Edtech is More than Just E-Learning

By Jeremy Nguyen-Phuong, Co-founder, Udentity

Jeremy Nguyen-Phuong, Co-founder, Udentity

The biggest challenge in education is not learning, it is the ability to guide students in self-discovery.

The rise of Edtech began with converting traditional classrooms to digital ones by investing in advanced hardware and software solutions. Based on trends and the valuation of Edtech businesses and startups, it looks as though we are betting the majority of our chips on online learning solutions like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s).

The global e-learning market is predicted to register revenues close to US$271 billion by 2022. As exciting as that is, the Edtech market is over saturated with companies and startups focusing on digital classrooms and process automation. There will come a point where every student will be spoon fed information by AI teachers. However, that should not be the main aim of education. The bigger question is how technology can empower students to find their identities and directions.

Let’s start with the field I am in – international college admissions – probably one of the biggest education decisions a student will make. There are more than 4,000 colleges in the US alone. It is a daunting process for any student and especially for international students who are geographically disadvantaged. It is difficult for them to visit a college and for a college to visit them. Despite websites and information being accessible, there is often an overload of information and a lack of connectivity between the student and the college. As a result, international students will often rely on rankings to determine ‘best fit’ and trust an external consultant to mold them into a desirable candidate. In most cases, they lose their identity in that process.

It is estimated that in China over 80% of students use a private admissions consultant for overseas college application and about 70% have their essays ghostwritten to gain admissions into competitive colleges. Many of these students know very little about the schools they apply to, resulting in high college dropout rates and mental health issues. So where does one start?

The first step is empathy. Technology can be used as a tool to understand students’ interests in terms of academic preference, learning style, financial ability and filter down options that matches their needs. And in the process, it helps create unique student profiles to showcase their interests and experiences.

Next is connectivity. At Udentity, we use livestream technology to connect universities with international students. These online events allow universities to share in-depth information about their institutions and enable students to ask questions and recognize the range of education opportunities that are available.

Self-discovery runs in parallel with expanding one’s horizons. Empowerment comes only through understanding one’s options.

Edtech startups such as Kiddet and Goodwall are also creating platforms for students to explore and build their passions. Kiddet, based in Singapore, is helping parents and children to connect with local education programs to nurture skills and explore passion. Whereas, based in Switzerland, aims to connect student talent to jobs, internships and scholarships by building an online profile where they can explore careers.

Technology can be an equalizer to help students from different backgrounds see the different paths and hence allowing them to choose their own. Let’s hope the new wave of Edtech startups empowers students of all ages to design their education experience.

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