- Blockchain - down with NFTs, up with micro-credentials
- 6G Network - the future happens now
- Gamification – motivate and reward
- Semantic readers – more than an Ebook
- Artificial intelligence – because I know that’s what you’re (probably) here for
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time diving deep into new technologies and associated trends in the EdTech industry. And do you know what I found out? There’s a lot more to unpack than meets the eye. The future of education has never looked so bright!
Whether you're running an EdTech startup, part of a publishing company, affiliated with a university, school, government entity, or even an NGO, you're in the right spot. But hey, even if you're simply curious about the world of EdTech innovations, you're more than welcome to join the conversation.
It seems to me that now, AI is everywhere – at least in my information bubble. I stumble upon AI-related content A LOT. (And it says something, since – as a Business Development Director – I use my LinkedIn profile on a daily basis). Still, according to the European Edtech Alliance, over 40% of mapped businesses don’t offer AI as part of their product or services!
Today, I would like to share a few tips on how to advance your EdTech product with AI, but… that’s not all that I have in stock for you.
Did you know about the robust possibilities of blockchain for EdTech? What about 6G networks? Do you know what is the difference between VR, AR, and MR? Or how to step up your gamification? Are you familiar with the powerful capabilities of semantic readers? If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, you’re in for a ride. That’s what I would like to cover throughout this article!
Blockchain - down with NFTs, up with micro-credentials
Personally, I feel like we’re not talking enough about blockchain. Ever since the big boom and the NFT hype in 2022, it has sort of disappeared from the conversation. Let’s fix that NOW. Because - contrary to what you see on social media - it is actually still growing strong.
(Image source: Statista)
What is blockchain? Picture a digital ledger, kind of like an old-school record book. But here's the twist – it's super secure and decentralized.
This ledger is like Fort Knox. Once something's recorded, it's locked down and can't be easily tampered with. Instead of one person or organization in charge, lots of folks maintain this ledger together. There’s no single point of control, which means it's pretty darn reliable. Some blockchains can also run smart contracts – self-executing agreements with no middleman. They're like magical, code-powered deals.
Micro-credentials in EdTech explained
Now, let’s translate that to powerful innovations for the EdTech industry. One idea for blockchain is that it could be used to register micro-credentials. If micro-credentials were badges, then blockchain would be a secure, unbreakable record of every badge you earn. In other words, every skill you learn or exam you pass is added to the blockchain, creating a permanent and tamper-proof record.
And learning never stops, right? With blockchain, you can keep adding new badges throughout your life, creating a dynamic, evolving story of your skills and expertise. That could be useful for student enrollment or verification of employee skillset. However, what I like the most about the micro-credentials idea is that it shows progress.
Imagine a student who is bright but also a little bit lazy. And then, something snaps in them. “From now on”, they decide, “I’m gonna put a lot more effort into it”. Even though their previous track record left much to be desired, from then on, they slowly and steadily start gaining better grades. In this scenario, this progress would be portrayed by micro-credentials. This determination, intrinsic motivation, and internal locus of control shown through their life-long learning history could be attractive to future employees, don’t you think?
Blockchain opportunities for EdTech
Blockchain isn't just about cryptocurrencies or NFTs; it's a powerful tool that's transforming education for the better. Here are a few examples:
Credential fraud-buster. Blockchain isn't just secure; it's the ultimate credential fraud-buster! It stops those diploma forgers dead in their tracks, making sure the qualifications are the real deal. If you’re running an online education platform, like a programming school, you could leverage this feature to give your students or tutors bullet-proof certificates.
Data guardian. Your data is precious, right? Blockchain acts like a guardian, making sure it's locked away from prying eyes and only accessible to the right people. No more data breaches! Also, you could store academic achievements, like diplomas and transcripts, in a digital keep. Just as unimpregnable as Game of Thrones’ Eyrie.
Scholarship, grant, and donation fairness. Scholarships and funding should be fair, right? Blockchain ensures transparency so everybody knows exactly where the money's going. If you're donating to education or funding a project, blockchain keeps tabs on every penny. You'll see exactly how your contributions are making a difference. No more hidden agendas!
