Education Empowered by Digital Technology

With disruption of the education experience, a survey of some key trends to watch.

GUEST COLUMN | by Anand Subramanian

CREDIT Ness.jpgWe have seen how digital disruption has dominated the educational experience over the past two years. The focus has now shifted from teaching to learning, teacher to learner, blackboards to whiteboards, and on-demand learning to continuous learning. Given this shift, it’s clear digital technologies have opened up fresh and exciting opportunities to improve and enhance the overall learning process.

To start, we have distance learning platforms, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and virtual learning environments that utilize the reach of the Internet to scale the resources of scarce, subject matter experts and extend education to new groups of learners. These platforms also allow teachers to interact with students and other instructors, while students are able to download extra materials and upload completed assignments, among other things.

Those who understand and utilize these forward-thinking technologies can help advance educational approaches.

Another rising alternative in education is flipped classrooms. In this case, the more traditional model of lecture followed by homework is actually flipped. Now, lectures become videos students watch at home, while classroom time is spent on exercises, projects and discussions – all immersive activities.

Thanks to adaptive learning and analytics, instructors are gaining more insight into how well students are navigating online courses and where students may need additional help. Efficacy can be analyzed using responses to questions or other algorithms that compare proficiency versus learning objectives. Then, teachers can adapt and improve courses by focusing on areas where they know reinforcement is needed.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also finding its place within education technology. For example, researchers are currently looking at ways to use gesture-based controls, which send data to Internet-connected devices. This technology could automate many time-consuming, manual activities done today, such as registering attendance. Wearables also provide additional channels to capture data that can be further edited, shared and composed, such as recording practice videos (e.g., students can wear Google Glass while solving a math problem to record the process and provide voice over). These videos can be emailed to parents for students’ practice. You can also record diagnostic videos; students can wear Glass and record activities, like applying certain painting styles or building objects, which allows teachers to review students’ motor skills.

From a visualization perspective, 3D printing now provides learners with newer ways to express their ideas. It’s about creating ideas that convert theory in textbooks into hands-on concepts. Both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) give teachers and learners a whole new dimension to the learning experience. In digital storytelling, VR and AR can make representation and characters more compelling; for example, using VR games to explore the human body or learn how a virus spreads.

Machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence (AI), is another advanced technology generating a more personalized education experience. Enabled systems have the capability to take in new teacher or student assessment data, learn from it and dynamically adjust learner courses to present material to students where more practice is needed, or even schedule meetings with teachers.

Grading systems can use this technique to interpret student behavior based on their responses and from that realign the learning content or assessments. In this case, educational data mining (EDM) can be used to reveal the system usage behavior. A clustering technique can then be applied to characterize the learner’s behavior and define next best educational steps based on what the data reveals.

Those who understand and utilize these forward-thinking technologies can help advance educational approaches. From this, learners will benefit from more compelling and distinct learning experiences, while administrators and educators will possess essential tools for improving outcomes on a continuous basis.

Anand Subramanian is Senior VP for Delivery at Ness Software Engineering Services (SES). With over 20 years of product engineering experience, including specialization in education, publishing, and media, he helps clients conceptualize, develop, and deliver large, complex, and commercially viable products.

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