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The changing role of edtech

Last Updated : 16 August 2021, 14:44 IST

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From the time educational institutes shut their doors at the beginning of the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic, two issues have been largely discussed with respect to the education sector — the effects of the pandemic on the learning outcomes of students and the thriving edtech industry.

As colleges resume classes and schools likely to begin offline classes in a phased manner, a question is often asked: Will edtech companies continue to play a key role in the education sector?

Educationists feel that even prior to the pandemic, online learning platforms had a huge market.

“Earlier there were certain perceived infrastructural and cost-related limits attached to it, it has now seeped into the reality of every school and college going student irrespective of economic differences,” says Anupama Raj of Azim Premji University.

“Resuming school is important for social interaction. However, with easy access to high quality teachers and tailored content at an affordable price, students from even remote parts of the country can continue their education through edtech,” says Vamsi Krishna, co-founder of Vedantu.

Accessibility

Edtech organisations are increasingly being seen as an alternative to after-school tuition classes. The use of animation, pictorials and 3D diagrams aids conceptual learning.

However, the foray of edtech into mainstream education can further widen the gap between those who have access to technology and those who don’t. The pandemic has highlighted the difference in accessibility and affordability of online education between different strata of society.

“The courses edtech organisations offer are expensive. This will further put children from the low-income families on the back foot,” says Nalini R, Associate Professor, Government Science College (Autonomous), Bengaluru.

“Another way to look at it is that it will put an additional financial burden on parents, as parents wouldn’t want their children to be left behind in the race,” she says.

On the other hand, edtech is seen as a more affordable and convenient option for those preparing for competitive exams.

“For working professionals, who are preparing for competitive exams, edtech is a convenient option. It is flexible as one can watch the videos and avail the course materials any time and from anywhere. This allows one to attend classes from wherever one is, and hence does away the need to relocate,” says Pritha Hosur, a quality analyst with an edtech platform.

A major challenge that edtech needs to address is how they plan to bridge the digital divide. The increased use of animations and graphic content require high-speed internet connections, that are not available everywhere. Platforms must take initiative to make content available even with low internet speeds.

Stronger initiatives are also needed to protect the data and privacy of children, along with screen time timers to prevent children from spending too much time on their devices.

Learning outcomes

The option to watch content at their convenience is a major attraction of edtech-based learning. However, teachers feel that classroom learning cannot be replaced.

“With technology, it is easier to gather information but classrooms are ideal places for experiential learning. Teachers can use edtech platforms to enhance their understanding and explain the same to students. Edtech also assist teachers in assessing students,” says Lakshmi R B, HoD of management department, GIBS B School.

Anupama says that the appropriate use of technology will aid the education system positively. However, edtech-led learning can not replace traditional ways of schooling.

“Teaching-learning is not a mere content transaction. Creating conducive environments in schools tend to lead to a lot of self and peer-directed learning of both content as well as essential dispositions,” she says.

While there is a lot of scope for edtech platforms to expand after the pandemic is over, how meaningful and effective this expansion would be is something that one has to wait and watch.

“There is going to be a transition period wherein students might have to navigate between edtech and traditional methods of knowledge building. Getting a hang of both methods of learning would add to the students’ skill set. The whole aspect of increased accessibility to content that edtech platforms bring about is also something to look forward to,” she says.

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Published 16 August 2021, 14:24 IST

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