How Modern Technology Is Reshaping the E-Learning Industry
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
The past decade has seen tremendous technological innovations, which have disrupted practically every industry there is.
Blockchain is disrupting traditional finance, 3D printing is changing the way we build and create, and artificial intelligence is cropping up practically everywhere — and is increasingly working its way into our everyday lives.
And now, educational professionals, students and enterprise users are beginning to leverage modern technologies to revamp the way we teach and learn—all with the goal of improving the three E’s of education: efficiency, effectiveness and entertainment.
These technologies look set to make the biggest impact in online education in the coming years.
On-demand tutoring grows
In the late 90s and early 2000s, online messaging boards and forums were all the rage. These quickly became hubs where individuals and businesses could share information, pick each other’s brains, and work together to solve problems.
But these platforms had their limits. Information was generally disorganized, and finding a bona fide expert was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. They were not reliable and certainly not efficient.
Related: How to Start an E-Learning Business
These limitations were resolved with the advent of on-demand tutoring platforms. Like forums, many of these platforms allow users to seek help by posing their problems online, but these questions would be directed to experienced tutors and experts rather than being open to the masses.
But more than this, experts now have a way to disseminate their knowledge and reach the students that most need their help, thanks to the rising popularity of video tutoring. This has become particularly important in recent times, as more students and teachers study and work from home, which has caused student engagement and student/teacher time to slack.
Fortunately, a number of platforms have appeared in recent years that work to connect students and teachers together based on their needs, experience and disciplines, such as Studypool, Tutor.com and Brainfuse.
“Despite being a relatively recent innovation, on-demand tutoring platforms have already become a staple in the educational lives of tens of millions of students,” said Richard Werbe, co-founder and CEO of Studypool. “Students now have access to a reservoir of knowledge previously unavailable even a decade ago, while tutors now have the freedom and flexibility to teach what they want, when they want.”
Since it's launch in 2015, Studypool has grown its user base into the millions and has over 50,000 verified tutors on the platform. The company achieved this growth by rethinking how students and tutors collaborate, by giving students access to a wealth of study notes and helping them easily seek expert advice via microtutoring and on-demand tutoring.
Platforms like this enable students to crowdsource knowledge faster and more efficiently than ever before, massively improving the transfer of knowledge between expert and student.
Education goes automated
Throughout history, education has been a teacher/student interaction in which knowledge flows from one person to another. This is still the status quo. But a number of technologies being rolled out could challenge this model.
Arguably the most significant of these is artificial intelligence, along with related technologies such as neural networks and machine learning. With these technologies, developers are beginning to build applications that can collect, sort and organize information automatically, essentially producing encyclopedias of knowledge using publicly available information.
These tools are also being used to spot which topics students struggle with, to identify students who need additional help, and to produce personalized content plans at the click of a button.
Artificial intelligence is already being used in a heap of online learning platforms, including Quizlet, Duolingo, Querium—each of which uses AI to deliver tailored content to students without the need for any human involvement. Many of these platforms also used spaced repetition learning systems and AI-powered chat bots to help with queries and ensure retention, helping to maximize efficiency.
The massive potential of AI — not just in the education industry — has seen an explosion in corporate interest, and AI (and associated skills such as natural language processing and machine learning) now ranks as the fourth most desirable skill for companies in 2020.
Virtual reality takes off
Since the 2016 launch of the Oculus Rift, the first major consumer virtual reality headset, the number of use-cases for the virtual reality (VR) technology has exploded — with video games and sports, military, and tourism applications becoming increasingly popular.
But if there’s one industry virtual reality is really poised to disrupt—it’s online education. By providing a medium for educators and students to come together in a more engaging, active way, virtual reality is able to offer learning experiences that won’t soon be forgotten.
According to a recent study by Statista, education is the fourth biggest sector for VR investments, and the VR education industry is poised to become a $700 million market by 2025 — more than tripling in the next five years. Moreover, a whopping 97 percent of students were found to be interested in taking a VR educational course.
The reasons behind this expected growth? The sheer effectiveness of VR education. A recent study by Jingjie Zhao and colleagues showed that VR can be used to significantly improve learners’ academic test scores. It can even be used to inspire confidence in young learners, which will pay dividends later on, in terms of academic aptitude.
It’s not just used in the classroom either. “VR events are now being employed for a range of educational use-cases,” says Stan Liberatore, CEO of VSummits, a company that is organizing virtual meetings for universities, hospitals and conferences.
“Similar to how flight simulators are used during flight training for budding pilots, and how dummies and models are used for training surgeons," Liberatore says. "VR provides an environment where learners can gain experience doing complex or potentially risky tasks without bearing any real risk or costs, while enabling teachers and students to interact naturally regardless of distance.”
As a result, educators are now using VR to help students tackle a range of disciplines, from public speaking to architectural design, and everything else in between. In many cases, these educators leverage the engaging properties of gamification to make learning a more fun experience.
As with many burgeoning industries, the VR education sector has already begun to spawn its first wave of entrepreneurs, but with massive potential growth still ahead, it’s likely that its true potential remains untapped.