What Does Digitalization of Education Mean for Business and How Can You Keep Up With It?

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Read on to find out how the digitalization of education is transforming the industry and what competencies will be required in the future.

In 1999, after the CBT systems seminar, the world was presented with the term “e-learning” and the idea of utilizing digital technologies in the teaching and learning process. This concept has evolved over the years into what is known today as Digital Education.

In this post, we’ll share some ideas on what the digitalization of education is, how the pandemic has affected educational institutions around the world and how students, teachers and edtech-preneurs can benefit from future education technologies.

Impact of Digitalization on the Education Market

The digital era has transformed all aspects of our life. It defines how we live, work, travel, socialize, and, what’s more important, it changes the way we learn and educate. Even though the idea of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) has been in the air since the late ’90s, it was only during the 2020 COVID outbreak that the educational industry came across its real challenges.

After the world was faced with strict lockdown rules, the need for the digitization of the education sector became vital. According to the UN, 94% of the total student population — which is equal to nearly 1.6 billion learners across 190 countries — was affected by the pandemic.

While closures of schools and universities have hit traditional educational systems especially hard, they have still been able to withstand the storm, with the help of digital learning tools. In fact, pandemic restrictions skyrocketed the demand for digital educational technologies, all together.

According to Researchandmarkets, the global online education market is projected to grow to $319.17 billion by 2025, from almost $188.88 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) market will quadruple, reaching $21.4 billion in 2025 (from $5.16 billion in 2019).

According to research done by Schoology Exchange with 17,000 responders (most of whom were US teachers), 95.6% believe that digital education positively affects the educational process.

With such impressive numbers, we can’t deny the key role that digitalization plays for educational institutions.

5 Benefits of Education Digitalization

Knowledge has transferred globally, and it’s time for the traditional educational system to do the same. Let’s review the top five benefits of adopting digitalization in schools and universities today.

The major challenge of traditional education — that has since been averted with the rise of digital technologies — is access to information. The availability of information eliminates the need for students to spend hours sourcing the data they need. They are no longer required to spend lots of time going to/from the library just to discover that there are no books relevant to their topic of research.

The digitalization of the education sector allows us to considerably speed up the learning process. Students are no longer required to physically break down the engine to study its components, or physically get on an airplane to examine the aerodynamic performance of the rotor during specific weather conditions. Thanks to a large number of digital simulators, all this information can be obtained without leaving home.

Aside from that, the digital environment fosters collaboration between learners from different parts of the world, promotes insight sharing and helps to test various hypotheses in real-time.

The fact that each student has their own rhythm or habits for studying is normally overlooked by a traditional education system. With digital learning, instead, each student can choose any time of the day to learn. They are no longer required to study in one specific style that is based on the predefined instructions for each academic discipline.

With what is known as “asynchronous learning”, students can access relevant information of interest when they need it the most. Not only does this close knowledge gaps for undergraduates, but it also boosts their creativity.

The use of digital tools helps students stay up-to-date with the current school agenda throughout the day, and receive immediate feedback from their teachers. The shift to self-paced learning targets the individual needs of each student and helps them decide what works best for them.

New technologies demand new tools to be created, and the digitalization of education is a prime example that showcases the rise of the new market. Sure, the educational market has a long-established story; however, 2020 has turned the world upside down revealing hidden opportunities and areas that normally fall off the radar.

Not only did the shift to remote learning abruptly increase the demand for new e-learning technologies, but it also exposed the obsolescence of a hardware base that many educational facilities have today.

A call for the radical improvement of infrastructure, coupled with the need for new digital educational systems to be developed, boosted ed-tech startups and initiatives, such as Karri PaymentsEduTracITESTTeacherly, etc.

Online learning tools break barriers, making education accessible for children around the world. Regardless of economic situation or social status, people can access educational content from their individual devices.

This type of digital equity provides people with inexpensive learning opportunities; students are no longer bound to the educational facility and are able to receive quality education regardless of their location.

In the not-too-distant future, we will witness the digitalization of higher education institutions, as well. Students who are dreaming of going to the California Institute of Technology, for example, but face restrictions due to their location, will be able to start attending college online, in just a few clicks.

The demand for such a transformation has become even more apparent and logical if we take into account the severe pandemic restrictions that come into effect day by day. In the new reality we are living in, the requirement for students to live on-campus or physically attend courses no longer makes logical sense.

Teachers are well-known for their difficult roles, and these jobs can be quite overwhelming. They have to carry out classes, check homework, plan lessons, complete administrative tasks, etc. Aside from their main job — teaching — all these routine elements consume a lot of energy that otherwise could be spent on improving educational programs or running new projects.

