The massive influx of technology in education in the last decade and a half has seen a boom to the otherwise boring education sector. It has attracted attention from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporate titans and governments alike. Billions of dollars are spent annually on digital content, online teaching resources, online tests and research. Several initiatives have galvanized the education technology sector.

Education Technology: A Class Apart

Personalized Learning:
Digital devices, software, and learning platforms offer an unimaginable array of options for tailoring education to suit each individual student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, interests and motivations, personal preferences, and optimal pace of learning. The idea is that this allows for “24 x 7” learning at the time and location of the student’s choosing. Educational software and applications, are used to distribute assignments, manage schedules and communications and track student progress, have grown more “adaptive,” relying on technology and algorithms to determine not only what a student knows, but what his or her learning process is, and even his or her emotional state.

1-to-1 Computing:
In this, schools provide students with their own laptop computer, netbook, or digital tablet. In addition to enhancing personalized learning, this is helping students to become technologically skilled and literate and thus better prepared for modern workplaces.

Blended Learning:
This combines traditional, teacher-to-student lessons with technology-based instruction. The basic premise involves students rotating between online and in-person stations for different parts of the day. Robust blended learning programs involve “anytime, anywhere” access to learning content for students.

Flipped Classrooms:
In this, students watch lecture videos as homework and discussion is carried on them in the class-time by the teachers. It has resulted in a remarkably better student performance, with noticeable grade boost-up. Students can now learn at their own pace and save class-time for interaction.

Open Educational Resources:
“Open” digital education resources that are licensed in such a way that they can be freely used, revised, and shared. It gives students better access to a wider array of digital materials and teachers more flexibility to customize instructional content for individual classrooms and students like digital lessons in Mathematics, English/language arts, and science, as well as “specialty” subjects such as business and fine arts.

Let us take a look at the Educational Technology market in three nations –

India
Although Indian youth have become largely technology-driven in the last decade, India is still in its nascent stages in its use of educational technology in teaching. This depicting a growing demand and a huge potential to imbibe technology in Indian education system, which has long awaited an overhaul.

India’s education technology industry has grown in recent years. Recognizing the increasing importance of technology in education and employment, the Indian Government has a scheme that grants every public school district, regardless of the number of schools it contains, of Rs. 5 million every year to invest in educational technology. Districts have to submit a proposal in order to be granted the funds.

In practice, however, public school funding is often overlooked, and education technology primarily stays isolated within India’s private schools. Government Initiatives like Digital India and Start-Up India are expected to provide a boost in this sector in the coming years by attracting investment and entrepreneurship. In 2011, the government subsidized Aakash, the nation’s least expensive educational tablet. For the poor students, such cheap technology offers a window on a different world and a host of opportunities.

The universities and colleges have started certain MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), under the Digital India, designed to be accessible to each and every aspiring student. The MOOC market itself is extremely successful in the nation, with Indian usage of the United States’ top three MOOC portals second only to American users themselves.

In the booming private education sector, technology is being adopted much more quickly. As many as four hundred educational technology firms have launched in the past decade, yet the quality and longevity of their products is far from uniform. India is now at an inflection point with educational technology, as internet and hardware penetration are set to explode in the next few years.

India’s most prominent educational technology company, Educomp Solutions, had done a great job selling digital learning materials and a multimedia whiteboard to as many as 14,500 schools, according to a company brochure. However, the training of teachers in the efficient use of such technology seems to be missing.

There is much room to grow in terms of the quality of technology. India’s private schools, which provide children of lower income families with less expensive education, are unable to use 34 percent of available computers due to their poor condition. Despite all the roadblocks, India continues to progress in its adoption of educational technology.

United States
The US has embraced technology in its education system whole heartedly which can be established from the fact that public schools in the now provide at least one computer for every five students. Led by the federal government, the country is in the midst of a massive effort to make affordable high-speed Internet and free online teaching resources available to even the most rural and remote schools.

There’s the booming ed-tech industry, with corporate titans and small startups alike Vying for a slice of an $8 billion-plus yearly market for hardware and software. Much attention is also paid to the “early adopters”—those districts, schools, and teachers who are making the most ingenious and effective uses of the new tools at their disposal.

Schools purchased more than 23 million devices for classroom use in 2013 and 2014 alone. In recent years, iPads and then Chromebooks (inexpensive Web-based laptops) have emerged as the devices of choice for many schools. The Federal Communications Commission has been prioritizing support for cheap broadband service and wireless networks aimed at leveling the playing field for rural and remote schools.

