Top edtech trends for 2021

By Stacey Cockram technology PR senior account executive 

Covid-19 has been a defining moment for the edtech industry. In recent months, edtech has been crucial: schools have relied on digital tools to set students work, and parents have used it to ease the pressures of home-schooling. With the country now in a state of flux, it’s not going anywhere.

Growth in the sector has been immense but all of January’s 2020 edtech predictions went out the window when the world went into lockdown. So it’s time to re-evaluate. If you’re an edtech company yourself, or you’re just excited about the future of learning, here are the five current trends and issues in educational technology you need to know about.

1. Distance learning

Distance learning is when students and teachers are not in the same location. It will come as no surprise therefore, that it’s prime position on our top edtech trends 2021 list. Distance learning technology is not particularly new – indeed, I was teaching English using MyTutor in 2016 – but lockdown is the first time it’s been undertaken at such a scale.

There are two types of distance learning. Asynchronous, where assignments are completed in the student’s own time and submitted online. And synchronous, where lessons are in real time. The latter has proven particularly popular during the pandemic, but it’s not always been smooth sailing – think students causing havoc through bots on gaming tools, and video calls being interrupted by Zoombombers!

With this in mind, privacy and security for distance learning tools have been a trend in itself. You can read more about this and teaching from home in the thought leadership article we secured for our client Malwarebytes (link here).

2. Data driven insights

The National Education Union argues teaching has “unhealthy levels of accountability, high-stakes testing and stress”. Technology to help educators be more efficient has been a long time coming and the pandemic has been a catalyst for seeing this materialise.

For example, apps allowing teachers to give quizzes and generate results immediately, effectively monitor and evaluate progress have become increasingly popular. Automated technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence also allow for personalisation of individuals’ learning needs as data can show where students need support; vital without face to face indicators of people struggling.

3. On the go learning

Today’s generation are digital natives. By seven years old, over 50% of children in the UK have a mobile phone. Students going to school and Gen Z’s going to work expect to have technology readily available. Once again, Covid-19 has taken this to the next level.

2020 has seen education becoming increasingly mobile. My younger sister now has an ‘education’ folder on her iPhone where she keeps Google Classroom, Sheets and Docs. Mobile technology provides instant gratification and changes how and where people can consume information.

4. Accessibility to education

Technology has the capability to improve access to education in many different ways. Consider the issue of textbooks – digital versions that can be accessed online 24/7 and are cheaper to buy mean disadvantaged students don’t miss out on materials. What’s more, technology can provide a tailored learning experience, which is revolutionary for those with physical or learning disabilities.

Despite this, the fact remains digital tools are financially out of reach for many. In June it was reported a third of pupils were not engaging with work and that limited or no access to technology was a problem for around a quarter. If edtech is to truly change lives, this is an issue that needs to be addressed now and throughout 2021.

5. Upskilling

This year we helped Breathe develop their annual culture economy report which explored how organisations should nurture their company culture through Covid-19. One thing we found was teams were facing an information overload with people trying to get to grips with managing an array of platforms and their notifications. This got me thinking about another edtech trend away from the classroom – upskilling the workforce.

Continuous learning is important for safeguarding jobs for in future, especially with the job market now looking so bleak. The World Economic Forum has predicted that by 2022 over half of employees will require significant reskilling or upskilling— and that was before the pandemic. Edtech tools such as online short courses ensure businesses maintain a skilled workforce and individuals are equipped with the tools to progress their career.

At Aspectus, we specialise in edtech PR and marketing. Check out some of the key coverage we recently achieved for Handshake, the graduate recruitment platform: The Sun, FE news, onrec and more.

If you’re an edtech firm looking for PR and marketing support, get in touch with Stacey is a Senior Account Executive for the tech team, with an Education degree from Durham University.

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