The global pandemic has unarguably been a disruptive force on education. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, governments have implemented lockdown measures and social distancing restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. This resulted in public spaces such as schools having to shut down, thus denying approximately 1.7 billion people access to different tiers of education. This not only paused pedagogical learning but also slowed the development of learners worldwide; depriving those in pre-college institutions of the social interaction required to develop well-rounded personalities.
However, despite altering the landscape of education, the pandemic also paved the way for innovative ways to approach learning and provided a stage for technologies to bridge the looming gap between education and skill sets needed for today's workplace. Online platforms are being used to fill the void left by traditional classroom learning, thus reinventing the learning experience for students and transforming the way educational institutions choose to provide their services.
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Disruptive technologies have created alternative models through which we can explore the relationship between education and income potential. Educational institutions now can use artificial intelligence and algorithms to personalize the learning experience. In addition, web-based services enhance remote learning while chat-based platforms improve the interaction between students and teachers.
In 2018 alone, Online Program Managers (OPMs), platforms that offer online education in the United States raised $1.45B. The online education space is forecasted to grow by $ 247.46B over the next four years, progressing at a cumulative annual growth rate of 18%. Global funding for disruptive educational technologies (EdTech) hit $7B in 2019, compared to only half a billion in 2010.
Factors that have sped up the growth in online learning apart from the pandemic are the global increase in internet penetration and the growing adoption of cloud-based solutions coupled with increased investment in the online education space. Advancements in AI and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) are also contributors to the adoption of online education platforms.
Disruptive companies in education
As expected, several companies are positioned to take advantage of the looming gap in online education and the boundless opportunities it presents. Online education vendors such as 2U Inc., Udemy Inc, Coursera Inc., Lynda, edX Inc., McGraw-Hill Education Inc., Pearson Plc, Udacity Inc., and Ambow Education Holding Ltd., are looking to satisfy the growing need to access quality education.
For example, Teachable and Udemy enable experts in any subject to receiving compensation for their knowledge and expertise through paid online video courses. Pearson’s Aida, an AI calculus tutor, teaches students how to solve math problems, dually adapting to individual needs while providing targeted feedback. Coursera allows students to pay for accredited classes from universities such as Duke, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania. Students can also work through certificate programs with companies such as Google and IBM.
Positive impact on education
The presence of OPMs has ushered in a number of advantages for the educational system. According to research conducted by Eduventures, spanning over five years, schools that have made use of online platforms have witnessed higher enrollment percentages over schools that have not partnered with OPMs. This implies that agile companies that can align their educational system to suit online formats have been able to incur more revenue.
Secondly, partnering with OPMs reduces the time and monetary investment in transitioning to online learning. Because these disruptive educational companies have the technological capabilities and infrastructure in place, they can lend their expertise to educational institutions hoping to take advantage of the growing demand for online education. Rather than building a platform from scratch, it allows educational institutions to leverage these platforms.
The presence of disruptive educational companies has also bridged the gap between the school and the unschooled. As internet penetration continues to grow, concurrently does access to online education. With the growth of the gig economy and the rise in average college tuition and fees, many students are looking for alternative modes to meet their educational needs. These companies allow students mobile access to educational material and reduce the time and money spent on commuting and paying fees to attend a traditional education system.
In addition, disruptive EdTech have improved the educational experience for both students and educators. The use of graphics, artificial intelligence, and computer-based models adds another dimension to the learning experience, allowing students to engage visually through a more personalized experience. Through the adoption of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and machine learning, we can replicate the educational environment to suit most learners.
Lastly, the emergence of OPMs has personalized education for the student, allowing them to focus on the need, not the glory that comes with having a certificate. Students can choose courses based on their needs or the skill sets demanded in the labor market, foregoing the bureaucracy that comes with completing a curriculum-based course. Students can do away with courses and electives which offer no value for their career aspirations.
Disruptive EdTech Has Adverse effects on education
However, every phenomenon has benefits and drawbacks. While there are many advantages to online education, disruptive educational companies have also altered the learning pattern of students negatively.
First, online education robs students of the psycho-social development that comes with being in a traditional school environment. We regard schools as agents of socialization, which orientate members of society on norms and values. It also aids in personality development, enabling people to discover and define their personalities. Students can also forge social connections and build a that may help them later in life. Online education, being a largely solitary experience, deprives students of this important aspect of social development.
Second, the feedback loop of the online education system cannot be compared with that of a traditional classroom or school setting. In the latter, the instructor is not only knowledgeable of the student’s academic performance but also their social circle, behavioral attitudes, and personality traits. This gives the instructor a holistic view of the student’s capabilities and offers insights on how best to approach learning for optimal performance.
Online education does not provide the means through which the instructor can be cognizant regarding other aspects of the student’s life. With this in mind, online education platforms can be described as being mechanistic, focusing only on the lessons, tests, and grades. Furthermore, by partnering with online education platforms, schools may lose their brand identity, and by extension, their importance. The emphasis shifts from schools to online platforms, thereby diminishing the earned prestige of these schools and depriving students of drawing on the school network system in the larger society.
Disruptive EdTech have made education more accessible, bridging the disparities found in access to education. The emergence of the pandemic has not only accelerated the need for online education, it has further improved the learning experience for students as companies quickly look to be agile in an ever-changing time in history.
While there are improvements these companies will need to make to gain adoption for a transformation of the traditional education system, disruptive EdTech now have a more prominent role to play in the future of education. As a result, the focus should now be on improving the learning experience and the quality of the education.