Creating Better learning experiences with the Right education technology.
Online education may be new, but at the core of it is a primeval phenomenon, learning, which has existed since the beginning of time. Learning is in our DNA, making it one of the most primordial qualities that man has been invested with. The basics of education or learning have always been the same, even when the education landscape witnessed multitudinous changes over time.
From the caveman learning to make tools and hunt, and knowledge being verbally passed on from one generation to another, to brick-and-mortar classrooms and finally to computer and mobile devices, the way learning has been delivered over the years has underwent a sea change. We have surely come a long way.
What’s remained constant in the middle of these sweeping changes, which have taken the education world by storm, is the basic process of gaining and processing knowledge. When any system of education or education technology is built considering this basic fact, the results are encouraging. You get what you set out to achieve in the first place. Learning happens in the true sense of the word.
As it is with the basic learning process that has remained unchanged over the years, a good education technology solution has certain quintessential attributes, which form the core of the solution, irrespective of time and place.
Here are some attributes, which you, as an educator or administrator, should look for in an education technology solution.
Features. What is the mode —self-paced, live, or blended— in which you deliver learning? Make sure the solution you are opting for has features that support your delivery mode and the one that you are likely to use in future. Solution features matter as they allow you to deliver teaching activities seamlessly. Get a trial of the solution before signing up for the solution or getting into any kind of contract with a technology partner. Try out all the features of the solution during the trial, which you are going to use every day. A free solution trial is a no-strings-attached deal. Make the most of it.
Remember, it takes time to migrate to a technology solution and possibly even more time and money to transition to another one if you find out later that you are saddled with the wrong solution, which doesn’t suit your teaching and training needs.
Global Reach. One of the reasons why education technology or online education is so insanely popular today because it allows educators to reach out to learners globally. While considering a technology solution, pay attention to the popularity of the platform among educators and learners. You need to know about the users of the platform and where they are located. Are they located in a region where your learners or potential learners are? Is it popular among the learners globally? These are some of the questions that you should have clear answers to.
Remember, the platform or solution you choose could be the springboard for your education brand, enabling it to become global. Ensure that the platform that you are considering has a considerable number of active users who are likely to know your brand and use your instructional content.
Scalability. If you see your education business thriving in future, you need a scalable solution, which supports your expansion plans by addressing the teaching and learning needs of the growing number of learners and educators in your organization. The technology infrastructure of your technology partner goes a long way in deciding the scalability of the solution.
Has your technology partner deployed servers at multiple locations that can support a large number of users simultaneously, not to mention a huge amount of content? Does your partner use the latest technology and provide a secure online environment to share information? Basically, you need to evaluate the technology side of things to ascertain that you don’t hit the wall because of obsolete technology at the crucial moment when your organization is on the verge of breaking the growth barrier.
Data, Analytics and Insights. As the number of users (teachers and learners) in your organization increase, it becomes exceedingly difficult for you to manually track the performance of your teaching programs (online courses and classes). To ensure the growth and success of your enterprise, you need to continuously and accurately measure the performance of your learners and the efficacy of your teaching staff. This is only possible if your technology solution aggregates the user data and presents it in an easy-to-consume format (graphs, dashboards, reports, and more), which can used to make improvements to your existing processes.
A good technology solution gives you deep insights into learner engagement and behavior. It provides you with data on content consumed by learners for every online course and class, thus helping you know how engaged your learners are. This information also enables you to address individual learning needs and challenges by designing custom learning programs, thereby ensuring learner success. Based on the insights gained from the data, you can even make changes to your own teaching approach to better suit the learning style of your learners.
Pricing. Okay, so you know what you are signing up for, that is so say, you have evaluated the solution in terms of features and other aspects. Pricing is the next thing to consider. Is the solution worth the amount of money you are spending? Are there flexible subscription plans available to meet your needs at every stage of business? In addition to considering the cost-effectiveness of the solution at the current business stage, you need to see if the solution will be financially viable as your business grows. Moreover, you should avoid an incongruously long-term contract with your technology partner. Technology changes quite fast. So, you need to see if your technology partner shows an ongoing commitment to investing in the latest technology. Contracts can always be renewed.
Usability. The technology solution may be great from a technical standpoint. However, it’s useless if the end users can’t make head or tail of it. Make sure that the users in your organization don’t have to deal with complex technology to accomplish their goals. The success of any technology relies heavily on how effortlessly and effectively users are able to use it. In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the solution is not simple enough to use, it’s probably not worth your time and money.
Support. Make sure your technology partner provides 24/7 support to users in your organization. If you teach online, you would have learners across geographies (and time zones). You would want to deliver learning to those learners seamlessly without any technical glitches at any time of the day. This would require uninterrupted functioning of the technology and a technical team to support users round the clock. Ensure that your technology partner has a dedicated support team providing this kind of support to users in your organization.
The users of education technology have realized real benefits and considerably improved the way teaching and learning happens. Ed tech has been there for a while now and is likely to be there for the foreseeable future. Our increasing reliance on technology for almost every single thing, including education, is a testament to the fact that technology will continue to influence (in a positive way) how we teach and learn.
However, choosing the right technology when there is a plethora of solutions available is an art. If you are in the business of (online) education, you need to be a practitioner of this art. Just like any form of art, it requires deep understanding of the subject, introspection, and fine execution.