5 Trends That Will Drive the Transformation of EdTech in 2021

Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology across various sectors, but the speed at which EdTech advanced is remarkable. Millions of schools switched to remote learning, almost overnight. And it looks like the changes that EdTech has enabled, will continue to influence education even as educational institutes prepare for a full return to classrooms. EdTech is here to stay. With that, let’s look at the 5 trends that will possibly guide the growth of EdTech this year.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

2020 has been a roller coaster ride for all of us, and this has thrown up a lot of opportunities and imperatives. One such imperative is leveraging AI to build skills for the future. There is a lot of buzz around how workplaces of the future need new skillsets. McKinsey released a report a couple of years back, which states that by 2030, 65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet, which means they would be entering the job market with a competency gap. AI will play a significant role in this transition. Designing study assistants to identify skill gaps and appropriately recommending the right content to fill those gaps would help. To make this possible, EdTech companies would have to look at both tech and content in new ways to design such solutions.

2. Educator Support

The pace at which educators have had to adapt to tech-driven delivery methodologies in 2020 has been unprecedented. And this is likely to continue with newer technologies coming in. Professional development for online instruction would also help educators to develop online teaching skills. It is also imperative that educators not only have a say in the EdTech product design but also get help through technology support tools. Another consideration is that these tools should be user-friendly; educators should spend more time delivering education than figuring out technology. Quillionz and Raptivity are two good examples of such useful tools. Quillionz helps educators get question ideas and reinforcement points from content (both text and videos), and Raptivity helps educators build pre-class, in-class, and post-class engagement.

3. Digital Transformation

The year 2021 would be a watershed year for this digital transformation for educational institutes. The level of digital transformation might vary from K-12 to higher-ed to skilling platforms. But there is no denying that digital transformation is much more than just providing a Zoom license to get virtual sessions delivered. In addition to using AI and providing educator support, it will also involve creating the entire end-to-end hybrid learning ecosystem to bring about this transformation. 

4. Integrations

Education systems have mostly been working in silos till now. Be it student information systems, learning management systems, student engagement platforms, CRM, attendance systems, or alike, most of these systems operate in isolation. The data that resides in these various systems could help design new experiences if allowed to integrate. For example, suppose a student takes a zoom class. In that case, the attendance system marks their presence automatically, or if the student undertakes an online course, the recommendation engine suggests appropriate learning pathways based on the student’s performance. EdTech products would have to ensure how they seamlessly fit into this ecosystem without adding more administrative work for their customers.

5. Equity in Education

The pandemic has widened the already significant social disparities, and as education and training have shifted online, fears about the ‘digital divide’ have intensified. We are talking about ‘digital inclusion’ and bridging the ‘digital divide.’ Institutions need to find ways to support students as well as educators. Creating asynchronous and offline learning opportunities and not trying to replicate the whole school day online are some strategies that will surely help. Technology will undoubtedly play a significant role in providing ways to do this, but in practicality, all stakeholders need to do their bit to bring equity in education. At Harbinger, we are trying to play our part in bringing equity in education through one of our flagship products – Offline Player. This player allows students to access learning data without internet connectivity. 

Team Harbinger recently hosted a ‘Point of View’ on this topic. The session captures some of the above points in detail. Click here to view the recording of the session.

EdTech tools and technologies have enabled educational institutions to rise to the occasion and make a smooth transition from classrooms to remote learning in 2020. If anything, 2021 will only see it getting bigger and better. As an EdTech provider, are you equipped to handle this enormous growth? What challenges and opportunities do you foresee? Please drop us a note at info@harbingerlearning.com. We would be happy to discuss.  

The EdTech Story: Designing Products for Impacting Student Outcomes and Student Engagement

The education landscape around us is disrupting rapidly. This was happening even before COVID hit us, and the pandemic just accelerated it. What is even more interesting is, that these changes are not happening at a focal point, but cutting across age groups – K-12, Higher Ed, and adult learning. With more and more teaching related activities moving remotely on devices through digital apps, impacting student outcomes and student engagement is coming across as a key challenge for various stakeholders.

The need of the hour is to blend instructional pedagogies with innovative use of technology. There are various aspects that are critical while designing an EdTech product. We have broadly categorized them into four key areas listed below from our experience.

Impacting Student Outcomes

An article published by Forbe’s magazine says that the only metric that matters in EdTech is student outcomes. The role of technology is to act as an enabler to impact these outcomes. At times, it may sound as a controversial stance, and debate it and say there is more to it. But eventually it all leads up to student outcomes. Broadly, if I had to list all such key outcomes, they would be:

  • Driving social mobility and prosperity in economically weaker sections of societies
  • Bridging the gap between formal education and jobs of the future
  • Making education inclusive and equitable for specially abled students
  • Closing the achievement gap for students

We should also consider making the product design process a more collaborative one, by involving educators. Educators would be able to put together a totally fresh perspective in front of EdTech investors and providers about how they perceive real world challenges, which then could be used to into a line of code or an algorithm for a feature.