6G Network - the future happens now
I like seeing how, in the past, people imagined the future – especially since a lot of science fiction stuff is now present in our lives or soon will be. Take holograms in Star Wars, for example. What if, in a few years (or a decade), the advancement of 3D Hologram Technology would allow holographic lectures and telepresence in education? What an engaging and immersive learning environment that would be!
Pardon me, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
What is a 6G network? Why does it matter for your EdTech solution? In essence, 6G is the successor to 5G, which offers ultra-fast internet speed and super-low latency.
AR, VR, and MR in EdTech explained
A quick detour: let’s distinguish AR, VR, and MR.
AR (Augmented Reality) – you're in your own world, but you've also got digital information and objects dancing around you. Think Pokémon GO, where you see Pikachu chilling in your local park through your smartphone camera.
VR (Virtual Reality) – VR is your ultimate escape pod. When you put on a VR headset, you're not in Kansas anymore; you're in a whole new world. It's like teleporting to another dimension where everything is digital.
MR (Mixed Reality) – MR is where the real world and the digital world collide. It's like you're on a fantastic voyage, and digital objects are seamlessly integrated into your real environment. You can interact with them, and they can interact with your world.
In a nutshell, AR adds digital magic to your real world, VR whisks you away to a digital universe, and MR blends the two together, creating a whole new reality.
Does it still sound like science fiction to you? In 2020, John Hopkins University neurosurgeons performed two AR surgeries for living patients. The first one involved placing six screws in the patient’s spine, and the latter – removing a cancerous tumor (also from the spine). That sounds pretty real to me.
(Image source: UConn Health)
Moreover, this has several implications for education. For example, medicine students could practice anatomy or surgery with the use of VR headsets.
6G network opportunities for EdTech
Global accessibility. Picture this: 6G networks could potentially extend internet access to 100% of the globe. That means students in the most remote corners of the world can now access top-notch educational resources. 6G will also make international collaboration a breeze. Students can team up with peers and experts from around the world for group projects and research, fostering a sense of global citizenship.
Mind-blowing AR and VR. EdTech goes Hollywood with 6G. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) learning experiences will be so immersive, you'll feel like you're exploring the depths of Mariana Trench or the far reaches of the cosmos.
Personalized learning. Thanks to the power of AI running on 6G, educational platforms can offer students hyper-personalized learning experiences. It's like having a personal tutor who knows you inside out.
Internet of Things (IoT) integration. The IoT will be everywhere, including in your classroom. Smart campuses and IoT devices will make learning more efficient, secure, and connected.
Gamification – motivate and reward
I've got a colleague who's on a remarkable 275-day streak over at Duolingo, mastering Spanish day in and day out. Now, you might wonder why she's so committed. It's not just because she'd shed a tear over missing two days in a row (that's the number of streak freezes you get – plus a streak repair if you go Super for a couple of bucks). Gamification is the reason why.
(Image source: UI Sources)
What is gamification? It’s the use of game elements (that’s a no-brainer), such as points, rewards, and competition, but in non-game contexts, like education. The goal is to increase engagement, motivation, and achievement.
Is gamification an “emerging” trend? No. If you’ve ever played Hangman in class or used flashcards to memorize all those tricky definitions before an exam – congrats! You’ve experienced some old-school, non-digital “gamification”. Platforms like Quizlet (who recently released an AI in education survey), Duolingo, or Kahoot use it, and they’re no recent additions to the EdTech game.
So why am I talking about it? Gamification gets even more fun when combined with some other stuff I mention throughout this article, like blockchain, AI, VR, or AR. Get ready to Pumpkin Spice it up.
Gamification in EdTech explained
Esentially, through gamification, you can keep your students motivated. That means a lower retention rate, fewer un-downloads, decreased dropout rates, and increased user engagement. So, let's take a fun journey into the world of gamification and break down how it actually works.
