Lessons in education: digital innovation
Find out what today’s education leaders in APAC have learned about investing in digital innovation.
01Digital innovation: a key investment for educational institutions
02The time for innovation is now
03Professional development is no longer optional
04The importance of a technology ecosystem
05Continuous change is paramount
06The future is digital
Digital innovation: a key investment for educational institutions
If the pandemic has shown society anything positive, it’s that we can adapt quickly when given the freedom to innovate. While some educational innovations were short-lived solutions for extraordinary circumstances, others will shape our approach to education for decades to come.
From January to March 2022, IBRS conducted interviews with primary, secondary and tertiary institutions from the ANZ and ASEAN region. Various issues were raised in their report, but a key finding was that educational institutions must embrace digital innovation as a long-term investment.
The time for innovation is now
Institutions that already had strong programs to support digital education fared better in COVID lockdowns than those that did not. Their innovation programs also matured significantly, both in terms of getting educators involved in innovation and in implementing balanced governance and practices to fund and review them.
There is still a lack of a future focus on what education could be like. We’re playing catch-up… students and the nature of the world are changing faster than schools.
Now that educators understand that institutions have the capacity to support experiments in teaching, we have the potential for a golden age of educational innovation. However, this will only happen if institutions implement formal programs to support it, and must be modelled from the top down. Student well-being and digital safety are too important to leave to unbridled experimentation but, at the same time, we must trust educators to try new technologies and approaches.
Teachers are now thirsty to try new things. They are constantly asking, ‘Hey, can we do this? Can you get this for us? Can we subscribe to A, B or C?’
Professional development is no longer optional
Professional development has been an imperative for embedding technology into teaching for decades. However, given educators’ heavy workload, making time for it was an ongoing problem.
The pandemic forced this issue. Educators had no choice but to become familiar with a wide range of technologies for teaching, content creation, and collaboration with peers, students, and parents. Institutions previously lagging in their use of technology had a steeper hill to climb. But, they did it! The key lesson here is that training in the digital tools of education is not something to leave “until there’s time.” It must be a priority.
During COVID, most schools had to move very quickly. There was no opportunity for staff to formally acquire the technical skills they needed on top of everything else they were doing. So a dedicated professional learning program — and more importantly, the time to do it — is needed now more than ever.
In the post-COVID world, professional development needs to be embedded into learning, with regular feedback for – and from – educators. Hybrid learning and online teaching can be recorded and reviewed to allow improvement. In addition, the digital signals relating to student engagement — videos watched, drop-off rates, etc. — can provide invaluable feedback.
When a new teacher engages a class, we watch the recording and provide feedback… While some teachers have a natural affinity to be engaging, there is a spectrum of skills. So it is important to continually evaluate and improve teaching staff.
The importance of a technology ecosystem
The rapid reliance on digital services during the pandemic revealed a problem that educators have been battling for decades — the poor interoperability between institution administration and the technologies that support its teaching. During lockdowns, digital delivery was brought front and centre, and so too was the pain of attempting to bring all the disparate education solutions together, without teachers losing hours to admin.
Integration between technologies is now essential. For most institutions, the heart of the ecosystem is the LMS. From collaborative learning tools to assessment solutions, all capabilities need to integrate with the LMS. Therefore, a balance is needed between experimentation with new technologies and leveraging the existing ecosystem.
There are different approaches to striking this balance, but any model must evaluate new software from the perspective of how it interacts with the greater ecosystem. This is a vital governance function and must include educational practitioners that can communicate the possibilities and limitations of any proposed innovations.
OneSchool wanted to build an education backend that was robust, applicable anywhere across the world… This sent us hunting for solutions that could work globally and fit well together: for example: Zoom, Canvas LMS, and the like. We changed a lot of products just to make sure that they were universally supported and also easy to maintain.
Continuous change is paramount
Countless reports over the last three decades have criticised the slow pace of change in education. However, the pandemic forced all stakeholders — from teachers and administration to the students and their families — to embrace rapid changes.
From a technical perspective, the uptake of cloud-based solutions has moved education networks significantly towards a ‘continual upgrade’ cycle with little to no maintenance costs. Many of the cloud solutions adopted during the pandemic are based on subscription licensing, and upgrades are provided with little or no involvement by their clients. This frees up educational technologists to spend more time looking for new innovations that fit the ecosystem and support pedagogy. It also ensures that new innovations are deployed across multiple education networks simultaneously, which has huge potential for unlocking cross-institutional efficiency and new options such as lifetime learning journeys, micro-credentials, and accelerated learning as part of the educator’s journey as a lifelong learner.
The future is digital
With education returning to in-person learning, some of the valuable practices that arose in lockdowns may revert back to traditional approaches. However, many are here to stay, and investing in scalable digital solutions — as well as training educators to utilise them — should be a priority.
IBRS’ research, while sponsored by Zoom, was conducted independently and does not focus on Zoom’s solutions. To read the full IBRS report, click here.