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An Insight into Educational Technology

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“Education is evolving due to the impact of the Internet. We cannot teach our students in the same manner in which we were taught. Change is necessary to engage students not in the curriculum we are responsible for teaching, but in school. Period.” – April Chamberlain

It is said the change is the only constant. In today’s world, this is apparent more than it ever was before. In a day and age when electronics become outdated within a year, our lifestyles can adapt at a similar rate. These changes, when applied to the Education Industry, can yield perhaps the greatest sustainable growth and development of the next generation of world leaders, empowered by their ability to “learn how to learn and change,” a description that Carl Rogers once said characterized a truly educated person.

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) is an academic and professional association that was formed for the exact purpose of promoting and facilitating the use of technology in education. It has characterized this phenomenon as Educational Technology, or EdTech. This sector of Silicon Valley has grown into one of the hottest and fastest developing industries since 2012. The industry has heated up in no small part due to the variety in its investors, ranging from private organizations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Andreessen Horowitz, and Alibaba Group to the U.S. Government, and even to individuals such as Elon Musk. The first half of 2015 saw $2.5 billion invested into EdTech companies by private investors.

An industry leader in EdTech, Udemy, was founded in 2010 in an effort to democratize education. It is an online marketplace where anyone can upload and sell a class. This is widely used by corporations for customized training courses, including clients such as Goldman Sachs.

Another category of EdTech is occupied by online portals Coursera and edX, who fall under the category of MOOCs, or”Massive Open Online Courses.” These portals offer users course material, video lectures, problem solving sets, and interactive sessions with teaching assistants with a variety of courses offered by world famous universities, such as Stanford University, MIT, and Harvard University. These portals also offer official certifications on graded completions of the course, as are offered by the actual university. This has bridged the knowledge and resource gap between students who can afford to attend such prestigious universities, and those who are unable to.

There has also been a rise in industry specific tools, especially in the field of web development. The rise of repository hosting service GitHub, for example, has made online open source collaborations accessible to the entire world, and facilitated an explosive growth in open source content. The advent of popular Q&A sites such as Stack Overflow, have lead to easier access of information, and the ability for beginners to connect with seasoned industry professionals.

All these tools require only the use of the internet, and are hence widely available to the general population. Education has never been more easily accessible than it is in the 21st century, and the investment and potential of this sector is growing with each passing year.

2016 has been predicted to be the “Year of Virtual Reality,” by tech moguls. Virtual Reality perhaps presents the most promising prospect for the advancement of educational methods and learning techniques in today’s world. Facebook’s acquisition of the Oculus Rift technology, as well as Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard has opened the door for the acceptance of VR in mainstream technology applications. The latter two, priced at just $99(Rs. 6593) and $20(Rs. 1331) respectively, have made this previously unattainable technology available to the masses.

Industry leaders zSpace, Alchemy VR, and Immersive VR Education have designed their products to allow students and teachers to interact with learning tools in three-dimensional space, allowing for the activation of powerful visual and spatial learning techniques. This has lead not only to a better learning experience, but has made the process more intuitive and enjoyable for students and teachers alike. EON Reality’s Virtual 3D Learning solutions is currently in use by Carnegie Mellon University, Imperial College, UK, and NTU, Singapore to create new levels of engagement for students and staff alike. Statistical Analysis has shown a 92% increase in attention spans, along with a 35% increase in test scores. A school in the Czech Republic, Mendelovo Gymnázium, uses VR technology developed under the “World of Comenius” project to teach its students complex concepts such as quantum mechanics, and molecular biology.

In India, EdTech is a store of untapped potential. Popular resources include the NPTEL open courseware offered by the IITs, as well as the recent growth of startups, including BYJU, Toppr, Meritnation, and UEducation, that are trying to emulate the recent explosive successes of EdTech in the United States.

While the U.S. government has invested millions of dollars into the EdTech sector, the Indian Government has not yet embraced this sector as an area for investment. The recent advancements in technology have made the use of VR technology cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before. Promotion of the use of online portals in universities is also something that the government has slowly been recommended to do by students and teachers alike, and is an idea that is growing in stature and feasibility. Slowly, but surely, the face of education in India is changing for the better, and it has all been made possible through the wonderful advancements in educational technology.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”  This quote by Malcolm X aptly characterizes the importance and emphasis we should place on education. With the advent of EdTech and a growing investment into the educational technology sector, the future of the world’s youth has never looked brighter.

References and Links:

  1. Ed Tech Magazine
  2. Top 10 Ed Tech Companies- Forbes
  3. zSpace: The Use of Virtual Reality in STEM Education
  4. “The World of Comenius”, VR Learning Techniques in the Czech Republic
  5. Oculus Rift: Next Generation Virtual Reality

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By Aniket Rege

Currently a B.Tech II Year student pursuing a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from NITK Surathkal. P...more

Currently a B.Tech II Year student pursuing a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from NITK Surathkal. Presently interning at Samsung Research Institute, Bangalore. less

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