Gamification kicks off by setting clear objectives. Think of these as your missions in the world of learning. As you tackle tasks and achieve milestones, you earn points. It's like getting gold coins in Mario — only these points lead to real rewards, like unlocking new features (think Streek society on Duolingo). At the same time, instant feedback tells you what you nailed and where you need to level up. It's like a coach giving you tips on how to improve your game.
For gamification to be effective, you might need to spice things up with challenges and tasks. These can be brain-teasing quizzes or interactive lessons that keep you engaged. Social and collaborative features are even more essential. You can compete with others, aiming for the top spot, or join forces to conquer tasks together. It's all about friendly rivalry or teamwork. After all, we all have a higher need for achievement if somebody’s watching.
Gamification opportunities for EdTech
AI-powered personalization. Imagine an EdTech platform that uses AI to analyze each student's learning style and preferences. It then tailors gamified content, challenges, and rewards to optimize engagement and knowledge retention.
Virtual Reality learning worlds. Picture students stepping into immersive virtual reality worlds where history, science, or literature come to life. They solve puzzles, interact with historical figures, and embark on quests, all while mastering educational content.
Augmented Reality campus. EdTech apps can use AR to transform physical campuses into gamified experiences. Students can scan QR codes on campus for educational challenges, scavenger hunts, or augmented historical tours.
Blockchain-backed credentials. EdTech platforms can integrate blockchain to gamify the acquisition of digital credentials. Students earn unique blockchain-based badges for achievements, making their accomplishments both verifiable and collectible.
Semantic readers – more than an Ebook
I still prefer a traditional book to an Ebook. Your eyes don’t get red, the paper feels nice under your fingerprints, and it smells way better. It’s an entirely different experience. Plus, reading a tale to your kid from a smartphone just doesn’t have the same charm.
However, I’m also – like many of you, dear readers – a busy guy. What if I told you that there is a tool that can synthesize up to 7 layers of written content? Semantic readers do just that and many more.
Semantic readers in EdTech explained
Semantic readers are advanced text-processing systems equipped with deep comprehension abilities. They go beyond mere word recognition to understand the underlying context and meaning of text. (Image source: Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Think of them as your digital reading companions that can perform tasks like semantic zoom, allowing users to explore and navigate text based on the context and relevance of the content. These readers are designed to enhance reading comprehension and provide a more sophisticated level of interaction with written materials.
You may now wonder: what makes it work? Semantic readers employ advanced natural language processing (NLP) techniques and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to understand and interpret the meaning of text. Let’s break down this wizardry into some features of semantic readers:
- Text analysis. Semantic readers start by breaking down the text into its fundamental components, including sentences, words, and phrases.
- Language understanding. These readers don't just see words; they understand the rules of language, like grammar, syntax, and semantics. They know their nouns from their verbs, and they can spot sentence structures.
- Contextual understanding. Semantic readers are great detectives; they look for context clues to figure out what words mean in different situations. Like knowing "bark" could mean a dog's sound or a tree's covering.
- Knowledge bases. They're connected to a massive brain filled with facts. This brain helps them make sense of things by providing extra info.
- Semantic zoom. Imagine you're reading a long article and want to focus on the juiciest bits. Semantic readers can do that. They zoom in on the important stuff.
- Q & A. Some semantic readers are equipped with question-answering capabilities. They can analyze a user's question, search through text data, and provide relevant answers. It's like having an encyclopedia at your fingertips.
- Machine learning. Some of these readers are like students who keep getting smarter. They learn from tons of text data and get better at understanding language over time.
Semantic reader opportunities for EdTech
What I’ve noticed by talking with major publishers from the industry is that many of them look for new monetization methods and revenue streams. Traditional publishing is still a big thing, but digital transformations force a paradigm shift toward digitization of books. What if you could offer this extended book-reading experience to your customers?
Or let’s imagine another example. You’re a medical student and need to read the same textbooks over and over again. Or you’re studying law, or physics, or architecture. Chances are, when you start working in your field, you will still reach out to these textbooks for guidance. Semantic readers would become your best friends.
