How Traditional Industries Can Adopt EdTech’s Innovation

Apr 11, 2017 • Business, Entrepreneurship
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The technology industry moves fast — so fast that it has a model called Moore’s Law that projects how technological power essentially doubles every year. However, if you look at traditional industries such as real estate, accounting, and insurance, innovation tends to come much slower, particularly when it comes to implementing new technology or adopting major shifts.

Why is that? Technological evolution can often be powered by an individual or small group, just like how Apple Computer was founded in a garage or weekend coding can create the next great app. But in long-standing industries, evolution is often hampered by a variety of factors:

  • Traditional industries rely heavily on process and paperwork, and innovation can create upheaval, even potentially leading to the elimination of jobs.
  • Many traditional industries include some form of government regulations, which are necessary for standards and protection but create difficulties with adopting change.
  • From equipment to software to vendor contracts, companies and organizations may have years of funds tied up in existing methods and practices.

Education is one of the nation’s oldest industries, and while it doesn’t move at the pace of the computer or smartphone industry, education technology (edtech) has pushed forward with gradual momentum. Step by step, edtech has integrated into the industry to a point where today’s classroom is significantly different from 30 years ago. While current innovations are specific to the classroom, they represent a model that can easily be adopted by other traditional industries. Consider the following examples:

Security & Ethics

For the edtech industry, security and ethics are a top concern. Sensitive information is everywhere: names, addresses, historical records, medical records, possibly all the way to social security numbers. The goal is not just “How do we protect it?”, but also “How do we ethically use it?” No single consensus exists yet, and the conversation is evolving, touching everything from general IT configurations (such as secure framework analysis) to cutting-edge technology (such as permanent and transparent blockchain solutions).

Application: In the Internet of Things, personal data is everywhere. Latest perspectives on security and ethics are required to allow maximum usage of data while ensuring public trust.

Personalization

Studies have shown that personalized learning improves student outcomes. The common-sense wisdom here is that if a student has curriculum personalized to his or her abilities and interests, the student feels more engaged and is thus more inclined to perform better. With modern edtech capabilities, personalization is usually built into modules and platforms, turning each user’s experience into a custom lesson plan.

Application: Flexible programming of modules, apps, and platforms mean that the experience can be adapted for individual use based on analytics and real-time feedback. Regardless of industry, forward-thinking programming means personalization is the new norm.

Hybrid Education

Some people want the flexibility of a virtual classroom. Some people thrive in a real classroom environment. A hybrid education merges these two arenas, with the goal of creating individualized paths. By allowing flexibility in how individuals learn best, the talent gap closes, all while reducing higher-education costs and democratizing education. Modern edtech initiatives, from the virtual classroom to online supplementary material, bring this flexibility to both students and teachers.

Application: The virtual space and practical space can co-exist and blend together rather than being mutually exclusive. This gives users, customers, and other stakeholders flexibility to work across both to maximize their experiences.

Streamlining Student Pathways

While some students go to four-year universities for a combination of classroom and social experience, many others (commuter students, adult education students, advanced-learning students, etc.) simply want a degree as quickly as possible. Programs that use edtech create streamlined student pathways, usually with flexible scheduling so people can learn on nights and weekends. By teaching at a student’s pace, mastering a subject can come fast — often faster than in a traditional program.

Application: Because of the way online apps and tools allow for flexible experiences, achieving goals — whatever they may be — can become shorter, more focused, and streamlined. This requires less time/financial investment by end users, thus making the process more appealing.

Replacing Testing with Learning

The advent of online classrooms, bite-size lessons, and modular learning means traditional methods are now outdated. The lessons learned from lectures, homework, quizzes, and tests can still be achieved but in a more engaging and student-friendly way. This usually means a more hands-on approach that rewards mastering skills rather than getting high scores.

Application: The virtual space allows for smart adaptation of an end user’s situation. To this end, traditional macro goals for industries may no longer be necessary, and instead, a continuous process with micro achievements may provide a more fulfilling and productive user experience.

Bringing Innovation to Traditional Industries

The above examples demonstrate how technological innovation has gone beyond merely enhancing student experiences. Even in education, where traditions have been around for more than a century, technology is bringing students and teachers a more flexible, more adaptable solution. By focusing on what the end-users — students, teachers, and administrators — need, edtech developers have revolutionized the industry, opening the doors to education literally around the globe. The best part? Other traditional industries can model this too. Whether it’s insurance, real estate, or other traditional industries, similar innovations can take place, first by focusing on the end-user and then by looking how cutting-edge technology can deliver.

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Nanda Krish

Nanda Krish is CEO of Wisewire, an edtech company focused on enabling access to high-quality digital learning materials and technology-enhanced assessments. He is also General Partner at the incubator, StartSmart Labs, which had companies such as Fairmarket (e-commerce, acquired by eBay) and CBay/Mirrus (NASDAQ-listed, now part of *Modal) go public.

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