The biggest development on the digital front has been states’ adoption of online exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards. In 2015-16, for the first time, more state standardized tests for the elementary and middle grades were administered via technology than by paper and pencil. Perceived benefits include cost savings, ease of administration and analysis, and the potential to employ complex performance tasks.

Funding in the industry saw an upsurge of 55 percent in 2014, with numerous companies approaching a valuation mark of US$1 billion. In 2013, the total e-learning market stood at US$40.6 billion and is expected to grow to US$51.1 billion by the end of 2016.

China
China has 260 million K16 students and average Chinese parents spends around 20 % of the family income on education. No matter elementary education stage or higher education stage, teachers use technology to support their teaching. In each classroom, there are computer, smart board, white board, projector, sound equipment and webcam. Different E-course wares are installed in the computers. Teachers design their course content with some technology in advance, for example, Power Point, video, according to textbooks and instructional objectives, in order that students can learn new knowledge in a vivid way. And then, they present their course ware in the classroom.

This kind of interactive multimedia technology was introduced to China more than a decade ago. It uses a vivid, interesting and relaxing mode to present knowledge to students. In 2015, the total education expenditure was over $500 billion and the total amount of financing for tech-ed grew to $2.03 billion.

The current state of educational technology is not good enough in China, in that, it still lags behind other developed nations in terms of the scale of using technology in education. A great deal of schools and universities do not spend more money and time on advanced educational technology. They do not recognize the importance of educational technology for learning and teaching. teachers, as the main users of technology in the classroom, do not apply the educational technology better in their teaching process. Some teachers have less knowledge about application of technology.

The departments of education and technology often conducts training seminars for teachers, in which they can acquire more advanced and useful knowledge about education and technology. In addition, there is a need to design more practical and valuable educational technologies. For schools and universities, there is a need to organize many seminar and competition in order to raise teachers and students’ enthusiasm and intellectual passion with technology.

Over the past two decades, China has extended its nine-year compulsory education system across the country, started teaching English as a second language from third grade, and dramatically expanded the number of students in higher education from 1.4 percent in 1978 to today’s 20 percent. Along with the growing number of schools and English language learners, China’s education technology industry has exploded.

In 2014, education technology companies based in China raised US$321 million in equity investment. While China’s huge K12 market (i.e., the sum of primary and secondary school years) presents huge opportunities to foreign investors seeking to invest in China’s education technology sector, the K12 market is under government monopoly. Fortunately, the Chinese government currently encourages foreign investors to participate in the research and development of education app/software. In terms of increasing the commercial value of online education platforms, cooperation with third parties (e.g., third-party online courses developers) is set to be the next mainstream.

Challenges:
The new technologies also present new challenges. The rise of “big data,” for example, has led to new concerns about how schools can keep sensitive student information private and secure. Schools and educators continue to wrestle with the changing role of teachers, how to balance flexible and “personalized” models with the syllabus requirements they still must meet, and the deeper cultural challenge of changing educators’ long-standing habits and routines.

Despite the massive investments that many school systems are making, the evidence that digital personalized learning can improve student outcomes or narrow achievement gaps at scale remains scattered, at best. The most significant problem for schools trying to go digital, though, has been a lack of educational vision. Without a clear picture of how teaching and learning is expected to change, going digital amounts to a no advantage.

The promise of technology in the classroom is almost entirely dependent on reliable infrastructure. But in many schools that go digital, schools still struggle to get affordable access to high-speed Internet and/or robust wireless connectivity. Inter operability is also a major issue to ensure that digital content is accessible across all software platforms.

Despite the challenges, the sector has seen an upward climb in almost all nations. The testing and assessment market is the most easily accessible category for technology with huge gains. Shifting school policies have made it easier to partner with ed-tech companies. More schools buying ed-tech products means that more investors are pouring money into related startups. That means startups are able to get their products in the classroom much more quickly.

Around the world, state and foreign investment is rapidly increasing in education technology. The development of education technology in these countries can be attributed to a number of ‘bottom up’ drivers, such as increasingly affordable tech software and their proven efficacy, and ‘top town’ drivers, such as government subsidies and policy initiatives.

Although progress has undoubtedly been made, the educational technology is still an industry in its infancy. The education technology industry in the emerging economies is still somewhat premature. Especially in the case of India, where policy implementation has been slow and major infrastructural problems exist, the road to reach the same level of development as some Western economies will be long. That said, with their current market size and projected future growth, huge opportunities do exist in these countries.

Classroom education vs Online education has been a topic for constant debate. You can read more about the benefits of online education here.

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