The investment in education technology ticks up in 2017 despite an all-time low in 2016, making it evident that eLearning is the way forward. The opportunities that are available for educators and students in the online environment continue to expand. Today’s educators (and students) are now faced with a decision – what is the best online teaching technology to use? Here we will go over some of the most important criteria that you should consider before fully committing to a platform.
No matter how inspiring a new technology may be on its own, it will always rely on the technology that is around it. Put it another way, a technology puts its pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us, and those pants need to match the rest of the outfit.
The best ed-tech platforms are always compatible with the systems that are currently the industry standard. It must be all-inclusive and should allow you to fully integrate the best visual, audio and data streaming services into an education platform. Students and teachers will be able to connect using platforms that they are already used to. The video is especially important to consider in this environment, as many educational programs are contingent upon high-quality video streams. Students need to be able to read the blackboard! Additionally, a high degree of compatibility keeps you from having to install new plugins alongside the installation of your ed-tech platform.
WebRTC wins here, as the core tech here works across devices and browsers and leverages the built-in capacities of a browser, ensuring a native video experience. WebRTC operates through the commercial online environment, so there is no new background technology for an educator or an administrator to learn. Many software development kits that are built on the WebRTC infrastructure have been praised for allowing teachers, administrators, and students to communicate more clearly. The servers used to communicate are physically dedicated and strategically placed all over the world, so there are very few problems associated with lag or a lost data stream.
Servers that are fully dedicated also allow students and teachers to utilize wi-fi, 3G and 4G networks in a seamless way, ensuring the best possible audio and visual experience for every student regardless of the bandwidth they have. Bandwidths do not have to match, and a student with a slower bandwidth will not weigh on the rest of the network.
The ability to blend technologies means that the overall platform is more accessible to everyone. For people who are looking to learn a particular skill instead of spending all day tweaking hardware options, this is an aspect of technology that must be considered.
The best teachers around the world will obviously be the most popular. Does an educational platform allow students to access the teachers who already have a huge student base? If not, there is no difference between a physical classroom and a virtual one. Ideally, the constraints that limit a physical classroom to 20 or 30 students per teacher is completely lifted in the virtual world. The scale is exponentially larger.
Virtual learning solutions allow for the scale mentioned above regardless of how popular a teacher may be. Also, students have a choice of the best teachers and tutors from anywhere in the world. These teachers come to students through applications they are already familiar with. Virtual classrooms can easily accommodate hundreds of students, all with the same opportunity to access the knowledge of the best minds on Earth. The result is a much lower cost, higher quality education.
#4 Classroom Format
Online teaching technology allows for completely new classroom formats, the most interesting of which is known as the “flipped classroom.” Instead of going over a lesson in class and doing homework at home, the flipped class allows students to watch a lecture before class begins and complete “homework,” or practice exercises, during the time with the professor.
However, the format can only be properly implemented when there is a good video system integrated into the education technology. With a platform that can replicate traditional classroom in a virtual world, students can easily watch the lecture beforehand in high quality. They will come into the classroom/homework session best prepared for the exercises that will truly drive home the concepts.
#5 Specific needs
Not only does a good technology allow for better teachers overall, but it also allows for more specialization. Home-schooled students, for example, were limited to the tutors who were within the physical proximity of the student’s home. Within the virtual environment, a student can now access specialists for different subjects. Administrators can bring in specialists when there is a subject that is especially difficult or simply to highlight a point during a lecture.
Virtual classrooms can increase the viability of homeschooling. With more parents and students looking into the homeschooling option, choosing the right educational platform can make all of the difference in the decision making process.
Although you have many choices when it comes to your educational technology, the above tips should help you find the technology that is perfect for you. Consider the schedule of your program, the current benefits of the platform and the compatibility of the structure to ensure best results.
Shivani is Content Manager at WizIQ – an EdTech company that offers online learning delivery platform to businesses and educators. She writes about eLearning, education technology and the role of cloud in education. Follow WizIQ on Twitter and LinkedIn.