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How edtech can solve its dropout problem

Hayden Barentine, a sixth-grader, has been attending school via an online learning management system since the worldwide lockdowns surfaced earlier last year. In the early stages itself, Hayden faced various technical glitches, thereby making it difficult to attend lessons and submit assignments online.

Due to a lack of supervision at schools, Hayden’s involvement and grades further plunged as the months progressed. As the semester ended, the school proceeded to take disciplinary action for his frequent absence from distance learning. 

What’s causing dropouts in edtech? 

Here’s a question, “How could the school have solved this problem of increasing adoption of digitally-mediated learning in the face of the pandemic?” While the problem is new for schools, it is by no means new for the edtech sector. From the Courseras to the BYJU’S of the world, all edtech companies witness a massive drop in adoption as the courses progress. 

But while consumers are vociferously adopting technology in other areas of their life, why are they so reluctant in education?

The answer lies in the experience offered to the students. Most edtech companies focus on building the “tech” to host, collate and deliver lessons. Still, they assume that the education portion of the student’s experience will be solved by partnering with institutions having credentials. But as the students delve deeper into their courses, they begin to encounter the same issues that have plagued the institutes for decades (with or without technology).

Simply put, there’s no scope for student expression during lessons, gaps in conceptual understanding, no scope of application of knowledge, loss of interest due to boring lessons, and the list goes on. 

These problems are exacerbated due to studying from the confines of the home alone. Whereas, in a school, a student would benefit from the effects of learning with like-minded peers, a cohort that also inspires and motivates each other.

The problem is that despite the digital advances, not a lot has changed in terms of pedagogy. In other words, where the 20th-century students dozed off in their classes, in the 21st century, they simply close the app or tab, never to return. 

Focus on student experience and pedagogy

The arrival of technology has empowered users today: Google improves access to information, and Twitter and YouTube provide a platform to express your reviews, thoughts, and experiences. 

In light of the ongoing controversies around big techs such as Facebook, WhatsApp, BYJU’S, and WhiteHat Jr alongside others, the driving force in tech and edtech segments is beginning to shift from unethical customer acquisition and business practices.

It is moving towards mindful value addition to users’ lives. The high downloads of chat applications such as Signal is a case in point. Companies are beginning to see merit in the high user demand for authenticity. 

While some marketing and UX practices immediately increase customer acquisition and stickiness, they also affect the long-term growth and health of businesses. Instead, by investing in pedagogy and designing a meaningful student experience, the company can build long-lasting credibility and good-will. In generating value for its users, the business can generate value for itself, too, through network effects and referrals. 

Therefore, mass dropouts in courses are a wake-up call for all edtech organisations to focus on the real problem of providing the experience to a quintessential student and improving the quality of teaching itself. There’s a need to live up to the hype. It needs to reflect in the marketing, in the learning experience, and value addition to students’ lives via products and services.

How edtech can authentically add value to customers? 

Some edtech bootcamps have identified growth as one important student demand. They are driving growth and skill development within STEAM fields (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Mathematics) and, subsequently, accelerating their students’ careers. Some key takeaways of this approach include:

  1. The pedagogy focuses on applied learning. It ensures the transfer of learning from the classroom to real-life situations, including jobs.
  2. Instead of cutting educators out of the teaching equation, their tech-mediated ecosystem eliminates cumbersome and repetitive tasks such as paper correction, lesson planning, etc. 
  3. The educators, being practitioners themselves, depend on pedagogy-driven tech features to improve the skill-building. They use functionalities like an intelligent assessment of skills in which students need more in-depth guidance and growth-mindset-driven methods to provide this guidance. 

Even in the face of the digital divide, tech is quickly transforming India from what it was just a few years ago. Every service is available at the simple touch of a button. This novel approach has made our lives easier, household chores simple and faster, given time to bring diverse people into the fray and do more with our lives. But, can we call our digital journey complete? With the gaps that are now making themselves known, we are only just beginning. 

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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