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Education and technology: The future is here

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“The classroom of the future is a digital-enabled classroom. Technology is a must-have and needs to be a core part of business and learning. “

Education and technology today are essentially two sides of the same coin. The many benefits of technology can be encapsulated under the umbrella of enhanced productivity, access to information, and knowledge. Education offers similar benefits. Technology has completely transformed the way we live, work, interact with one another, and increasingly the way we learn.

The digital revolution which started at the turn of this century has democratized access to information and created ubiquitous access to the Internet, and the COVID pandemic has accelerated this transformation. The most resilient and thriving companies in this period have been tech-enabled businesses.

Surprisingly, this radical and accelerated digital transformation has not permeated the formal education sector. We can call for taxis on a phone, carry out banking transactions online, and purchase groceries using an app. Yet, formal learning is still similar in structure and practice to how it was decades ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a rethink of this model. Leveraging technology in education offers three main benefits.

1. Self-directed learning and Remote Instruction:
With digital tools, teaching and learning can happen anywhere and anytime, making self-instruction possible. Education should be mobile and not static. Self-directed learning allows us to customise learning for ability in a more comprehensive way.

Expanding learning outside the classroom is particularly important in a continent like Africa with a shortage of qualified teachers and projections of a doubled population to 2.5 billion people by 2050. We must think about how to scale education outside the four walls of the classroom. There is an increasing number of online learning platforms and Apps. For example the Read-Along App, a free Google App that uses Machine Learning to teach children how to read.

For teachers who need to be constantly up-to-date, tools like Google Scholar can connect them with up-to-date academic research in any field. Classes can be delivered remotely using tech platforms like Meet, Zoom, Google Classroom, and other video conferencing and e-learning platforms.

From a student perspective, tech platforms that support virtual chats and discussions where resources can be pinned and accessed by all students at the same time could help learning. In the past to access the wealth of information in books you had to go to a physical library. Today the library of the world is online, and with a smartphone there’s access to the world’s information at our fingertips. This is empowering and creates a level playing field as a student from Lagos State University or Benson Idahosa University has access to the same information as a counterpart at Stanford University or Harvard University.

The implication of teaching and learning remotely is that the competitive landscape has transformed radically. The client base for schools is no longer limited to a geographic location. With online courses, schools can reach students anywhere in the world. A mathematics teacher in Nigeria can tutor a student in the US. The reality is that not every school will move quickly enough to leverage these opportunities. However, those who do, will be winners and set themselves apart and as an example.

2. Productivity enhancement
Technology tools and platforms help boost productivity, from supply chain management to marketing where digital platforms can be leveraged to increase applications; and optimizing internal business processes like payroll, accounting, HR, and general administration. Digitizing student records, for example, can shorten the length of transcript processing.

Increased profitability: An important business imperative for sustainability is to boost revenue and profitability. The need to build classrooms, hostels, libraries and other structures impose limitations to how many students a school can enroll, limiting potential revenue. Tech expands to include virtual campuses, where the number of students served is unlimited. With these virtual classrooms, administrators can save costs as there’s no need to build dorms, classrooms, or canteens. Schools can scale easily by investing in infrastructure and content, generating more revenue from the same material while reducing cost.

3. Workplace readiness
By taking advantage of databases, modules, and resources online, schools can augment the existing curriculum. This ensures that students have job-ready skills to succeed in the modern workplace and can build innovative solutions for industry. Corporate organizations can be technical partners to Educational Institutions, and Educational Institutions can provide training, plus research and development services to organizations, creating a mutually beneficial situation and increasing monetization possibilities on both sides.

The classroom of the future is a digital-enabled classroom. Technology is a must-have and needs to be a core part of business and learning. Digital literacy today is what basic literacy was to society years ago. It is now the level playing field and the starting point. To stay ahead, schools must incorporate technology to provide dynamic, accessible, up to date, and relevant learning. Digital platforms can increase reach, allowing schools to deliver content beyond borders. There are certainly challenges to be overcome – such as digital access, and the availability of a robust digital infrastructure. Collaboration within the industry is crucial, to develop world-class learning infrastructure.

As innovative and transformative ideas sweep through different sectors, the educational sector is next in line for leveraging technology to drive significant and radical growth.

Ehimuan is Director leading Google’s business strategy in W/Africa. Named Forbes top 20 power women in Africa, featured in the London Business School Review as one of 30 people changing the world, and also featured in BBC Africa Power Women series. She is a thought leader on innovation, digital business strategy, and leadership. She is the Founder of Beyond Limits Africa, a leadership and organizational capacity building initiative. Ehimuan was also featured as a Guardian Woman and is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. Follow Juliet online: @jehimuan. More on www.julietehimuan.com.


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