5 of the Latest edTech Trends You Need to Know

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

The education landscape for Fall 2021 keeps shifting, and edTech trends will shape how teachers and students work in new hybrid classrooms. From immersive learning to subscription-based content, we’re seeing edTech products that address increased needs for flexibility.

Even as changing edTech trends respond to the pandemic, we still believe that the best classroom technology amplifies a teacher’s ability to help their students learn. To design better tools for the new demands facing teachers, edTech product owners can springboard off the cutting-edge thinking that happened in virtual classrooms all across the country in 2020.

No matter what kind of product you’re working on, mastering these 5 pedagogically-driven edTech trends will help you stay ahead of the curve.

edTech Trend #1: Decentralized learning capabilities

For many years, using edTech products for decentralized learning was meant to support students living in rural areas. Students who experienced challenges getting to school needed new ways to connect with their teachers and classmates, and edTech tools provided one such solution.

Creating digital tools that make decentralized learning easier goes beyond changing edTech trends, however. These days, decentralized learning is a necessity. In the post-COVID era, we know powerful at-home learning tools are a common need for all students. As we saw at the onset of the pandemic, edTech products can be used outside the traditional classroom as an extension of teacher instruction.

Learning products have the potential to make decentralized learning easier and more powerful for users who want to work at their own pace. Even project-based learning can be accomplished through shared comments as users have time to complete tasks. This gives learners an edge as they complete tasks on their own time or during their most productive times of day.

edTech Trend #2: Baked-in social-emotional learning features

Okay, integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) features isn’t exactly at the forefront of changing edTech trends. (As you know, it’s a twenty-first century skill integral to how teachers approach learning today.) But SEL is also an important skill for students to develop after more than a year of social distancing. 

That’s why it’s time to stop isolating SEL features and start integrating them into digital learning tools—regardless of subject matter or content area. All learning products can address SEL using strategic features. Even if students use your product to improve their math or reading skills, they should also be asked to think about process skills and to communicate concepts to others. 

How will your product help students explain their thinking to a teacher or another student? How can you encourage communication through visual design in your next edTech product? After all, process communication doesn’t just help build subject mastery. It requires empathy, which is at the heart of SEL.

edTech Trend #3: Social-emotional learning features for teachers

Products that incorporate SEL features give teachers more powerful tools, too.

When teachers evaluate SEL skills along with subject-area content, their feedback becomes even more meaningful for students. With a window into process skills, teachers are better able to understand how students think. They follow a student’s process to the “right” or “wrong” answer. Assessment becomes about soft skills, including how a student communicates, rather than test scores.

Teachers and administrators are also on the hunt for digital ways to assess process skills and qualities like collaboration, tolerance, and empathy. How do you encourage students to be more accepting of others and celebrate differences? How do you encourage them to recognize their own emotional states and communicate with others effectively after a year of Zoom calls?

Students need the all-important relationship with their teachers to succeed in school. SEL features aimed at teachers strengthen those relationships.

edTech Trend #4: Digital tools that promote learner agency

The more students understand their role in the learning process, the more engaged, inquisitive, and curious they become. We want students to internalize that learning is not just something that happens with a textbook in a classroom. Learning happens all the time, and it depends on their personal goals.

Encourage learner agency in edTech product design through student data dashboards, feedback systems, and personal goal-setting systems. By encouraging students to set goals or choose projects that are meaningful to their development, you’ll give students even more agency over their education..

This type of learner agency makes students feel more invested in their education, more delighted by the learning process, and more engaged with the helpful tools you’ve designed. The more engaged students are during at-home learning, the more positive their learning outcomes will be.

edTech Trend #5: Teacher professional development

It’s easy to think of edTech as an industry that only provides solutions for K-12 learners. But edTech serves teachers and learners in higher education, corporate training, and adult education, too.

Adults approach education very differently from K-12 students, and changing edTech trends indicate that our industry is still learning what motivates adults to pursue educational goals. For instance, adults are more likely to be independent learners. They might not even need a traditional “teacher” to learn new information or skills.

Especially in professional settings, adult learners make conscious choices to study a specific subject or skill. Unlike K-12 learners, they’re already motivated to study or complete a course module. They want to be sure that your product will help them achieve their intended goal.

From a product design standpoint, this mindset often shifts adults into more of a consumer role than K-12 learners. Depending on your product research, you might consider explaining the value of tasks or product features at point-of-access. This way, adult learners will understand the benefits of your product and continue engaging until they meet their goal.

Whether your next edTech product helps students identify learning goals or targets young professionals with career development content, integrate these 5 edTech trends to provide even more value to your customers. With these forward-thinking edTech design trends, you’ll help teachers augment what’s already happening in live classrooms and make at-home learning even more effective.

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