The Future of Education: 3 Ways Educators Are Innovating for Students

08/12/2017 08:31 pm ET

The education industry could be called one of the oldest, certainly, the most enduring industries, as it’s great institutions like Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge have hundreds of years of history and are still going strong.

Despite the digital revolution virtually crushing every industry that didn’t shift to meet changing demands, the education industry has stood firm, which points to a special formula for success that is worth observing, especially when considering what the future of the industry might look like.

For example, many pundits heralded the end of the traditional university when open educational resources first started gaining steam in 1994. Despite those predictions, the top institutions in the U.S. are growing in size. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics predicts, “Undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase by 14 percent (from 17.0 million to 19.3 million students) between 2015 and 2026.”

One reason is these institutions are using digital technologies to help augment their services and increase their reach. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) have become a major resource for people interested in subjects but not ready to foot the bill for a full fledged university education. While boutique education sites like Udemy, Khan Academy, and other are gaining in popularity, (58 million students across the growing industry) the growth of the American university system demonstrates that there is still a demand for traditional education, as long as they have digital modernizations.

Why Educational Institutions are Still Standing

One of the reasons educational institutions are still strong despite complete upheaval in other industries is because the basic principles behind education haven’t changed. Information has to be delivered to learners by experts, text books, and guided research, all of which the university is best suited to handle.

Pedagogy, also known as the philosophy of education, is a study that has been developed over millennia and therefore has stood the test of technological upheaval. That isn’t to say that technology isn’t making waves in education. Many innovative thinkers are using technology to solve difficult challenges for students and educators alike. These innovators will help guide the education industry into a new wave of success and solidify their place in the digital age.

Top EdTech Innovations

While EdTech startups and ideas abound, the ones most likely to gain footing and make real change in the industry will be those that solve problems for students and educators. They will also need to be closely tied into the aspects of education that have helped it endure so much change.

The following are some of the drivers of change in education that are helping reduce cost, improve outcomes, and flatten the industry.

Bringing Textbooks to the Digital Age

While textbooks have been at the center of most students’ learning, the seemingly unstoppable rise of textbook prices has created a demand for more affordable options. Alastair Adam, co-CEO at digital textbook publisher FlatWorld, explains, “We take a somewhat contrarian view, in that we believe that the underlying utility of authoritative, peer-reviewed, structured and sequenced content - i.e. the modern textbook - hasn't suddenly evaporated. It’s simply that prices are too high.”

That’s where digital solutions can make a big difference. The key is not a complete conversion to digital educational resources, but rather leveraging the digital revolution to upend publishing norms and reduce the cost for students. The other goal is to put educators in the driver’s seat when it comes to content creation. Adams goes on to say, “We see the educator continuing to be the catalyst or accelerant at the heart of that process. So, technology should focus on helping the instructor, leveraging their knowledge, skill, and dedication, rather than simply seeking to automate them away.” Textbooks, in principle, still make sense for educators and students alike, they simply need a digital makeover.

By simplifying publishing and using digital textbooks to streamline updates and new editions, these companies are able to significantly reduce the cost of textbooks, while making them more useful for professors, and more engaging for students. They’re also helping reduce the barriers to entry for new writers and experts who otherwise couldn’t afford the costly and slow moving print publishing process.

Using Tech to Track Student Engagement

As classroom sizes grow nationwide, educators are faced with the problem of tracking individual performance which can leave some students lost in the crowd, not receiving critical help or resources that are available to them. Fortunately, a number of educators are partnering with developers to think of new ways to track student engagement and identify problems before they become serious.

Early entrants into this market were higher ed ERP’s, like Blackboard and Banner. These industry vets and other innovative startups are now looking for new ways to track performance in the classroom, many of which include online participation, and tracking test performance with homework completion and scoring.

AI For Educators AI is a promising technology in every industry. Everyone is buzzing about its potential to automate costly processes and reduce costs. For educators, AI and machine learning technologies represent a great opportunity to sift through massive amounts of data to identify large trends as well as specific student needs.

The hope is that through the use of AI educators could provide more bespoke information delivery to students to better meet their individual needs and learning styles. While few such solutions exist at the present moment, the rapid pace of development in the AI sector will make it possible to develop these kinds of solutions soon, and early entrants into the market will be poised to drive real change in the system.

Educational Outlook and Predictions

So what can be expected in the coming years?

  • Textbooks will become more digitally integrated, and while print won’t disappear entirely, it will take a backseat to digital options that are lower cost and more agile.
  • Decrease in the price of education as a result of tech innovation and market demand.
  • More educators will begin using technology to track student performance and identify educational obstacles.
  • The use of AI, machine learning, and big data will become more prevalent to tailor educational experiences to individual student needs.

It’s clear that while technology hasn’t reinvented the education system, it does have the potential to empower students and educators like never before. By providing out of the box solutions to old problems, EdTech innovators are helping reduce costs, and increase access to information for students around the world.

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