Learning with EdTech, Here to Grow

At Ufi VocTech trust we are passionate about building up the VocTech community. Our strong, independent voice and flexible funding mean that we can bring expertise, insight, and resources to tackle the challenges facing positive skills development in the UK.

As part of this work, we are welcoming guest blog posts and interviews with the thinkers and doers defining the use of digital technology in education.

The Promise of EdTech for Vocational Learning

Blog Post by Carla Aerts, EdTech Consultant

EdTech is often considered the little ugly duckling in the Tech revolution as education still grapples with the use of technologies and is slow innovating; Covid-19 proving the point. Yet, things are starting to look up. EdTech investment globally has witnessed significant growth as start-ups worldwide rely on capital to realize their ambitions.

According to HolonIQ, the Australian education market research and intelligence agency, global EdTech funding has reached US $11BN over the past 10 years. The growth is set to continue. By 2030, 2 billion learners will need education, with a shortfall of teachers is forecast to reach 64 million. In parallel, the need for lifelong learning EdTech support is emerging and accelerating. The job market is expected to become increasingly volatile and prone to the automation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Workplace and informal learning are on a path of aggressive and rapid growth with EdTech increasingly at its core.

To date, EdTech investment growth has mainly been driven by China and India. Online tutoring in these large, highly competitive education and training markets has exploded, supported by machine learning technologies and large numbers of users. Covid-19 brought these EdTech platforms into mainstream Chinese education institutions, at scale. India’s lead tutoring company, Byju remains the highest invested EdTech company in the world. India’s EdTech is witnessing very rapid growth, not only in tutoring, but equally addressing skills and training for the workplace. The US finds itself in the third position in terms of EdTech investment. Europe (including the UK), having been more focused on schools and education institutions and enjoyed less investment appetite, may be turning a corner.

Schools have often proved difficult for start-ups to access, engage with, and enable sustainable growth. Changes and the demands of the workplace for continuous skills development and relevance, have started to shift the EdTech focus to lifelong learning. This is aided by the explosive growth of mobile devices as well as a significant shift in learning behaviours, triggered by the world of Apps and social media. Learning and skills development no longer predominantly happens at a desk, but we learn in transit or on-the-hop, and engage more and more in bitesize and informal learning.

The promise of EdTech for vocational learning should not be underestimated

The promise of EdTech for vocational learning should not be underestimated. Its adoption is accelerated by Covid-19, as Ufi’s work has demonstrated. Colleges, such as Grimsby have more than once received digital innovation awards. Wildfire, the award-winning AI enabled course content creator, has been commissioned by healthcare, finance, consultancy, travel and hospitality, as well as the manufacturing industry, demonstrating a focus on vocational and professional learning. These are only two examples of considerable and wide-reaching EdTech or VocTech innovation.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and gaming technologies still prove prohibitive in terms of acquisition, accessibility and scalability. However, as costs will come down and standards emerge, they will increasingly benefit and innovate vocational and practice-based learning. Healthcare already being a prime example, using VR in training of medical students, professional development, and even medical interventions.

Speech technologies, enabled by Natural Language Processing and machine learning are evolving rapidly. Not only becoming ubiquitous in digital language learning, but NLP is also starting to find its way into training and education.

Having only scratched the surface of a highly complex EdTech world, it is not unjustified to say that the future for EdTech is bright.

About Carla Aerts

Carla is an EdTech and Learning Science versatilist and EdTech thought leader. She is also the founder of Refracted!, the mighty networks community that strives for inter- and transdisciplinary dialogue and knowledge share in learning and education.

Carla is a former Director of the Tmrw Institute, an EdTech catalyst and think tank, former Director of Futures – UCL, Institute of Education and Global Digital Director Education at Cambridge University Press, and a start-up advisor and mentor and speaker.

More Perspectives