EdTech Needs Collaborative Action for Effectiveness & Scale

Edtech solutions
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Rathish Balakrishnan

Co-founder and Managing Partner, Sattva Consulting

According to the World Bank, learning losses from COVID-19 could cost this generation of students close to $17 trillion in lifetime earnings. As we emerge from a post-pandemic world the promise of EdTech is both lauded and vilified in equal measure, as it continues to be plugged as a solution to ailments like the loss of learning experienced by students during the pandemic. Ongoing debates around what hardware, the efficacy of software and the focus on technology have shifted focus from a key enabler that can scale EdTech: collaboration. 

Our team at Sattva has been working with the Bharat EdTech Initiative, where we have experienced that an emphasis on collaborative action is what has the potential to bring together the essential pillars of an effective EdTech intervention. After working on enabling learning through EdTech solutions to over a hundred thousand students across ten states in India, here are some of our key insights.

User-centric design guided by community partners

We often see how technology is lauded top-down to users, demanding them to adapt and adopt. However, changing the dynamics of how EdTech solutions are created through the eyes of learners, could shift EdTech from being a change management problem to being an opportunity for solutions to be designed based on diverse contexts and needs. 

Across any geography, there will be students who face different challenges in learning abilities, and access to tech and learning resources. To discover these user-centric inputs, it is important to seek out and work with community partners who are committed to the interests of students, understanding their needs and identifying the right solutions for each individual. 

Enabling compassionate adults 

While excellence and equity are not often paired together as complimentary objectives in the education space, EdTech has the potential to deliver on both. Though, as with most learning opportunities, students in their formative years of education may only go as far as the environment around them enables them to. This is where we see the importance of the role of a compassionate adult, who need not be an expert in education or technology, but could be a teacher, a parent or guardian, or even a well-wisher in the local community.  

This individual can provide the necessary support and stability for learning routines and habits to form where EdTech is being implemented. Hence, designing EdTech with the role of compassionate adults in mind so that they can effectively engage, interact and assess students in their learning journeys is important. Platforms need to consider how they can integrate into and enable the environment and actors who have the power to support a young aspirant learner.

Insights led by data and building effective routines

The advantage of EdTech solutions is the real-time data on how engaged students are, what they understand, and what concepts they struggle with. This data can be harnessed to create stronger and shorter feedback loops where data is translated into actionable insights. In turn, this information can better inform stakeholders closest to students and improve how they learn and are engaged. 

Engaged teachers, for example, have shared quizzes over Whatsapp which led a to 70% engagement rate among students. This demonstrates how a content-appropriate learning routine has been used by local stakeholders and the data on engagement from this can translate into replicating and scaling other similar learning routines from EdTech data. 

We are now at a point in the EdTech journey where we have to start shifting the narrative from questions around whether the right EdTech product is being used to whether we are implementing the right EdTech-enabled learning models. Additionally, if we can usher funders to leverage investments made in assessments, program management, proven partner selection, and ongoing learning, then they will also see a greater impact in EdTech enabled through their funding.

I look forward to sharing more of our learnings from the Bharat EdTech Initiative as a part of a global panel hosting a workshop on Scaling the Impact of EdTech for All, on 1st December at the EVPA Annual Conference 2022. I will be joined by peers from the ecosystem including, Donika Dimovska, Chief Knowledge Officer, Jacobs Foundation, Thierry de Vulpillières, CEO, EvidenceB, Koumba Anouma, Director of Education & Employment Program, Investisseurs & Partenaires. Additionally, I will be in conversation with EVPA’s CEO Roberta Bosurgi to discuss how we can start using digital public goods to achieve impact at scale.

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