A New Era for EdutechBy Pedro Alcalá | Wed, 03/30/2022 - 12:56
Q: How would you define the impact of the virtual education boom on the organizational culture of Mexico’s learning institutions?
A: The pandemic accelerated processes that should have been much more advanced already. Mexico’s educational sector still attaches a stigma to virtual education, based on the misunderstanding that it could never be equal to in-person education. That misunderstanding is now facing greater scrutiny. Yet, before the paradigm could begin to shift, it had to go through a painful process during the pandemic, when teachers were forced to adapt quickly to a completely digital environment hosted in the cloud. Learning processes have changed just like other environments in the digital era. Just like the smartphone decentralized media consumption and decoupled it from physical locations, so has this virtual education boom decoupled learning processes from the physical classroom. Educational institutions were forced to innovate promptly, which impacted their organizational flexibility and purged the stigma tied to digital education. Teachers throughout the country have done an amazing job of finding new ways of reaching their students. We have seen that the right technology can assist teachers to do what they do best.
Q: How are these changes generating new, unexpected disruptions and opportunities?
A: This change is also about structures, rather than just about technology. For example, the structure of exams to assess educational progress has become outmoded. Nowadays, companies work in environments surrounded by organized and searchable information. Therefore, the development of criteria through which students can analyze information is a much more crucial objective for education than memorization or easy recall. Memorization is arguably no longer a relevant educational objective nowadays, though this depends on the context. Institutions must assess these new objectives through creative and collaborative structures. These structures will also involve the teaching and development of soft skills and the completion of projects to demonstrate the acquired skills in an integrated manner.
According to Instructure, technology can play a role not only in the traditional hierarchical teaching process between teacher and student, but also in other classroom interactions, such as between students. Here, just as much learning can take place. Our products, such as Canvas LMS, can take advantage of the potential that these relationships represent for teaching and learning processes.
Q: How have you responded to the resistance against these structural changes that exists within educational institutions?
A: There is understandable resistance from some decision-makers to changing the structure of our educational institutions. It is our job to help show how new approaches can solve problems and benefit students. For example, proctoring software can provide tools such as lockdown browsers, which allow exam managers to verify the identity of those taking tests and ensure that they cannot exit the test or cheat by consulting external resources.
If the institution’s interest is to retain traditional exam structures, then the digital tools to facilitate this are available too. However, retaining these structures can become unsustainable due to their increased expenses. New tools can be much more advanced: some use artificial intelligence applications or the live presence of an exam assistant, using a camera to track the test-taker’s eye movements. They also apply other behavioral metrics to ensure no cheating is taking place. This exponentially increasing complexity in the functioning of the tools translates to higher costs, which educational institutions cannot afford. Therefore, the costs force many educational institutions to consider new concepts.
Q: How would you assess the eagerness of other players in the educational landscape to innovate?
A: There is certainly a willingness to modernize our approach to learning by almost everyone involved in the process. This includes the development of new education paradigms in Scandinavian countries and in the United States. In Mexico, Instructure worked with Tec de Monterrey on the development of the technological ecosystem to support its Tec21 model, which called for the overhaul of traditional learning schedules in favor of continuous learning. Due to many factors such as budget, competing priorities, and the sheer number of people involved, creating meaningful change in our educational systems can be challenging. Therefore, these transformations must be done in collaboration with political leaders. The technology can inspire this political will but a great deal of effort must come from the private sector, which is increasingly seeking a different profile for its applicants. Many companies now prioritize recruiting candidates with skills such as creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking. These skills are invaluable when navigating a complex process needed to help bring about change.
Instructure is a developer of learning platforms and a provider of integrated e-learning services. Their products and services can be used by teachers and students ranging from K-12 through higher education and corporate training.