Post-pandemic education: Why edutech remains a game-changer
Adversity is one of life’s greatest teachers.
This adage certainly rings true in the wake of the pandemic, where the world had to restructure its ways of working to adapt to the disruptions and restrictions imposed on a global scale.
The education space saw big changes in this respect, with home-based learning spurring the growth of edutech products. Spark Education was founded a couple of years before that with the goal of using technology to provide a better learning experience than traditional classrooms.
Although we had already seen success with online education, during the pandemic, we experienced an uptick in demand and anxiety from parents who were heavily concerned about finding quality educational products to fill the gaps. We worked hard to meet this demand while, at the same time, taking strides to optimise and continue to improve our classes to maintain an effective student learning experience.
While in-person classes have largely resumed, virtual learning left a bad taste among many parents who had to juggle between working full-time and managing their children’s learning from home and seeing them face zoom fatigue or becoming sad or depressed during distance learning.
Now, we are witnessing parents flocking back to in-person experiences and a hurdle we face is that while we are built on the belief that online education can provide a superior learning experience than traditional classrooms, parents are more reluctant than before to have their children take online classes.
Therefore, for edutechs, we must continuously innovate and showcase the benefits of technology in education to meet our goal of cultivating a genuine love for learning beyond the classroom.
Today, the global edutech market is valued at US$271 billion, with expectations that it will increase to US$410 billion by 2026. What this means is that while edutech is certainly at a crossroads, it is far from reaching an end, with a host of new opportunities for us to grow and showcase our value in bringing truly holistic curriculums to light.
This is not to say, however, that we do not have our work cut out for us. The avalanche of virtual meetings has fostered a general aversion to using conferencing apps to communicate – let alone conduct lessons. This is unsurprising, given that engaging students, especially young minds, requires a dedicated interface tailored to the specific learning needs of its target audience.
As such, curriculums taught over online conferencing tools that were not necessarily made with education at the heart of their features would ultimately fail to deliver fruitful learning experiences, falling short of parents’ expectations and fuelling the sense of fatigue that has become so prominent today.
For edutech to thrive amidst this, it would need to prove how the online realm not only supports but enhances learning. Its offerings must aspire to be a bridge to a more colourful and engaging world of new knowledge and holistic growth that young minds actually want to be a part of.
While a big leap, we do have to think big to make products that truly have an impact. For us at Spark Education, this is an ongoing journey – one that I hope to share some insights on, especially regarding how to reinvent edutech and underscore the value we want to bring to the system.
It takes a village to nurture our future changemakers. The edutech industry is but a piece of the education ecosystem, and collaboration among educators who come from different facets of the industry is key to creating products that ultimately complement each other and raise the bar for interactive learning.
For example, our partnership with Marshall Cavendish Education (MCE), the publisher of choice for Singapore’s Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Chinese curriculum, has been key to helping us bring products like LingoSPARK to life.
With our continuous collaboration between our technology team, animators and designers, our Singapore curriculum and pedagogy centre has enabled us to bring core MOE concepts such as the CPA method to life with our MOE-aligned Spark Math programme.
We also believe that different parents and children have different needs, and online learning may not serve everyone’s needs. In-person interaction and peer group learning cultivate soft skills that are irreplaceable, which is why we made a move to launch our first-ever offline centre in Singapore this year.
Some parents prefer the traditional classroom, and we see a great opportunity to make the traditional classroom better, more efficient and fun with our gamified courseware and hands-on manipulatives instead of the traditional blackboard, paper and pencil worksheets. We envision this move to be an integral one in embedding ourselves in the local community.
Parents want the best for their young ones. To prove that we can offer something worthwhile to their children’s education means getting them involved in the curriculum to establish greater synergy with what we collectively hope to achieve.
This means ensuring that there are dedicated systems, such as our proprietary learning maps, which can help parents guide their child’s progress by identifying their strong suits, areas for improvement, and which concepts need to be reinforced at home.
Academic enrichment forms the backbone of everything we do. Beyond learning how to do the basics of addition and subtraction, it is critical to start cultivating habits that enable young ones to evolve into active, lifelong learners.
With Spark Math, our flagship mathematics programme, we empower parents to play an active role in exploring these new digital platforms with their children with initiatives like the “Little Teacher Segment”, where students work with their parents to record a video demonstrating what they have learnt.
From learning to share their knowledge externally with their parents, the segment also helps nurture communication skills and confidence for their holistic development. Parents are empowered with tools in their app version to get an inside look at every step of their children’s learning process — from how they interact during the class, hurdles faced, and their performance on assignments.
The biggest strength of gamified courseware is its position to leverage the power of play to make difficult concepts more compelling and nurture positive attitudes toward learning. To this end, gamified elements need to be integrated in a strategic way rather than just being decorations to an app.
With Spark Math, we enable children to establish connections to how understanding math and fractions can be applied to everyday routines that they are already familiar with. This is buoyed by cartoon characters and interactive ‘rewards’ that ultimately work to create a cohesive storyline that is unique to every class — where the characters encounter a challenge, and young learners are guided by their teacher to follow through and grasp new concepts by learning to apply those skills to help the characters solve their problem.
It is certainly an exciting time for the world of edutech as we are now presented with the unique opportunity to push boundaries, reinvent ourselves, and showcase our continued value in the education ecosystem. Much of what we do today will be key in making learning more holistic and – at the core of it all – enjoyable for our young ones.
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