Harbinger has been providing various engineering services for its EdTech customers. As part of our UI/UX services, we do interview teachers and professors, in the target market, to understand their needs, usage patterns, and pain points. And based on the inputs, our team works with product managers to design product features, improve current product and its design. This helps in not only designing relevant features, but also increase product usage, which in turn helps the business with their objectives.

Designing it Right for Enhanced User Engagement

When it comes to designing products for EdTech industry, design is an extremely important aspect. In fact, a bad design is a death knell for your product. There are numerous cases of debacles in the EdTech industry due to bad design. Once such remarkable case is when New York city’s education department created a data system to replace Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS. The investment that went into this was in tunes of USD 95 million over a period of 8 years. When an audit was done to determine the user adoption, it revealed that only a meagre 3% of parent population had logged in into the system. Further investigation revealed that the main reason for this was bad design.

Why designing for EdTech becomes different as compared to some of the other industries is that varied persona types that you have to cater to. The same application or platform could be used by students, teachers, administrators, and parents. And each user type will be using it for a different purpose. This adds a layer of complexity and makes it fun and challenging to design an EdTech product.

Accelerating Digital Transformation through Integrations

In the current context of things, your products are key to help educational institutes make the leap of digital transformation. And integration is a key enabler for digital transformation. You no longer have the option to leave out integration for next time; you need it and you need it now.

Adoption and eventually success of your product heavily relies on integration readiness of your product. In the beginning, the stop gap arrangement for educational institutes was to deliver instructions on web applications like Zoom or Webex. But these were not designed to meet the focal needs of impacting student outcomes and engagement.

There are a variety of products that an educational institute might start using, but if they do not talk to each other, then the entire purpose is defeated. And imagine how the entire experience would be from a student or faculty perspective.

A majority of their time would be spent in navigating from one application to another. And of course, there is the entire angle of data. How do we manage this navigation problem and make sense of the data and provide meaningful insights to stakeholders – if the applications and products are working in silos? The need of the hour is to leverage integrations to accelerate your digital transformation strategy.

Let me bring up a case here to further support the case of integrations. Lately, educational institutes have turned to digital credentialing to validate and recognize skills. Credly, a leading player in this field integrated with Canvas. And a result of this integrated ecosystem – universities are now able to seamlessly and efficiently provide digital credentials to their students on completion of learning programs within the LMS.

Preparing for an Economy of Scale and Disruption

Preparing for an economy of scale and disruptions, both at the same time. Looks contradictory. Allow me to elaborate it a little further.
When the pandemic curveball hit us, and educational institutes closed their physical campuses overnight, replacing it with remote learning and instruction models. It was an act necessitated by the circumstances at hand. The curve to stabilize operations was steep for some and for some others it was relatively easier.

One key reason behind this was that EdTech products which were optimized for cloud could quickly scale up, but the others struggled, some crashed. This entire experience has helped convince stakeholders that preparing for an economy of scale is must and getting on the cloud is the key.

There is one thing that the recent disruptions have taught us is that this is not the last disruption. There could be more, something else, in different sizes and shapes. And while you prepare for an economy of scale, by migrating your products to the cloud, it will also provide you the much-needed elasticity for the next disruption. You can downsize the technology infrastructure and save on costs while you wait for enrolments to pick up.

These are the most interesting times in the EdTech space. This is an opportunity to contribute towards shaping up teaching and learning in the future. In the subsequent blogs, we will peel down the layers of each of the four key aspects we touched upon. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

How Off-The-Shelf Learning Providers Can Take Advantage of Technology Disruptions

Technology disruptions can be a big sink for any business, if not handled well. Off-the-shelf learning providers have witnessed multiple such disruptions in the last few years, the latest one being Flash sunsetting. Such disruptions could result in huge capital expenditure or delay go-to-market plans, adversely impacting the bottom line in either case.  As the CEO or senior leader of an off-the-shelf learning provider, how do you handle such challenges? Is there a way you can leverage these disruptions to your advantage? How can you use your existing resources to turn such disruptions into an opportunity?

