EdTech trends: Personalisation and Practicalities

Posted 2017-03-23T Posted by Tom
By Kim Nilsson, CEO Pivigo

I was recently asked for an interview on my thoughts on future trends in ‘EdTech’ or Educational technology and it made me think more carefully about what I foresee in the future for education in a wider sense. I have personally spent some 20 years in the European educational system, from my first school day until my PhD ceremony, with a bonus year during my MBA, and if I think carefully about that experience it feels incredibly antiquated.

Our educational system has not changed much in 1000 years. The first Universities were founded that long ago, and the model has not changed much since. Few industries have been lucky enough to survive on the same business model for a millennium! And classroom teaching has looked the same for hundreds of years as well. Sure, my generation was probably the first to use computers in the classroom, but it was used mainly for tasks and learning that would otherwise have been done on paper. Hardly inventive. This is an industry ready for serious disruption!

I see three main trends coming; personalisation, a focus on practical skills and more prolific use of analytics. Starting with personalisation; no one can deny today that children learn in different ways and at different paces. Some prefer to read, others to discuss. Some need more time and others want to race ahead. We have different aptitudes and interests, and without getting into the debate on nature v nurture it is clear that not everyone will be sociologists, nor physicists. So, why do we still insist to take our children through the same curriculum, at the same pace? Today it is still a question of resources. Having a teacher set an individual curriculum for each student is too expensive. However, this is where EdTech has a great advantage, in that it can learn a student’s preference, suggest a curriculum and offer easy access to different learning paths. Make no mistake, this sort of personalised learning curricula will come, it is just a matter of time.

Our society will also force a greater focus on practical skills going forward. Of course we will still teach all children the basics of, for example, Mathematics, Literature or History, but as the students get older, the focus must be greater on practical skills. In our S2DS programme we help analytical PhDs commercialise the skills they have learned in circa 20 years of education. They have fantastic skills, but they are not practical in their current form for a retail business, or even for public services. I would say that our economy cannot afford to educate all these incredibly talented individuals in skills that are not practical! Some will become scientists and researchers, and we need them to have these scientific skills, but most will not. There should be a strong focus on practical skills from early on in our educational system, and a distinction between ‘academic’ degrees and ‘industry’ degrees in the higher education system. Universities need to adapt or succumb.

Finally, throughout our educational system we need to make better use of analytics. Analytics can be used to suggest the personalised curricula, learn how to best teach a child or student, predict who needs extra support from the teacher and spot unusual talent. Schools already gather large amounts of data about their pupils, and could collect even more. There is no limit to what could be gauged from this data. A disclaimer is that the analytics are not prescriptive, but only a support tool. However, I see analytics as the one, overarching theme that connects personalisation together and will ultimately revolutionise how we educate the next generation.

It is an exciting time to be on the fringe of the EdTech scene, especially in London with all it’s start-up activities. Below I note an (incomplete) list of start-ups in London doing a fantastic job. It is going to be painful for organisations that haven’t changed in 1000 years to adapt to a new way of thinking around education, but it will be necessary – for the good of the educational system and ultimately for the continued progress of mankind. Let’s all sit down together, discuss how the new era of education should look and start building Education 2.0. Even I would go back to school for that!

Start-ups in the London EdTech scene that I admire:


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