EdTech in a post COVID world

The COVID outbreak has created a fundamental shift in the way the traditional education system regards edTech. Here are the major shifts:

  1. Traditional Educational Institutions and all brick and mortar training organizations have had to ensure business continuity.
  2. Teachers have had no option but to bite the bullet and upskill themselves to take their classrooms online
  3. Parents and children have had to adjust to school being online
  4. Edtech Providers have had to scale

This is a forced transition. When the dust settles, while most teachers and educators may go back to the physicality of teaching-learning, for many others, online interaction in various forms, will continue for convenience or for their special affordances that enhance the physical classroom methods.

By that I mean that many teachers will realize the power of interacting online, sharing materials, doing administrative tasks online and interacting with parents digitally. Many institutions may even start mandating teachers to acquire these skills and be ready for not just enhancing the daily workflows but also for repeated contingencies.

Needless to state, people who have experienced this first wave of learning at home, will be more discerning when they encounter edTech in the future. In that sense, it will place edTech in the enviable position of having to innovate. Many edTech incumbents would also be at risk because they simply did not have the tools to take educational institutions online in this crisis, and are getting replaced by others who do have those capabilities.

It will also give professional learning and online degrees a new sense of credibility, one that MOOC companies and Universities that are allowed to deliver online degrees will definitely capitalize upon. For many universities. this may act as another pressure point, forcing them to amalgamate with larger players, reduce their costs or even close down.

However it may not do much online teaching and learning as such. Here are a few pivots that are desirable but may not happen unless stoked now.

  1. Teachers will not start conducting their own learning online. By this I mean that teachers will not necessarily change their own learning behaviors. Since they do not, largely, have the guidance to emerge as heutagogic agents in their own right, they will do only as much as needed to survive the crisis. That is, largely speaking, gain just enough skills to navigate a “short term necessity”.
  2. Online/digital pedagogy will barely be used in the crisis. What will be used instead is functional online modes of classroom delivery i.e. teaching online will be a 1:1 replacement (in kind) of what the same teachers will do in the physical classroom (pretty much).
  3. Large numbers of schools which are not digitally equipped now will continue to teach and behave in the non-digital mode, unless a concerted attempt is made to channelize energies at the level of the State and local communities.
  4. Assessment & Certification will still be largely an offline physical world activity – the existing mechanisms are very strong and resilient.
  5. The shift to online will not be durable enough to give distance/online learning the great credibility it should be getting, and it will not necessarily raise the bar for edTech significantly.

As a result of these factors, the digital “shift” will be more a functional shift rather than a pedagogical or heutagogical shift – for all players involved in this activity.

Of course, the “edTech demand and supply curves” will shift creating a slightly raised equilibrium with more awareness and use of edTech, and perhaps a greater role of policy making to serve edTech needs of stakeholders.

But it will still be lip service to online learning of the kind that is really possible to build – Online learning that liberates teachers from chalk and talk (or ‘death by PPT’) methods, that enables them to learn and grow as they expect their students to learn and grow, and that which enables true utilization of edTech to serve the community.

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