With places of learning shuttered as governments tried to contain the coronavirus outbreak, students and teachers found themselves taking and teaching classes from home and using digital tools for the first time. The transition may have been smoother for the digital natives that fill our university halls than their younger peers, but the impact on centuries-old higher education models is set to be profound.
“The biggest implication of Covid-19 we’re seeing in education is the mass experimentation with a new breed of education technology and online learning apps. And that won’t go back into the box,” says James Gifford, Head of Impact Advisory of Credit Suisse.
The crisis has resulted in many education technology (EdTech) companies pivoting to help a wider community access quality higher education. 2U, a US EdTech company works with universities to bring them into the digital age and expand access to underrepresented groups.
“An example of where technology can really drive high quality education for people that need it the most is our technology boot camps. Almost half of our boot camp business students are people of colour and about 30 percent do not have a bachelor's degree,” reveals Chip Paucek, Co-Founder and CEO of 2U. “There's no doubt that technology is part of the story of opening access for people all over the world.”
2U builds and powers online graduate and undergraduate degrees platforms for partners that include University College London, Oxford, Yale and 75 other institutions. When coronavirus hit the US in early March, the company rolled out Studio in a Box, a toolkit to support professors at partner universities that enabled them to produce courses and film content from home.
This mass experimentation of using digital tools in higher education means there will be more investment in pedagogy as well as technology. Unlike other tiers of education, higher education is more resource intensive, and its older student cohort expect higher production values in their EdTech applications.
Here’s where the ‘edutainment’ aspect of EdTech comes into play; combining education with entertainment. Afya is a leading Brazilian medical education group that serves and empowers students to be lifelong medical learners.
Recognising that doctors are often time-poor and exhausted after long shifts, the company created a narrative-led, episodic series complete with storylines and recurring characters. Each episode weaves in topics that will be covered in the doctors’ residency exams.