Thanks to digital tools and automation, teachers can now say goodbye to all the redundant work that occurs on a daily basis. With the help of automation software, teachers can track attendance, create records, and send automated responses and reminders to students.

Modern Learning Management Systems (LMSs) can assist teachers in reviewing submitted homework, facilitating tests, planning future lessons, grading, etc. Digital tools can take the burden of supervision off the teachers’ shoulders, allowing them to be more focused on educating, rather than serving mainly as authority figures.

5 Challenges of Education Digitalization

Despite the apparent advantages that digitalization brings to education, there are still some drawbacks to adopting this approach. Here are the five most common challenges that we need to think of when advocating for the digital transformation of education.

One of the stumbling stones of our time is that we have taken technology for granted. When we start talking about online education, the first few questions that come to mind might be “how can we manage this whole process?” or “is it actually effective?” But what we really need to be concerned about is “how is digital education accessible for people?”

Even in a time when everyone carries a mobile phone in their pocket, access to technology is still limited. Many people rely on their smartphones as their only source of information, and some have Wi-Fi access that is limited by phone plans.

In the least developed countries, people don’t even have the opportunity to access an electronic device. According to UNESCO, 3.6 billion people around the world don’t have internet access, and 250 million children have no access to education at all.

But what about schools? Even in developed countries, such as the USA, the number of educational facilities with tight budgets is extremely high. In addition, there is a shortage or, in some cases, a complete absence of IT manpower in schools.

On a broader scale this means that, with the digitalization of education, teachers will have to fill “project manager” and “customer support” roles, to say the least.

Let’s face it, a major share of students struggle with self-discipline. When it comes to the traditional classroom setting, this challenge can be mitigated due to the supervised environment. When it comes to online classes, however, students are normally left to their own gadgets which, for some, can become quite challenging.

Lack of interest may result in students paying low attention or even not understanding what they are being taught. Coupled with badly designed courses and widespread misconceptions about online education (e.g. lots of parents and students consider online courses to be something that cannot substitute a traditional education), this can lower students’ motivation significantly, and even tempt them to skip online classes.

The solution to this problem lies in a strongly organized learning process that follows a unified technological approach across all courses. Online dashboards that help students track their progress and shared calendars reminding them of due dates help to keep students engaged.

With all the benefits that the digital era brings to the table, technologies are still not able to substitute humans (read “teachers”). While well-structured educational content helps learners absorb and process information faster, there is no way to help learners develop specific skills that are normally gained during brainstorms or face-to-face communication.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at Rocketship, a popular elementary school network in the US that blends traditional education with computer-oriented technologies. The idea behind the Rocketship education program is to use software in some academic programs — instead of teachers — to teach kids.

Various researchers raised doubts about the quality of such an approach, agreeing that Rocketship graduates demonstrate good basic skills, but struggle when it comes to critical analysis.

New technologies always come with change and not all people are ready to accept that change. School communities may fear change and prefer to stick with tried-and-true traditional methods. Fear of new things is human nature, and is common for most people: “the right path is the one I usually go with.”

Here, however, it is important for teachers to take the lead and encourage learners. A tutor’s main goal is not to transmit a specific (read “limited”) knowledge to students, but to mentor and show learners new ways of how digitalization and education can be combined together.

Teachers should be the first to adopt the latest technologies. For that to happen, they need to have all the information at their disposal, showing them how the use of modern digital tools will benefit their students.

As good as the flexibility of the educational process may seem to appear at first glance, there are still some nuances to point out. As with the traditional approach, online education requires standardized protocols and procedures to be introduced by the government.

The absence of common guidelines makes the educational sector unpredictable and difficult to analyze. When no clear rules are set, each party tries to come up with its own, or simply copies something that has worked out well for others.

This may lead to a great deal of confusion where each educational institution individually decides how to digitize their processes, track progress, engage students, decide which software to use, etc.

On one hand, the vast diversity of digital tools and approaches helps to flourish the educational market. On the other, however, it complicates the process itself, and may even question its effectiveness of it since no clear criteria or standards are set in that regard.

Final Thoughts

In a world where isolation and social deprivation are the new normal, we can’t ignore the new challenges or the opportunities that are coming our way. While physical classrooms have been affected by the global pandemic the most, the pandemic has pushed the education industry into “overdrive” mode, keeping it among the fastest-growing industries today.

It’s certain that the future of education is digitization. In 2021, edtech startups and digital businesses around the world will see a high ROI thanks to the impact of digitalization on the education industry.

If you have an edtech startup or are interested to learn how your business can benefit from the post-pandemic reality, get in touch with Fayrix. Our developers are vastly experienced in developing digital products for SMEs and enterprises in major fields: Education, Agriculture, Real Estate, Transportation, Fintech, Retail, and more.