Big ED, Big TECH

Academia, as they say lags a lot in adopting modern practices compared to other sectors. Thankfully, this is beginning to change gradually as we’ve seen quite some innovation among some educational institutions and some start-ups trying to change the status quo. However, there might be cause for concern.

Most of the advances I have seen recently have been focused on one major aspect– tuition. Hundreds of start-ups are taking tuition online or helping students find good teachers who can deliver quality tuition. If you have been following me, you will know that I am pro-online education, however, a lot more needs to happen in EdTech, especially in Africa. While online education can definitely give more students access (especially the geographically displaced students), my fear is are we not just replicating the existing tuition models online?

By that I mean, are we not just putting cameras and microphones in front of the same “offline teachers” asking them to teach using the same old pedagogies and curriculum we all agree needs a change?

Each time someone tells me about an EdTech idea, 90% of the time, it’ll have something to do with tuition or online learning.There are other areas of education that we need to deploy technology on. We need to understand that education (or schooling) in itself is more than just tuition. Given the increased complexities and accelerated change around the world today, technology in the potential can play a critical role in advancing learning as a whole and foster the development of a new generation of workforce who are armed with the right skills to face these complexities.

So, it’s big education (i.e. a rethought of what learning should be) mixed with big technology (hacking the right tools to foster the new learning models and pedagogies) that will help.  These are some areas worth considering:

  1. Teacher training: There are very few EdTech start-ups playing in this field. We need more to come up with innovative ways to raise new breeds of tutors. Applications could range from attitude to aptitude. If we want teachers to do better, we have to provide resources for them to develop themselves too.
  1. Student collaboration: Collaboration is the buzz word today, but sadly this has not yet been democratized in education (or at least among students). We need platforms that will bring students together working on projects that will shape tomorrow. Imagine the impact that will be created when students in rural Africa are on the same platform with Stanford students collaborating together on transformative ideas and projects. Oh my! Local context, global support. Sorry. Let’s even start with deep collaborations between Obafemi Awolowo University students and students of Bornu State University.
  1. Personalized learning: These days personalized learning is being confused for the ability to pace your learning. The fact that I can watch and replay a video lecture doesn’t make it personalized. By personalized learning, I mean having an algorithm that first studies and analyses my learning history (with grades and outcomes), what I currently do now or what I intend to do in the near future and the knowledge/skill gap I need to close to take me there. This algorithm then suggests and churns out dynamic resources to help me close that knowledge/skill gap. This is part of what career counsellors in some schools used to do. Not just that, this system will also identify the best way I learn and pair me with the right tools that supports those learning models. This to me is what personalized learning is. This is the real game changer. The current academic environment assumes we all learn the same way (lecture mode) and that we all have the same knowledge gap and that all students have equal ability to learn at the same pace. This needs to change.
  1. School administration: Most schools in Africa still rely 100% on paper methods of application, admission and complete administration of the school. So, lots of opportunities here as well.
  1. Teacher – Student communication: Sadly most students in Africa do not have enough access to their lecturers after lecture hours (or during holidays) for several reasons. An intuitive platform that fosters deep communication and collaboration between teachers and students will see the light of day. Teachers can give assignments (and accept solutions too), clarify concepts etc. Slack for education.

Several other areas I have not even covered, but let me stop here for now. Perhaps I am just an enthusiast.

If you’re working on any Edtech idea, feel free to reach out if you need support or input on any ends. Let’s make learning and education great again 🙂


Technopreneur. Chief Hustler at 1Plify. PhD scholar [Technology entrepreneurship]

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