From education to employment

3 ways #EdTech is key to narrowing the educational achievement gap

Gauthier Van Malderen, CEO & Co-founder at Perlego

Higher education has become a hot topic.

Recently, we’ve witnessed politicians, students and educational leaders alike engage in spirited debate over the value of universities.

However, it’s extremely hard to argue with the data. Statistical analysis has shown that graduates are employed at a greater rate, and earn roughly £10,000 more annually than the average non-graduate.

A good University education often acts as the vehicle to better opportunity, and as a result there has been much discussion on how we can improve access.

Both the Universities of Warwick and Oxford attracted much attention for proposing that disadvantaged pupils be given special consideration when applying to university.

Further, a recent Government review has suggested that cutting tuition fees would also improve access, through reducing the financial burden on poorer students. While admirable, these solutions only focus on the short term.

The most effective way to improve access to University is to focus on improving the educational outcomes at the prior stages of learning. However, given that many facilities are operating with severe budgetary constraints, initially this may appear to be difficult.

By leveraging educational technology, vast improvements can be made, allowing more students to take the next step into higher education.

So, let’s take a look at how technology can transform outcomes:

1. Technology can provide access to the latest resources:

There’s no getting past it, textbooks are expensive. At the higher education level, research has shown that the prices of educational material has grown by roughly 1041% since 1977, surpassing the wider rate of inflation by a factor of four times to one.

The story is similar at both the secondary and further education stages, and this has led to many facilities using substandard or out of date materials.

Although much of the educational content may be evergreen, using old textbooks prevents a student from extracting the maximum usefulness from the resource, especially if it has been updated to reflect a change in curriculum.

Technology can help with this. It costs both the publisher and an educational facility significant amounts to produce and obtain a physical new edition of a textbook.

The publisher must front the costs for printing, storage and distribution and the educators for purchasing the textbook and transporting it to their facility.

With digital textbooks, these costs are vastly reduced, or non-existent. Digital textbooks can be updated almost instantly, they can be reproduced infinitely at no extra cost, and likewise the cost of delivery is negligible.

By making use of digital textbooks, and removing the considerable barriers to accessibility and affordability, students will be able to utilise the newest information thus ensuring that outcomes are improved.

2. Technology can help those who need specialised support

There are more than a million-school age (5-18) children in the United Kingdom who do not have English as their first language (EAL).

Similarly, there are millions of individuals who suffer from a disability related to their sight. For both of these groups, traditional textbooks may prove to be inappropriate, limiting their ability to use them as a learning resource.

Given that the level of English spoken by EAL students might be low, there is a chance that they could struggle to understand language used in textbooks. For those who suffer with vision issues, it’s quite plausible that the small fonts used in many textbooks could prevent them from accessing the content properly.

Given the financial constraints that most facilities are operating under, in both of these circumstances, it may not be feasible for bespoke physical resources to be purchased.

Going digital can help with this. Educators can deploy technology designed to support, such as translation tools to ensure that non-native English speakers gain maximum comprehension from an educational resource.

This will mean that the gap between EAL students and native English speakers is narrowed. Similarly, digital resources can be manipulated at will, meaning that a student with visual impairment could increase the font size, allowing them to view the material.

This would help to support students with additional needs, again improving the chances of them going onto higher education.

3. Technology can help teachers become more efficient

With the average cohort continuing to grow in size, many educators will find that they become more and more stretched as their workload increases.

The ultimate effect of this would be a decline in the quality of education, as it will be impossible for teachers – as hardworking as they may be – to give the necessary attention to every student.

Technology can help with this, allowing education to be delivered in a more efficient manner, improving outcomes for all. Educational tech improves the level of interaction that can be facilitated in a lesson.

Difficult concepts can be brought to life in front of students with simulated models and interactive diagrams. They can then follow along in class, with their comprehension of the ideas being checked with computer delivered mini tests.

The ultimate result of this will be more effective learning, as students will be better engaged with the lessons.

Further, this interactive and adaptive testing provides the teacher with incredibly useful data as to how their class is progressing. By allowing them to easily see where their class needs help, teachers are able to focus on these areas more, making the process of learning considerably more efficient.

Technology has revolutionised how we live and interact with the world around us, and when it comes to education, the story is no different. Educational technology can help to reduce workload, increase efficiencies, engage students and raise outcomes.

By doing so, we’ll ensure that we’re helping as many students as possible to reach their full potential in both education and in their subsequent careers.

Gauthier Van Malderen, CEO & Co-founder at Perlego

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