Joy Chen is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at GSV Venture. She also serves as an independent director of Class Acceleration Corp (NYSE: CLAS.U) and the global executive advisor for TAL (NYSE: TAL). Joy is passionate about giving more people equal access to the future through education.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.
One of the most powerful ways to transform a person’s life is to provide access to quality education. More and more educators and learners have realized that traditional classroom-based learning has a low level of scalability as it’s constrained by the physical infrastructure of resources, class size, location, and accessibility.
In recent decades, we have seen the power of technology not only change the way we live, work, and interact with each other, but also make it possible for the transformation of traditional classroom-based learning. EdTech is on a solid growth trajectory thanks to the combination of high-speed internet connections, robust digital platforms, compelling digital content, plummeting costs of data and devices and the emergence of adaptive learning. All of this innovation and change has fundamentally transformed traditional classroom-based learning. EdTech makes highly flexible and scalable online learning possible.
The downsides of on-demand learning
Delivering training through an online platform allows educators to provide learning to students whenever and wherever they are. However, it has not always been a smooth journey for online education. Years ago, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) emerged as the new way to reach the masses with educational materials. But so far, they have failed to maintain learners’ attention over the long term. While MOOCs have attracted tens of thousands of learners, very few stick around and the course completion rate remains very low. A 2018 Columbia University’s Teachers College study on edX and Coursera courses shows that MOOC Certificate programs have a completion rate of 15% or less. The situation has remained largely static. A recent 2019 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that over the past five years, online courses recorded an astronomical average dropout rate of about 96%.
One of the many reasons why the MOOC model failed is the lack of online live engagement. The modern MOOC—without live and interactive teacher engagement—is essentially an internet version of a textbook. Most of the MOOCs only provide recorded audio and videos which allows for student passivity, leading to the unsatisfactory performance experienced by many MOOC learners.
New opportunities for scaling real-time learning
More recently, together with the increase of broadband penetration, new technologies have disrupted the education market with more adaptive and mature digital learning solutions. One of the most effective ways to provide high-quality digital learning programs at scale is through the use of live audio and video technologies for synchronous learning. This approach has been far more successful at driving impactful education outcomes at scale.
Live, synchronous learning can better engage students compared to MOOCs through real-time feedback from teachers, real-time project-based learning, group discussion, team competitions, etc. By leveraging leading-edge live video and audio, technology now can create an active online learning experience which engages students in the process of learning through activities and discussions in the live online classroom, as opposed to passively listening to a recording.
There are three main real-time online classroom scenarios:
- In a one-to-one classroom scenario, an online teacher gives an exclusive lesson to only one student, and both can interact in real time. This typical one-to-one scenario can find uses in online tutoring, language lessons, music lessons, and more.
- In a Small Classroom scenario, a teacher gives an online lesson to multiple students.
- In a Lecture Hall scenario, thousands of students watch an online lecture and students can “raise their hand” to interact directly with the teacher.
These advanced technologies have ensured a smooth audio and video experience in all these three kinds of synchronous online classrooms. They can provide high-quality audio and high-definition live video while ensuring there is no delay in the transmission to minimize the freeze rate and dropped calls.
In addition to audio and video communication, these synchronous online classrooms can allow for real-time messaging, and allow teachers to share PowerPoint slides, Word or PDF files, or audio/video file with students synchronously. In the one-to-one classroom and small classrooms, teachers and students can even write things collaboratively on a whiteboard in the virtual online classroom.
Besides more engagement during the synchronous online class, these technologies have increased the efficiency of the process of teaching and giving student feedback while allowing educators more time to focus on areas of greatest need. Now educators from large urban to small rural districts can connect and collaborate with experts and peers from around the world to form online professional learning communities.
The pandemic and global lockdowns propelled EdTech into the mainstream and into the spotlight. While the initial abrupt shift to remote learning was extremely challenging, it forced EdTech to improve learning platforms to make the process much easier for both students and educators across the world. The rapid adoption of interactive online learning together with an enormous investment in hardware, software, content, and training helped to make online learning an effective education model, not just a temporary solution. While online learning became essential to fill the education gaps during this unprecedented period of time, it is here to stay as an integral part of future classrooms.
Thoughtful education technology can improve learning outcomes at scale
When carefully designed and thoughtfully applied, education technology can accelerate, amplify, and expand the impact of effective teaching practices. By staying on top of the EdTech trends, education companies will get the boost they need in scaling up. By leveraging proven education technologies such as live video and audio, education providers can improve the scalability and accessibility of high-quality education.
Over time EdTech can fulfill the promise of delivering high quality, low-cost education to the more leaners. Exploring new learning models, creating new digital learning environments, and designing more effective learning approaches will help companies to effectively scale on a global level.
Satisfying online learning experience enabled by technology requires a robust infrastructure. Key elements of this infrastructure include not only high-speed connectivity and devices and comprehensive digital learning content, but also educators who have the knowledge and skills to take full advantage of technology-rich learning environments. It is essential to have thoughtful, reflective innovators in the education field work collaboratively with each other and alongside the students and teachers to make technology an even more effective learning tool. Interested in learning more: Keep Your Virtual Classroom Solution In Sync.