Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet, Co-Founder, EdTechXGlobal
Over the past decade, digital technology has disrupted and revolutionised a variety of industries. The media sector, for example, has benefited from this “digitisation” in profound ways, enabling creatives to utilise data and technology platforms and deliver engaging content across multiple channels. In fact, digital’now represents 30%-40% of all content in the media sector.
Despite the clear benefits and opportunities presented by digitisation, the education sector is still lagging behind according to recent research – only 2% of education is focussed on digital,making it clear that investment in the sector is long overdue. With digital seemingly an afterthought for some, the education sector risks failing its students and falling behind the natural progression and requirements of business and industry. In fact, this is already becoming apparent if you consider that test scores remain static in countries like the US and an ever growing skills gap is a constant headache for employers in the UK.
The new opportunities digitisation brings to education
Digital tools provide a huge opportunity to improve the way in which education is delivered, consumed and resourced. Digitisation can be a cost-effective method of facilitating the dissemination of education and training at a large scale. For example, E-learning initiatives are used to deliver content on a massive scale with as little cost as possible, but E-learning is not the only way to achieve this. The proliferation of mobile devices, with most students owning a smartphone, gives educators the chance to deliver more personalised educational content and curriculum.
According to recent findings, 81% of students use mobile devices to study while 77% of students believe technology leads to improved grades. This feels like an obvious progression, as the penetration of smartphones into the daily routine grows steadily, yet there is still some trepidation about the devices being used in education, despite the familiarity students have with the technology and that almost exclusively, they are using these devices as a source of content and information anyway.Furthermore, these devices make learning mobile, meaning learning can be continued outside of the classroom – with resources and materials accessible to students 24/7 on the internet – improving the performance of personal learning time and homework tasks.
Similarly, on-demand learning, such as digital tutoring, adaptive learning and competency-based training, can all be executed on a larger scale with digital. Students have more options to consume educational content in ways that suits them, since educational resources such as assignments and revision notes, can be accessed from different touch points.
Digital technology can reduce the costs of implementing traditional education systems, subsequently improving standards and making education more accessible.Inner city schools, or educational institutions in developing countries, can deploy educational content at scale in a way that is cost-effective and efficient, enabling them to have the same standard of education as more privileged schools.Despite the high expenditure in the education and training industries (more than $5 trillion), 85% of every dollar of spend goes into delivering education (bricks and mortar institutions and teaching staff) so educational performance remains flat.
Collaboration between key players
Europe, the US and Asia represent the largest markets for education globally and in order to prosper, the global market needs to champion growth and collaboration. Trends and successes in one region, have been shown to open up gaps and opportunities in others, just as failings can be learnt and shared between markets. Investment trends in the future will certainly start to factor in all markets, rather than treat education markets in silos.
A 2014 Pearson study, which compared global education systems, placed the US as 14 out of 20, with 7 European countries, such as Finland, UK, Netherlands and Poland, ranking higher than their American counter parts.However, where the US excels over its European cousins is the strength of its consolidated common core standards, an area where Europe is lacking due to the fragmentation of its 20 curriculums. Additionally, the US is ahead in its investment in e-Learning ventures, an advantage that the European EdTech sector can certainly learn from.
Similarly, heavy emphasis on high-stakes testing and competition for places in the higher education system in Asia, have created unprecedented demand for the private provision of education, from after school tutoring to online test and prep. In recognition of the strong demand for globally recognised education, British private schools have been keen to take advantage of this trend. To date, 44 overseas campuses have been set up across Asia which now educate almost 25,000 pupils, more than double the equivalent figure in 2012.
Driving discussion and sharing insights
As such, the potential for digital to radically transform the educational sector will require an ecosystem of shared learning and discussion on investment trends. Providing a platform for this type of discussion is the exact remit of the EdTechXGlobal event series – designed to bring together global innovators, education leaders, investors, market experts and business leaders, and act a catalyst for investment and growth in the industry. EdTechXEurope, the European edition of the event took place in June in London, attracting over 800 delegates from across all of the above mentioned international markets, demonstrating the desire for information and knowledge from global EdTech players. As this community continues to be a worldwide market, event founders will host a second event, EdTechXAsia on 8-9 November in Singapore in November.
Digital penetration isn’t a quick solution – discussion and examples of successful case studies are crucial to changing thinking in this market. This long rising tide of change is due to some fairly significant and understandable differences, in comparison to other content industries – such as the increased number of gate keepers involved in digital transition decisions in education, teachers, institutions, governing bodies, districts and policy makers to name a few – but there are also a large number of opportunities that exist and global barriers that only technology can tackle.