The digital education platforms shaping schools and colleges today
When the world’s children and students had to transition to home schooling in 2020, the potential of digital education was unleashed – as its failings were highlighted. In many instances, schools and educational institutions were able to respond to the sudden change in circumstances very quickly. Lectures were delivered via video, collaborative platforms continued the college community online, and work was submitted, discussed, marked, and returned digitally. Despite some success stories, there were too many failures, with students still engaged in legal battles to recoup what they considered to be wasted tuition fees. For the K12 education sector, only time will tell what the long-term implications of failed online learning might be as children grow up with large sections of their education badly delivered or missing altogether.
The pandemic came at a point when, theoretically, digital tools would be ready to enable online learning. Although not entirely the right fit, many educators managed to leverage tools out of the box (like Zoom and YouTube) to at least get some semblance of education in place rapidly. Many schools and colleges had been using technology in some areas already – submission of assignments and school students’ termly reports online, for example. These facilities continued and were extended.
Post-COVID realities and disparities
Since the return to classrooms and lecture theaters, the lessons of online learning shouldn’t be forgotten. Some tools from the business world, where remote work is more embedded, have been shown to be suitable for an educational context. The educators of the world now have the tools they need to deliver digital learning and a potential audience that’s already had two years’ experience of learning online. Students of all ages are accustomed to interacting digitally with staff and peers and adapting their learning hours and patterns to better fit education into their lives.
There were and remain some disparities in the basics of technology that gave students different experiences of online learning, and today’s technology can help address the divide between those that have the technology available (like a laptop at home) and those that don’t. Virtual desktop environments served from the cloud, for instance, can give every student a high-end workstation complete with powerful graphics and processing capabilities, regardless of resources available at home. Better compression of networked traffic (such as video and audio) means that even those with modest internet connection speeds can participate fully.
Extending the paradigm
In some ways, schools and colleges’ return to in-person teaching has highlighted the historical anachronism they present; ranks of children and college students focused on a single figure at the front of the room. Technology has always had the ability to fire the imaginations of innovators, and there are more ways to learn today than in the pre-digital world. In time, teaching methods will (hopefully) take the place of some of our more archaic practices. In this article, we’d like to focus on three platforms and technology vendors that are producing education solutions today for tomorrow’s educators.
The elephant in the room in any article of this nature is virtual or augmented reality solutions. Our decision not to include a specific vendor of those technologies comes down to the questions of cost, state of advancement of the tech, and practicality. VR equipment’s cost remains (for many) prohibitively high, and the hardware is still cumbersome and impractical for extended use. Many schools and colleges worldwide have invested in a classroom or two’s-worth of VR headsets, but few educators have access to a full curriculum deliverable by VR.
The following vendors offer platforms and specific solutions that are proven effective and can be leveraged at levels of education, with varied resources at their disposal. There will remain the issue of acceptance by educators and their supporting administration of new technology but persuading educational professionals to adapt and adopt technology in their institutions is, unfortunately, outside of the remit of mere technology journalists!
MonsoonSIM is a unique pedagogy combining simulation and gamification. It focuses on a specific subject: business studies. MonsoonSIM allows students to participate in advanced, AI-powered business simulations that faithfully replicate the environments and challenges faced “out there” in today’s businesses.
There are multiple verticals and industries on which students can concentrate, including the service industry, management, supply chain, and many more. The platform gamifies everyday business practices, enabling students to work alone or in teams with other students as virtual work colleagues. Together, they make decisions and see where those decisions may take them.
Groups can compete with one another online, emulating competition in a challenging vertical and providing invaluable experience to the next generation of business leaders. In each “company,” there are over a dozen departments, so students can work in finance, operations, marketing, HR, and so on, fully exploring the number of roles available to graduates and school leavers in just about any context.
The back-end algorithms ensure a highly realistic working simulation that ensures graduates can hit the ground running as they begin (or further) their careers in the workplace, real or remote.
For teachers and lecturers, there’s an extensive back end where they can plan and oversee lessons and results, keeping learners on track and results metrics on an improving arc.
To learn more about MonsoonSIM, we take a deeper dive in an article that will be appearing in the next couple of weeks. Check back here for news, or, in the meantime, head over to the company’s website, or to learn more about the product, register for their webinar here.
As one of the biggest names in technology today, Lenovo has significant resources at its disposal that can attend to educational solutions. Regardless of which technology platforms any educational institution might use, it likely involves Lenovo hardware and know-how.
From lightweight yet powerful and low-cost laptops suitable for classroom use (running ChromeOS, for example) to large storage arrays capable of storing huge media libraries and terabytes of scientific data, the Chinese company’s presence is and will be strongly felt in the education sector.
Of particular interest to many educators is the company’s virtualized desktop environments, the perfect way every child or student can access the latest “hardware” online. Depending on the tasks at hand, students can be given access to simple interfaces that contain the basics of a web browser and word processor or a fully configured computational powerhouse complete with gigabytes of memory and unlimited storage. The beauty of a VDI (virtual desktop instance SHALAR) is that these resources require no upfront investment from the school or college and can be reconfigured on the fly, from lesson to lesson, lecture to lecture. The results are that every student can be suitably equipped for every task, yet the college never needs to over- or under-invest in equipment, software licenses, or infrastructure.
Lenovo’s position as a global provider of solutions to both consumers and business means it can leverage its economies of scale in areas like collaborative software platforms and infrastructure, ensuring that complete communities can happily co-exist online and in real life.
To find out more about the possibilities from Lenovo, visit the company’s specialist web pages for educators, students, and schoolchildren.
Duolingo needs no introduction to anyone who’s flicked through the options available on the Google Play and Apple App stores. It’s one of the first choices of anyone hoping to learn an additional language and is a wildly popular choice among students and teachers alike.
For educators, the company offers Duolingo for Schools, an additional add-on layer for teachers that collects students’ progress through the Duolingo courses, offering structured assignment frameworks for staff and rich gamified content for learners. Languages range from common choices such as English, French, Mandarin, and Japanese to more minority languages such as Finnish, Bahasa, or Portuguese.
Many teachers of foreign languages all over the world already use Duolingo for Schools, as the app in children’s and students’ hands creates a digitally native mode of learning, one that’s second nature to many young people growing up in 2022. By taking advantage of the medium through which many young people already spend much of their day interacting, schools can catapult their language teaching forward, making languages fun, immersive, and engaging.
To find out more about Duolingo for Schools, follow this link.
*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia
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