The inevitable digitalisation of education and what type of startups edutech really needs


The education industry has been through many changes and has experienced exponential growth in recent years due to the global pandemic.

Despite the advancement in technology, many educators are not leveraging it due to a lack of technical knowledge and scepticism as they continue with their manual and tedious work processes. 

Even though educators have long been adopting technology in their teaching– from the traditional education of using chalk/ blackboard, marker/ whiteboard, transparency/ overhead project to PowerPoint and online videos/ illustrations, many of them cannot fully comprehend nor maximise the usage of those edutech features.

With the maturity of technology, it is essential to focus beyond the hardware and software components and the digital aspects as the industry evolves into the digital world

These led to the emergence and assimilation of artificial intelligence in work processes to improve educators’ efficiency and effectiveness while maintaining academic integrity.

Going beyond the ability to deliver lessons virtually and remotely, it is equally important to resolve other problems educators face and replicate the social aspect found in a traditional classroom.

Need for efficient teaching

According to the McKinsey Global Teacher and Student Survey, educators work longer hours at about 50 hours a week. Still, they are spending less than half of the time in direct interaction with students.

The increased burden of lesson preparation work includes mundane admin chores like the ongoing collation of teaching materials and the creation of worksheets, in addition to class management tasks. 

Teaching time was further reduced by grading students’ work. A report by OECD found that countries like Portugal and Singapore spent nearly twice the international average of 5 hours, at 10 hours and 9 hours, respectively. 

These time consuming yet essential works takes away precious time which can be better allocated for teaching and assessing students’ performance to identify learning gaps. 

Imagine these tedious processes can all be stored in a cloud. All the years of hard work in content creation are digitised, stored and organised in your library, easily accessible everywhere with just a click of a button.  

Such automation of administrative workload improves efficiency and reduces the hours that educators have to work beyond standard hours.

The time saved contributes to a more balanced work-life and adds to the positivity of educators’ well-being and mindset, which impacts the way they deliver lessons.

Need for effective teaching

Every child is unique, and every child’s learning progress is different. The time for a “one-size-fits-all” lesson plan is long gone.

With globalisation, students’ needs become more complex, and stakeholders’ expectations rise along with it. As such, there is also increased pressure on educators to deliver the results.

Also read: How edutech is solving the global teacher’s crisis

To optimise learning outcomes based on the limited teaching time, the teaching curriculum has to be well-thought-out and executed. The need for educators to assess and determine their students’ understanding and mastery of topics to pinpoint areas for improvement become extremely important. 

Traditionally, assignments are marked manually and returned to students for their revision. There is no easy way of obtaining class level statistics on each question attempted or identifying areas for improvement for each student.

This led to the increasing significance of learning analytics benefiting both the educators and the students. With technology embedded into teaching, educators can quickly access students’ performance progress reports and identify learning gaps.

Vital information showing the students’ strengths and weaknesses and summarising from the school level, class level to individual student level is made possible.

Such analysis acts as the first line of defence, sending educators to make a prompt revision to their teaching plans. It also equips them with in-depth knowledge of students’ learning progress to curate personalised lessons, facilitating more effective learning to boost academic outcomes. 

Such personalised education enhances students’ learning experience and allows them to reach their full potential. 

Schools that can provide diagnostic assessment benefit not only educators and students but also the parents. Parents who entrusted their children to the school will now have more transparency and, thus, have more confidence in the school. 

Just like lesson plans, it is also not a ‘one-size-fits-all’. Different schools and different subjects will have other focused areas. For instance, a system that caters to Math would emphasise calculations and working steps. Thus, it would not be suitable for use in English, especially for composition writing.

The data points for analysis are very different; features like Rubric assessment are essential for composition writing but not Math or Science. 

Therefore, a genuinely effective teaching platform also stems from having customisable features and tailor-made to fit the needs of educators and their teaching plans.

Need for 2-way communications

Besides academic assessment, communications are of utmost importance in fostering the relationship between educators and students in non-physical classroom settings.

Online learning is no longer just conducting lessons virtually but as much as possible to recreate the experience of in-person learning with active communications from educators and students. 

Disseminating and retrieval of information are also done most effectively via constant communications.

Active interaction encourages students to participate in the discussion, enables the better articulation of lessons taught, provides assurance and consultation support in the absence of physical class, and fosters relationships and builds life-long social skills. 

To overcome the problem, there has been an increasing interest in interactive whiteboards to facilitate collaborative learning.

Therefore, a total edutech solution also needs to consider enabling educators to provide real-time valuable and detailed feedback beyond text format. 

Timely communications and engagement are vital factors to students’ success and enhance the e-learning environment.

The emergence of digital learning

Education is an essential part of children’s life where they learn and socialise, playing an essential role in their growth and development. Therefore, technology is now seen as an enabler to sustainable education.

It brings everyone out of their comfort zone to explore and adapt technologies to keep life as normal as possible. Economically, harnessing technology has also become a business survival tool. 

Also read: How edutech startups can accelerate active learning

The demand and expectations that came along with COVID-19 have brought the education industry into a new era.

With uncertainties still looming, we will continue to experience disruption to schools and learning centres, resulting from the implementation of restrictive measures or abrupt closures. 

As echoed in the Singapore Parliament by its Education Minister, Chan Chun Sing, on Nov 2, the workload for teachers has more than doubled to keep education going during the pandemic. The stress level has also been at an all-time high, with more school staff seeking support from in-house counsellors.

This highlighted the urgency for schools and learning centres alike to relieve the tension educators face before they burn out. Some measures are being explored to reduce the workload to allow educators more time. 

Short term measures such as re-prioritising school programmes and offering sabbatical leaves are being considered to provide educators with more flexibility and time away from work to rest and ‘reset’ themselves. However, technology will be explored for the long term to scale up teaching resources. 

Therefore, acceptance and adoption of new smart technologies are inevitable, as they vastly improve ones’ efficiency and effectiveness. Like the saying from George Couros, “Technology will not replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.”

Technology will be deeply embedded in the teaching journey, acting like a facilitator that complements educators in making purposeful interventions and bringing learning to life for students, accentuating the experience of total education

And that also sums up SmartJen motto on empowering educators with knowledge on digitalisation to make personalised education easy. We redefine total education by providing a holistic online teaching platform that supports educators from the beginning until the end to achieve collaborative and engaged learning.

Our unique integrated e-assessment and learning management system streamlines work processes and enables personalised education based on data and AI-enabled technology.

Completing the virtual classroom with video conferencing features and interactive whiteboard, educators can now provide onsite and offsite teaching seamlessly.

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