Opportunities and Challenges of Building Educational Technology Solutions

More than ever, our education system is primed to use new educational technology solutions. There are many benefits to implementing these. However, they must be leveraged appropriately to create improved learning experiences.

This article explores what makes an effective educational technology solution, the opportunities these technologies present for students and teachers, and the challenges associated with their implementation.

Note: The examples provided come from our interview with Andrew Lippert, Chief Technology Officer, at McGraw Hill

What Makes a Great Educational Technology Solution

For educational technology solutions to succeed, they need to produce learning experiences and outcomes that would not otherwise be possible without the technology. It's not enough to use the latest and greatest tech available. There needs to be a pragmatic function related to elevating the educational experience.

Accessibility and Functionality

To benefit from new educational technology solutions, students first need access to them. Fortunately, in many developed countries, connectivity and access to mobile devices are the best they've ever been. Tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices can be found in classrooms across the country, and that trend shows no sign of slowing.

Regarding functionality, educational technology solution providers are committed to delivering experiences beyond a digitized version of previous learning methods. They are focused on leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices to take learning to the next level. Providers are also excited about utilizing innovative technologies such as AR and VR to boost student engagement.

Exceptional Content and Curriculum

The tech needs to be paired with exceptional content and a diverse curriculum for educational technology solutions to succeed. The delivery method, technological capabilities, and curriculum must work together to create a personalized learning experience that transcends previous educational models.

Though technology enables new learning experiences, the focus should be on what can be personalized for the students. Effective educational technology solutions need to present students with multiple ways of learning. Students won't gain real value if the technology is cool and exciting but doesn't bring anything novel to the table. For these reasons, tech solutions need to go hand-in-hand with cutting-edge content.

To this end, providers often leverage third-party resources alongside their proprietary tech to create the best content possible.

For example: Andrew Lippert and his team at McGraw Hill call on educators from various disciplines to act as content experts for curriculum creation. They also use specialist providers for the creation process, including audio/video experts, designers, UX experts, and others, to produce the end product. Although McGraw Hill builds the tooling to support the infrastructure for the creation, storage, and delivery of the end product, much of the actual content creation is outsourced to highly qualified education experts.

Opportunities for Students and Teachers

Aside from the obvious benefits, such as improved learning outcomes and increased student engagement, educational technologies can impact students and teachers in various ways.

Elevating Education Through Crowdsourcing and Community

A unique way in which educational technology solutions can enhance the learning experience is by leveraging community and crowdsourcing. When technology and crowdsourcing are appropriately applied, students have the opportunity to experience society and the global ecosystem within the walls of their classroom.

For example: McGraw Hill recently launched a crowdsourcing project where they collected photographs of trees across the U.S. at varying points during the four seasons. The goal was to capture the changing colors in different parts of the country during the different seasons and to use it as a learning tool. They helped increase excitement about science, student engagement, and learning outcomes by applying mobile device technology to their curriculum.

Teaching at Scale

In addition to improving student outcomes, teachers benefit from technology by being able to teach at scale. Instead of working one-on-one, new technologies allow teachers to monitor student progress and intervene more efficiently. In areas experiencing teacher shortages, these technology solutions will prove invaluable over the coming years.

For example: McGraw Hill has a Natural Language Processing (NLP) solution going to market soon. It allows students with Chromebooks to read passages, record them, and automatically score their performance. The program then provides the educator immediate feedback on their student's reading performance. As you can imagine, accomplishing this one-on-one with over thirty-five students is incredibly time-consuming. With this kind of technology, teachers would have more time to dedicate to the entire class.

Challenges of Building Educational Technology Solutions

Educational technology providers aim to deliver solutions to as many students and teachers as possible. However, a global organization such as McGraw Hill that serves the needs of an international market has several challenges.

Managing a Global Team

For global organizations to succeed, they need team members located across the world, and these people need a variety of skills. Given the varying time zones and cultural differences, keeping everyone on the same page can be challenging for any global organization.

Localizing Solutions

The localization required to serve the needs of communities worldwide is an ongoing challenge for educational technology solution providers. For each area, content and tech providers need to account for:

  • Different languages, numeric systems, and character presentation
  • Variance in language presentation (e.g., People in some regions of Asia read right to left)
  • Cultural sensitivities for image choices
  • Cultural nuances for understanding particular subject matter
  • Connectivity and bandwidth capacity
  • Types of mobile devices available 

All these localized aspects must be considered when conceptualizing and developing effective educational solutions.

Creating Solutions That Add Real Value to the Learning Experience

For people that work on the tech side, it's important not to get caught up in technology for technology's sake. It's great to use cutting-edge technology for developing learning solutions. However, the focus still needs to be on the effectiveness of the end product. These solutions should unlock learning capabilities that would otherwise not be possible without the technology. If not, no real value is added to students' lives.

Technologists need to understand how technology can pragmatically solve real problems instead of focussing on technology for technology's sake. It's not just about creating a cool experience. It's important for us in the tech field to get out of our own way and really understand the problems we are trying to solve.

Technologists need to understand how technology can pragmatically solve real problems instead of focussing on technology for technology's sake. It's not just about creating a cool experience. It's important for us in the tech field to get out of our own way and really understand the problems we are trying to solve.

Educational Technology Solutions Are Creating a New Era of Learning

Improved learning outcomes, teaching at scale, and enhanced student engagement, are all possible with emerging educational technology solutions. In this space, providers that will succeed focus on pairing great technology with an even better curriculum to serve the needs of students and teachers everywhere. By committing to creating end products that bring education to new heights, solution providers will play a key role in developing the minds of generations to come. 

If you have any questions or comments about this topic, please reach out and get in touch!

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