Posted on November 22, 2016
Article was originally featured on EdTech Digest
Re-examining the goals and purposes of our arena.
GUEST COLUMN | by Nanda Krish
For educators, the old standby of textbooks still works in the modern world. However, as educators know, relying solely on books in an age where information is more available than ever does a disservice to everyone across the education chain: from administrators to teachers to students to parents. Technology is capable of delivering information instantly and on a massive scale, and the goal of the edtech industry is to make this happen in smart, efficient ways while maintaining the highest standards of quality.
The edtech industry needs a way to make supplemental material available in an easily accessible and searchable way — all while ensuring quality content.
Educators have been making use of online resources to supplement textbooks and curriculum since the rise of broadband access more than a decade ago. However, finding materials that offer both high quality and specific lesson objectives can be challenging due to the overwhelming volume of content indexed by search engines. With increasing student-to-teacher ratios generally increasing, particularly in public schools, time is a valuable commodity for teachers. Thus, the edtech industry needs a way to make supplemental material available in an easily accessible and searchable way — all while ensuring quality content.
In today’s global, hypercompetitive society, the stakes are high and the pressure on students and teachers is intense, but fortunately, the opportunities to find and deliver high-quality lessons are myriad. Current edtech platforms are among the best tools for teachers and students looking for educational resources, as they deliver valuable learning content across a wide variety of topics. Challenges remain as the industry works out kinks to achieve technology standards for content and delivery that ultimately benefit the end-user. Like any technological leap, this journey comes with many bumps in the road. The following five pillars are the key pillars for platform and content developers on the path to a fine balance between cost, quality, and quantity:
Convenience. Teachers today have an enormous number of responsibilities. Not only are they committed to delivering high-quality curriculum; they are generally facing high student-to-teacher ratios while on small budgets. Bite-sized supplementary material that can be easily searched for and discovered online is one potential solution for time- and fund-strapped teachers. These resources can be added to existing lesson plans or assigned as a whole to small groups or individuals, which is ideal for teachers leading classes of diverse learners with varying interests and at all different ability levels. Today’s digital market provides powerful search engines for curated, topic- and standard-specific material that can be downloaded as needed and customized to suit a teacher’s specific needs.
Depth. The competition for college acceptance, grants, and scholarships is fiercer than ever before, and in many cases, test scores play a significant role in these decisions. Thus, students need quality materials to prepare for assessments. This means having quick access to detailed instruction and practice assessments with the goal of fostering deep understanding on both conceptual and applicative levels. Edtech libraries and marketplaces work well in these instances due to the depth of catalog and immediacy of distribution, but only when the quality of content is consistently high.
Affordability. Cost is a factor for both educators and students. Educators are dealing with increasingly shrinking budgets at a time when demands and pressures are higher. Students come from all backgrounds and may not be able to afford preparation material for AP exams or college courses. For teachers, being able to select and purchase digital content from a catalog in bite-size pieces allows them to optimize their budget, particularly when they can propagate it into further customized materials. For students, affordability is one of the top priorities of supplementary content. The digital realm allows them to focus on quality, quantity, and cost.
Metrics. The wonderful thing about digital content is that it can be a dynamic and living thing, updated and optimized as needed. However, this only works when effective feedback is delivered. That’s why detailed metrics can provide close-up looks at what is working, what isn’t working, and why, along with which content is the most popular, which is too difficult, and which simply isn’t connecting. In order to do this, effective analytics and feedback tools need to be integrated into content—this must be established at the infrastructure level of edtech platforms.
Quality crowdsourced material. The internet has been a double-edged sword for many industries. On one hand, it provides instant access and unlimited information. On the other hand, that information often varies in quality and depth, causing users across the board to spend far too much time searching for valuable, credible resources. Edtech platforms need to embrace the ability to aggregate content from contributors all over the world, yet also commit to strong vetting processes. This can help a platform establish itself as a brand that can be trusted and develop a reputation as an industry leader.
In the end, technology is only as good as its content. Without high-quality materials, it’s an engine without a destination, an exercise in technical achievement rather than tangible progress. For the edtech industry, the goal is then to deliver on all fronts: craft an infrastructure that promotes distribution and analysis, generate content that hits specific needs, and ensure both consistent quality and ample choice. With that, teachers and students can take control of their destinies, with society as a whole benefiting.
Nanda Krish is CEO of Wisewire, an education marketplace for sharing, creating, exchanging, and purchasing premium quality content. Follow him @nanda_krish