My Takeaways from EdTech Europe

Karine Allouche Salanon attending EdTech Europe. Image used by permission of The PIE News.  (C) The PIE News 2015.

Karine Allouche Salanon attending EdTech Europe. Image used by permission of The PIE News. (C) The PIE News 2015.

On June 17, 2015 I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at EdTech Europe in London. As you can see by all of the great coverage already posted on my blog, there was a lot of interest in what these great leaders in education had to say, including my co-panelists John Martin of Sanoma Learning, Rob Grimshaw of TES Global and John Harber of EDGE EdTech.

I had six takeaways from these sessions that I think are important for anyone looking to transform education.

  1. Digitization is not the final end game. The end game is the value you deliver to the learner. While technology can provide great new experiences, those experiences are only as good as the learning they impart and the engagement they drive. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we learn in many ways, and aligning our businesses with only one approach to learning will not realize the potential for learners or the business.
  2. Learning is the overall experience. If digitization is just part of the experience, so too is content. We must think about all of the elements of the learning experience in order to provide the most impact to our learners.
  3. Don’t think of online just as a video or a course: focus on the whole learning experience, including the teacher. Flipped classrooms have taught us not that teachers are less relevant once they lecture, but that their most critical value comes when helping students integrate basic facts and ideas. We need to be cautious about thinking that broadcasting is the best answer in delivering education over networks. We also need to make sure that teachers have an opportunity to engage students, to answer their questions — and to continue their own learning.
  4. The power of digitally enabled human interaction in digital engagement. Learning is a collaborative experience, and we need to design our digital learning experiences so that they not only have the capabilities common to classrooms, but unique capabilities that can only be delivered in digital environments. Flying through space, examining a famous painting up close, or connecting with a native speaker in realtime when learning a language are examples of experiences that enhance learning and are really only available through digital technology.
  5. The importance of peer-to-peer engagement in online learning. If MOOCs have taught us anything, they have taught us that it is difficult to engage students in largely passive ways. I have already talked about the importance integrating teaching and teachers into the digital model, but we also have to create really wonderful ways for students to engage with each other. Thinking about learning as part of a community of learners fundamentally changes the way we learn and can greatly enhance the motivation to keep learning.
  6. Private equity investment is a “critical player” for education technology. As governments around the world struggle with budgets and the delivery of basic human services, education often becomes a key target in discretionary spending cuts. If we want to continue to see innovation in learning, we need to recognize that education is a business, and that investments of private equity will be crucial to transforming rhetoric about education into reality.

To this last point Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet of IBIS Capital, a large investment group specializing in EdTech pointed out that only 3% of funding is going to the education industry today. Of that 35% is going to digital components. He can see this increasing 12 times, but it might take as much at 5 times to realize a return on investments. Education is a slower technology than something like social media or digital photography. It has a slower adoption curve and a lower return rate, but there is nothing wrong with, as Vedrenne-Cloquet points out, “attracting patient capital.”

But despite the relatively slow adoption of education technology, we have to realize that the markets into which students graduate are changing at a very rapid pace.

The skill gaps we see today will not be the same skill gaps in five years. It is important that we create technologies that can help adapt learning experiences to new needs, both in terms of content, and in terms of learners. Non-traditional students are perhaps the biggest growth segment of learners: single parents, those over the age of 25 and people with day jobs.

If we want our economies to thrive, we must meet the needs of these students because we are going to see their ranks growing. They are already contributing as workers in the economy, and are now also learners looking to find ways to make sure they can continue to contribute. Those of us in the education industry must find ways to meet those needs. That is our real value to society and the economy.

EdTech Europe provided a great platform for discussion. I look forward to continuing the dialog here on my blog, and in other conferences.

The original image and its associated article at The PIE News can be found here: Karine Allouche Salanon, CEO, Pearson English Business Solutions.

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