How a Year of Digital Learning Will Shape EdTech in 2021

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

Over the last year, we’ve all identified new edTech features that will help our users teach and learn more effectively from home. Maybe you’ve incorporated SEL frameworks into your UX and learning content. Or maybe your product team went all in to design collaborative features for better peer-to-peer learning. Now, after extensive reimagining of your digital learning tools, it’s time to tackle a new season in edTech. 

Gone are the days when teachers use edTech products just to facilitate homework collection or collect form responses. After a year of remote learning, teachers have extensive, daily practice using powerful online tools. They now feel confident in edTech’s ability to deliver an excellent digital learning experience to their students—not just a supplementary one. 

Combined with new perspectives on school day routines, teacher confidence in technology has resulted in greater flexibility. Educators see value in using edTech to facilitate eLearning in different ways, for different student learning styles, and at different times throughout the school day and school year. This represents a huge mindset shift in educators’ approach to edTech, and it will determine work in our sector for years to come. 

As you incorporate lessons from the pandemic into your edTech product roll-outs this fall, here’s what you can expect to encounter in a new and shifting educational landscape.

Teachers Will Use edTech to Facilitate More Meaningful Learning Experiences

Now that educators have spent the last year translating much of their work to a digital space, they’re confident users of edTech products. 

Teachers know how to find and integrate robust digital learning experiences into existing teaching routines. They’re no longer looking for edTech products or learning content to simply supplement a classroom lesson. 

Instead, new tools with high-quality content help teachers facilitate the act of learning itself. This might look like assigning students short digital texts for research, asking students to play a learning game, or requiring students to complete an interactive quizlet. 

Features that facilitate student collaboration and project-based activities also help create meaningful digital learning experiences. When students are able to work together to solve problems or set learning goals, they stay more engaged with content, take agency over their own learning, and develop stronger SEL skills.

Finally, step-by-step learning systems are powerful tools for personalizing and adapting content to individual student needs. When edTech tools break down foundational concepts into steps that are easy to master and build on, students have richer online learning experiences within digital products. 

By keeping these newly experienced, confident consumers in mind, you’ll design the high-quality edTech tools that appeal most to teachers, build trust with your users, and demonstrate the value of edTech in 2021.

Teachers Will Use edTech Data as a Daily Teaching Touchpoint

As teaching moved online last year, teachers have collected more data about their students than ever before. These records will become even more valuable to teaching practice in the fall, when edTech tools are integrated into daily classroom practice.

With the right data collection tools, teachers can track and review past student performance, plan lessons, and address individual student needs even more effectively. When teachers can see where students have been, where they need to go, and how to be flexible in that path, education becomes more focused and personalized. Ultimately, well-designed edTech tools have the power to help teachers teach students—not just the curriculum.

edTech is also capable of providing powerful, just-in-time support for teachers. For example, your teacher-facing product might suggest formative assessments at specific points throughout the year. It might even train educators on best practices for integrating assessment techniques into their lesson plans. With assessment and professional learning features, your teacher-facing products can become robust tools for new educators.

At its best, edTech gives teachers time back in their day to reflect on student performance, design targeted interventions, and continue their professional development. And when teachers have more time in their day, they can use it to fuel the most important part of their job—reaching students.

edTech Products Will Foster Student Accountability and Professional Growth for Educators

The transition to digital spaces has created more transparency around teaching. Suddenly, parents are “in” their child’s classroom every day—even if it’s only on the other end of a Zoom screen. These parents can see how a teacher prepares and delivers a lesson and better understand the work their child is responsible for. 

Thanks to product logs and other records, it’s easier than ever to break down the interactions in student collaborations or student-teacher interactions, like homework turn-in, student participation, and software interactions. These records make teachers and students even more accountable for their interactions and provide greater opportunities for learning and growth. 

Student and teacher interaction data can fuel stronger professional learning and development experiences for educators. Empowered by real data, professional coaches will have the ability to elevate exemplary teaching practices that make a difference in both remote and hybrid classrooms. 

edTech products with powerful data capabilities will continue to shape relationships between teachers, students, and parents in Fall 2021 and beyond.

Using edTech to Extend Learning Outside of the School Day and Close the Achievement Gap

We’re excited about these big shifts in the relationship between users and edTech. But we also anticipate that edTech users will want to address a widening learning and achievement gap exacerbated by the pandemic. 

From individual schools to state-wide policies, we expect that educators, administrators, and parents will push students to “catch up” on everything they’ve missed. Because of its singular ability to scale, edTech should be a key part of bridging this achievement gap over the next year. 

Asynchronous tools with rich learning content can even help students maintain momentum around learning after the school year is over. This will lessen the effects of “summer slide” in a year where few struggling students can afford to slip further behind. 

With high-quality digital tools, students can access robust virtual learning experiences outside of the regular school day that will help them stay on track. 

Teachers can use those same tools to meet individual needs and facilitate meaningful learning experiences throughout the school day and school year.

We spent the last year making our edTech products remote-learning ready, and now we face new, exciting challenges for Fall 2021. Our users have new expectations, and require ever-more flexibility. It’s time to meet these challenges head-on!

Are you thinking about your Fall 2021 edTech product roll-out? Get in touch and tell us more about your needs. 

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