With Covid -19 continuing to impact our everyday life, schools across the world are gearing up for an e-learning based education model. Regardless, schools are now much more prepared than they were when earlier waves hit us in early 2020. It is safe to say that EdTech is here to stay, even after an affordable cure/ vaccine for the virus becomes available globally. Educators/ teachers have done an excellent job in adapting to the new normal of technology-based teaching, despite most having limited prior experience on the subject matter, particularly in developing nations. In this article, we aim to discuss the key factors that help drive adaptation of EdTech platforms in developing nations;
1. Simplicity is crucial: educators don’t want complex EdTech/ e-learning platforms and the effects of complexity is compounded in developing nations
2. One Integrated platform: avoid the confusion/ in-efficiencies of accessing multiple platforms
3. Emergency Learning Plan (ELP) for schools: beyond the pandemic era
Simplicity is crucial: Educators don’t want complex EdTech/ e-learning platforms
Wherever you are in the world, simplicity for an EdTech platform plays a critical role. A good Learning Management System (LMS) interface is intuitive and user-friendly whoever the user and should require the minimal effort to learn. This is illustrated by a recent survey conducted by Capterra on 66 participants involving schools and universities, in which the majority (53%) of participants who switched LMS stated that being ‘hard to use’ was the primary cause for a switch (1).
The findings were similar even during the pre- Covid as well. In a 2016 study , the Brandon Hall Group, a Human Capital Management (HCM) research and advisory services firm, found that 44% of institutions using an LMS are thinking about replacing them primarily due to the search for “a better user experience” closely followed by requirement for a “better administrative experience” (2).
Further, in a 2014 survey in Norway, conducted to gauge teachers’ digital competence and experiences of ICT, revealed that c. 52% of teachers fell into the categories of either unable to perform/ needed help in order to “use collaborative editing tools online together pupils” (3).
The effects of complexity are compounded in developing nations
While Learning Management System (LMS) platforms are multi-faceted, most educators in developing nations have mainly utilized these platforms for a set of core features. As per our discussions with educators/ administors from leading private schools in Sri Lanka, the set of core features utilized include; conducting interactive video classrooms, assigning homework to students, grading homework/ quizzes and to provide feedback to the students. While some educators may have used adjacent features, the successful evolution of LMS platforms in Sri Lanka were primarily driven by the above, along with simplicity, easiness- to -use and the ability to keep control of the virtual classroom. The mantra is for Technology to act as an enabler for an educator, allowing the educator to focus on his/ her core strength which is teaching. However, during the pandemic, for a lot of educators the complexity surrounding EdTech platforms have been more of a hindrance in solving the current education challenge.
Currently there are a multitude of products in the market offering varying features boasting high-levels of complexity and sophistication. These products have their own unique hierarchy and structure, perhaps in its existing avatar well suited for senior classes, particularly in the western/ developed world, where higher levels of technology savviness, and higher accessibility to a relatively sophisticated smart device among educators are the norm.
Educators in developing nations require more simplicity, more user friendly EdTech platforms, that can be accessed even with a low cost smart device and/ or smartphone.
One Integrated platform: Avoid the confusion/ in-efficiencies of accessing multiple platforms
Naturally, all large scale institutional platforms that have been repurposed for Learning Management Systems (LMS), offer their own high functionality API’s for a purpose, to allow more niche products to tailor their powerful platforms to more specific use cases and to achieve a better product-market fit.
The ability to execute key functions of a LMS via one integrated platform (vs multiple platforms), adds to the simplicity and easiness- to- use for an educator, which is likely to be a primary variable to drive adaptation. The challenges of having to access multiple platforms is numerous, and can create confusion resulting in inefficiencies. Some of the key issues faced are;
● Using multiple platforms would require the educator to go through multiple trainings and understand the varying nuances, creating a hurdle for a less IT savvy person to keep abreast of
● The possible requirement to manually repeat the same task, in multiple platforms creates significant inefficiencies (i.e. tasks such as updating of the student lists/ roster, sending notifications, calendar updates, submitting and grading homework assignments etc)
● The requirement to coordinate with different support personnel from the respective platforms vs having a Single Point of Contact (SPoC) in an integrated model
● To a lesser extent, having to remember multiple credentials to log-in, is an additional burden (especially when shared smart devices are used)
EdTech platforms need to be aligned to the requirements of educators by integrating important features in one unified platform in a simple and easy- to- use manner.
Emergency Learning Plan for schools: looking beyond the pandemic era
One year ago, even the most experienced educators would not have been able to plan for the schooling disruptions in 2020 caused by Covid-19. Now the pandemic has magnified the requirement for an Emergency Learning Plan (ELP) for every school, and it is timely for educators to perhaps look beyond the pandemic era and think of an on-going Emergency Learning Plan solution as a continuity procedure. During an emergency, the ability for the school/ educators to instantaneously connect with the parents/ students, would indeed help mitigate the level of ambiguity surrounding an unforeseen event and also manage the anxiety levels among the schooling community. In the event the school premises are not physically accessible beyond an acceptable period, the ability for the school to get the learning back on track within a few days, would be key to minimize disruption to education.
Accordingly, educators need to select the best suited Emergency Learning Plan program for their respective school. The sophistication level of the technology and features of the Emergency Learning Plan, should be a function of the school’s requirements and the budget.
In summary, the EdTech platforms need to be customized and simplified to meet the requirements of educators in developing nations: simplicity, control, higher integration among platforms are some of the key factors driving adaptation among users. Further, it is timely for educators to look beyond the pandemic era and think of a permanent Emergency Learning Program solution as a continuity procedure based on the schools requirements.
The authors of this article are from Yara Technologies (Pvt) Ltd [“Yara”], which is a member of the Google for Education Integrated Solutions Initiative.
Yara owns and operates the “Talkative Parents” EdTech Platform connecting educators, teachers, parents and students via one integrated solution consisting of a Communication Platform, e- Learning/ LMS, School Fees Payments and Document management.
The “Talkative Parents” EdTech platform integration with Google for Education, aims to address the key challenges faced by educators (i.e. complexity of a LMS, managing multiple platforms, Emergency Learning Plans beyond the pandemic era). The integration has enhanced the ability for educators to set up e-classes, assign/ review homework digitally, and seamlessly conduct video classes along with effective teacher parent engagement via controlled digital communication, all in a simplified, easy to use, integrated platform. Also allows educators to leverage the powerful functionality offered by Google Classroom via the simplicity and familiarity of the Talkative Parents Platform.
“Our partnership with Google for Education comes at an important time for the education segment in Sri Lanka and other developing nations. We believe this collaboration would help the educators to further engage in a blended learning/ teaching model seamlessly, creating more technology based learning channels for students during as well as in the post pandemic era” says Yara Technologies Managing Director, Chaminda V Silva.”
(1) Capterra: https://www.capterra.com/learning-management-system-software/user-research/
(2) HCM: https://www.skillbuilderlms.com/10-must-have-lms-features/
(3) New teachers’ digital competence and experiences of ICT in teacher education programmes in Norway: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Teachers-self-assessment-of-own-basic-digital-skills-Responses-to-the-question-To_fig1_336922501
The Impact of Technology: Student Engagement and Success:
Teacher Engagement with Technology in Everyday Classroom Learning and Teaching: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317576093_Teacher_Engagement_with_Technology_in_Everyday_Classroom_Learning_and_Teaching
New teachers’ digital competence and experiences of ICT in teacher education programmes in Norway