Harbinger had the privilege of hosting six of world’s highly accomplished learning and development leaders recently, for Power Hour – an online roundtable discussion. The guests were Frank Russell ( Founder and CEO at Prositions), Dehumo Bickersteth (Owner and Principal Consultant at DTB Services), Desiree Pinder (E-Learning Consultant at XP Learning), Michael Schreiner, PMP (Vice President of Content at Vector Solutions), Nicole Prolow (Training Development Specialist), and Rahul Singh (Sr. GM at Harbinger Interactive Learning). The discussion was led and facilitated by Dr Vikas Joshi (CEO at Harbinger Group).

Vikas presented four key types of disruptions that content providers can face. The panelists shared their experiences on how they found some interesting opportunities in the disruptions they had witnessed in their career span.

Socio-Economic Disruptions and the Opportunities They Create

These are the disruptions that arise outside somewhere and affect your business.

Disruption Opportunity
COVID pandemic There is a need to produce COVID educational content in line with the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Rise in gig economy The gig economy generates rapid onboarding needs because people are going to come in and go out.
Inclusion of millennials in workforce The millennials in workforce are driving the need for micro learning.
Importance of diversity and inclusion – gender, race, accessibility A lot of makeover might be required for learning content that’s several years old and may need to be redone keeping the sensitivities for diversity & inclusion, going forward.
Focus on well-being With the increased focus on well-being, off-the-shelf content providers are looking at creating a lot of new content on mental health, financial well-being, etc.

Workplace Disruptions and the Opportunities They Create

These are the disruptions you experience inside your business.

Disruption Opportunity
Shift towards remote work This disruption created opportunities for off-the-shelf content providers to help in developing competencies related to remote work. For example, managing team and motivation in a remote working mode.
Focus on digital channels New content was rapidly needed to develop skills of employees to use digital channels for communication. For examples, sales team need to start selling products and solutions online instead of face to face meetings.
Need for reskilling Employees need to be reskilled for new technologies, new processes, or new job roles; and these skills need to be developed in the context of the prior skills.
New public health regulations With the COVID situation, there are new public health regulations coming up and employees need to be trained before coming back to work.

Design Technology Disruptions and the Opportunities They Create

These are changes at a technology level purely from a design perspective, these disruptions can impact the way you design learning content.

Disruption Opportunity
Rise in automation With technology upgrades, new ways of working emerged with automation. For example, platforms using AI to help in language learning; using Google translate for rapid and cost-effective translations. Using AI to generate questions from raw content by using tools like Quillionz. Off-the-shelf content providers can use technology to reduce the cost of production.
Phasing out of Adobe Flash With Flash sunsetting, there was a huge demand for migrating content to newer technologies like HTML5, Unity, and mobile-friendly content.
Rise of dynamic video This led to usage of technology to deliver interactive and dynamic videos with analytics. Exaltive is a great example of the same.
Emergence of mixed reality Boeing has reported 25% productivity improvement for technicians using mixed reality content. Off-the-shelf content providers are in the early stages of exploring this technology.

Delivery Technology Disruptions and the Opportunities They Create

These are disruptions driven by change in delivery technologies.

Disruption Opportunity
Emergence of social collaboration technology Social collaboration platforms like Teams and Slack are now used in day to day work life. Delivering learning through such platforms in the workflow is another opportunity area for off-the-shelf providers.
Increased adoption of mobile technology Using mobile to deliver learning bytes based on need and learning pattern is another opportunity for off-the-shelf content providers.
The shift from LMS to LXP There is a lot of conversation around how to syndicate off-the-shelf content with platforms like EdCast, Percipio, and Degreed.
Rise of artificial intelligence/machine learning Delivering off-the-shelf content pieces for personalized learning experiences to learners using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies is another area of opportunity to explore.
Rich data analytics Generating rich data analytics based on learner behaviors and work patterns; and using those insights to deliver just-in-time learning content in the workflow, has huge potential.

As evident from above, there are opportunities that each types of disruption can bring along. Off-the-shelf content providers need to carefully watch out for those and take advantage of them. At the same time, it is not feasible for off-the-shelf providers to work on each opportunity on their own.  Custom content learning businesses can support them for best results.

Here is the link to the complete Power Hour session recording.

Have you devised an opportunity out of a technology disruption? What success stories do you have to share with the industry? Please comment below or drop us a note at info@harbingerlearning.com.

PESE Model – The Framework to Design a Scalable Remote Learning Solution

The legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan once said, “I want people to understand, gambling is not a bad thing if you do it within the framework of what it’s meant to be, which is fun and entertaining.” Pretty riveting depiction of framework. In the context of learning and development, the key role of a framework would be to enable CLOs to help businesses meet desired objectives through intervention of learning programs.

