cooperation that will mirror future workplaces.
With educational devices, there are both advantages and disadvantages. While these devices allow for flexibility, remote and personalized learning, expert views and research point towards a need to understand how device use (time spent, instructor/student, and applications) affects learning outcomes and adapt based on insights.
As man’s interaction with technology continues to increase, and as both continue to shape each other, digital citizenship is a key area that must become a part of learning in the 21st century. It refers to the responsible use of the internet by people and it is being integrated into school curriculums and a number of courses are available on the subject matter.
9 elements are identified as constituting digital citizenship; digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security.
Efforts to ensure responsible internet use need to be scaled up, to reach the billions of people who use the internet but do not understand digital citizenship, as well as the next billion people who will be coming on the internet for the first time. The digital trends that are transforming education are also useful tools for getting this job done.