How Education Technology Has Become More Important Than Ever
If there’s one thing we can walk away from the pandemic and feel grateful for, it’s the rapid progression of the education sector’s move to the cloud.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
It’s no secret that this past year has been the most challenging for the entire world. However, if there’s one thing we can walk away from the pandemic and feel grateful for, it’s the rapid progression of the education sector’s move to the cloud.
In order to adhere to global lockdowns, schools and universities had to migrate to the cloud. Of course it hasn’t all been rosey. YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health carried out a study with teachers and students, 74% of whom agreed that schools being closed has had a negative impact on mental health. But, without the cloud to enable remote learning, the situation we find ourselves in now would be even more dire. And, of course, there have been some drastic benefits from this migration to the cloud.
The Benefits of the Digitalization of Education
Moving classes online, especially in higher education, has helped make further education more accessible to those previously ignored. This is especially true for people lacking flexibility such as single parents and those who care for family members. In addition, anyone who can’t afford to change location to learn can now do so from their own homes at times that work for them.
There’s a caveat, of course. According to the FCC, nearly 30 million Americans cannot fully benefit from the digital age. This is largely due to a lack of fast and reliable internet or devices to access it. But whilst the Covid pandemic highlighted how large the digital divide is, the cloud offers a glimmer of hope in reducing and eventually eviscerating it. More work still needs to be done with the distribution of laptops and the democratization of internet connections to ensure everyone who needs to get online, can. But, once governments and businesses solve this problem - something many are already trying to solve through renting and borrowing laptops - the cloud means no matter where you are in the world, you can have access to a good education.
There’s also been a lot of cross-pollination in how EdTech has been used during the pandemic. For example, EdTech platforms have helped thousands of junior doctors retrain to understand Covid-19 symptoms, treatments and vaccinations. Learning and talent platform Think Learning used its cloud platform to deliver a booking system for healthcare staff to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. 9,000 appointments were booked in just one weekend.
The Challenges EdTech Companies Face
With any benefit of digitalization, there will always be challenges. For schools and universities in particular, security must be at the forefront of any cloud strategy. Educational facilities have access to and store an abundance of sensitive information cyber criminals desire. In fact, according to research from specialist insurer Ecclesiastical, one in five schools and colleges have fallen victim to cyber crime. Ensuring you have a stringent security plan in place is essential to stop data breaches. This goes beyond technologies you may use to ensure your data is secure such as firewalls, malware protection and patch management. In 2020, almost a third of breaches were due to people falling victim to social engineering techniques such as phishing emails and scareware. Educational institutions must ensure both students and staff are educated - constantly - on how to store data safely.
Connectivity and speed is a challenge many schools and companies fell short of during the pandemic - an essential to ensure their network could handle the increased demand. A survey from the UK’s National Union of Students stated that 38% of students found the online provision received was not of a good standard/quality - this was due to lack of proper equipment, poor/no wifi, and therefore a lack of accessibility.
Culture and training is always a challenge when going through any sort of major structural and organizational change. Ensuring everyone is on board with cloud-enabled EdTech and knows how to use, manage and teach it effectively is essential for educational institutions to migrate to the cloud. You cannot simply introduce a tool and expect teachers and students to pick it up with no instruction. You also shouldn’t just buy whatever the next big piece of EdTech is - look at why you’re migrating to the cloud and which cloud-enabled products and services compliment your own educational resources and services.
Perhaps one of the most obvious challenges schools and universities face when migrating to the cloud is managing its data sprawl. Often defined as having data spread in multiple digital places, schools and universities have an incredible amount of paper data from before their move to becoming cloud-enabled. There’s no easy fix transferring hard copy to soft copy, but it’s essential if educational institutions are to adapt to using cloud technologies.
Whilst moving to the cloud for institutions still very much centered around having paper copies is no small feat, ensuring the safety of that data must be a top priority for both EdTech companies and the institutions using them. This migration to the cloud is essential to progressing the education industry, not just in terms of delivering courses and services that educate better, but also helping to address and eventually remove the digital divide.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.