Today, we’ll be looking at a framework which Harbinger has designed to help L&D leaders navigate through the new normal of remote work and remote learning. The framework is called the PESE Model. It stands for prepare, engage, support, & evaluate. At a high level, this framework breaks down the successful implementation process of remote learning solutions into four distinct phases. In this blog, we would be looking at these four phases from a bird’s eye view. And in the subsequent, blogs we would peel the layers for each of these four phases, one at a time.

Prepare

Prepare is the starting point, this is where we lay the foundation of success of the learning program.

To start with, it is important for us to agree upon the specific business challenge that we are solving and there should be a consensus amongst all stakeholders on this. The second point is knowing your audience – who are they, where are they, and how are they. Then you have to define the type of learning modalities that you want to use to implement your learning program – do you want to have a virtual instructor-led session, do you want to include game-based assessments or have SME videos. At this stage, it is also important to understand and define the role that you want technology to play, assess if you have the relevant technology in house or you would want some additional support to implement your remote learning program successfully. And last but not the least, clearly identify what role your virtual instructors need to play, assess where they are with their current skills in terms of facilitating virtual sessions and if they require any upskilling or reskilling.

 

Engage

Now, we move onto the second pillar of the framework, which is engage. In the times when remote work is becoming the new normal, keeping employees and learners engaged is key.

While implementing remote learning, there are three distinct stages at which we need to take care of learner engagement. Those three stages are pre-event, during the event and post the event. For e.g., let us consider the event as a virtual instructor-led session, in that case some engagement points which we could think of for different stages are:

  1. Creating a teaser animation video on the topic of the session for pre-event engagement. This can generate curiosity and motivate the audience to participate in the session.
  2. During the event, we can have group activities for learners where they can participate. Sleek and modern visual design is also a great hook to ensure engagement from the learners during the event.
  3. Post event is an important piece in the entire engagement cycle. This is where we should have a reasonable focus. Couple of engagement points for our learners during this phase could be nudging with supplementary learning material for reinforcement or providing support tools like job aids.

 

Support

The third pillar of our framework is about supporting your learners. This support is required throughout the life cycle of remote learning; it is more about continuous learning.

The key is to integrate the required support in the flow of remote work. We can consider options like having an AI-enabled virtual coach integrated in an office productivity tool like slack or Microsoft teams to support your learners post the event.

 

Evaluate

And lastly, we come to the evaluate stage. It is imperative to evaluate the results of the remote learning program against the success parameters that were set. And based on the findings, if there is a need to make course corrections in the program we should do that and then re-launch the program.

So that’s the remote learning framework, Prepare – Engage – Support – Evaluate.

It would be interesting to know your thoughts on this framework. Please comment below or drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

 

Foundational Beliefs for L&D Leaders for Implementing Remote Learning

In my last blog, I spoke about how remote learning is strongly emerging as a positive intervention in the post pandemic situation. While we would all agree to the fact that the need for remote learning has been established, what we have to be sensitive about is the adoption rate. We, as L&D leaders and stakeholders, need to have some foundational beliefs, before we embark on a journey of implementing remote learning.

There are 5 key things which I would like to highlight:

  1. Learner engagement is a key priority.

With the evolution of the workplace, the role of L&D leaders is also evolving. One of the key jobs that we have on our hands is to keep our remote workforce engaged by bringing learning in the flow of their remote work. We need to proactively listen-in to the experiences of the learners and chart out a strategy accordingly. If we ever wanted to add agility in our playbook, the time is now.

  1. Remote learning isn’t the same as eLearning.

The speed at which some organizations across the globe have tried to move all their content digital, is certainly debatable. We must be mindful of such rapid shifts when we strategize our remote learning programs. The learning needs to be structured in a way that it does not overwhelm learners. There needs to be a fine balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning.

  1. Remote Learning is not the same as delivering an instructor-led training session on zoom or webex.

A live virtual instructor-led session is different than an in-person classroom session. Right from the presentation, group activities, to engagement points, everything is customized depending on the mode of delivery. And above all, the way the instructor needs to deliver the entire leaning experience is different in both the modalities.

  1. Remote learning is about exploring new options.

L&D leaders and practitioners need to be open to experiment and organize learning differently, away from the traditional mold. Flexibility and patience are some skills that all stakeholders need to display when we go about implementation of remote learning. Do not fret if you don’t get everything right at the first place. It might be an unknown territory for quite a few of us.

  1. Remote learning entails empathy.

We, as L&D stakeholders, need to show empathy towards the new normal. We need to be sensitive about sociological conditions of our learners and try to address some of them through our remote learning design strategy.

These foundational beliefs will eventually guide us around putting together a framework to implement remote learning. In our next blog, we’ll be looking at one such framework. I would love to know how you are strategizing remote learning in your organization. Comment below or drop a note at info@harbingerlearning.com.