And you know what? I’ve got a ready-made product called BookLens that you can use to enhance your EdTech product. We have developed it right here, at Vazco, and can help you implement it on your project. If that sounds like something you are interested in, don’t shy away from leaving me a message!
Artificial intelligence – because I know that’s what you’re (probably) here for
Last but not least, we’ve got a controversial EdTech trend that everybody talks about. Some love it, some hate it, and some are still somewhere in the middle. I’m about to tip the balance towards the “lovin’ it” category. And if I don’t persuade you, this TedX guy certainly will.
At the same time, I don’t want to dive deep into AI-related controversies and dilemmas. In my view, the drawbacks are secondary to its MAJOR advantages for:
- Students. Imagine having a super-smart study buddy available 24/7! That's what AI brings to students. It offers personalized learning experiences, adapts to their pace, and provides instant feedback. Plus, it makes studying feel more like an exciting adventure than a chore.
- Tutors. AI is like a tutor's best friend. It takes care of the repetitive stuff, like grading assignments, so tutors can focus on what they do best — guiding and inspiring students. It also helps identify where each student needs help.
- Startups. EdTech startups are riding the AI wave to create innovative learning solutions. AI-powered platforms attract users with engaging content and personalized experiences, helping startups grow faster and make a real impact in education. Moreover, I feel like today, it’s hard for a startup to make waves when not backed by AI.
- Publishers. AI is transforming how content is created and delivered. It streamlines content generation, making it more interactive and engaging. Plus, AI-driven analytics help publishers understand what works and what doesn't, ensuring educational materials hit the mark.
It’s not only a win-win-win-win situation. It's like the glue that holds the entire educational ecosystem together, making it smarter, more efficient, and more student-focused! To top that, AI can also make most of the emerging EdTech trends happen.
AI opportunities for EdTech
If I were to do the impossible task of listing out all the applications for AI in EdTech, it would have taken me months to publish this article. So, I’ll focus on the most important ones, particularly:
Personalized learning paths. AI analyzes students' strengths and weaknesses, tailoring learning materials and pacing to each individual. This means no more one-size-fits-all education!
Smart content creation. AI can generate educational content – texts, images, videos, quizzes, and more. More importantly, it’s high quality. You could even develop or update entire curricula to adapt to changing industry demands!
Instant high-fives. No more waiting for grades! AI zips through assignments, giving you high-fives for your achievements faster than you can say "A+." What a relief for teachers who can now spend 70% less time on grading assignments!
Early Intervention. AI can predict when a student might struggle and provide interventions to prevent learning gaps. In fact, some universities already use it to lower dropout rates.
Accessibility. AI aids in creating accessible content for students with special needs and disabilities, making education more inclusive!
Enhanced administrative efficiency. Administrative tasks are a breeze with AI! Things like enrollment, scheduling, grant acquisition, or resource allocation can be easier than ever before.
That’s all that I prepared for you, so it’s time for closing thoughts. These emerging trends are not just individual stars in the EdTech galaxy; they form a constellation of possibilities. Together, they offer a glimpse into an educational universe where students embark on personalized, life-long learning journeys.
Let's embark on this educational odyssey together, with the promise of a smarter, more connected, and more personalized world of learning awaiting us on the horizon. Vazco can help through expert advisory, custom-made EdTech products, or ready-made products, like BookLens. If you’re interested - drop me a line!
I would like to spare a moment to acknowledge a valuable resource that I used while working on this article – JRC Science for Policy Report called “On the Futures of Technology in Education: Emerging Trends and Policy Implications” (Tuomi, Cachia, and Villar-Onrubia, 2023). I highly recommend reading it. Even if it’s 82 pages long.
Thanks, and until next time!
Business Development Manager
Navigating the diverse world of business processes for +15 years, I became a Business Developer, but I also have gained experience in Delivery Management and Recruitment. I've worked in both global and local companies. At Vazco, I thrive on connecting with great folks across Western Europe, the USA, Scandinavia, and the Middle East. I also focus on forging genuine, long-lasting connections in business. When the office lights go off, you’ll find me reveling in the great outdoors, tackling offroad trails, diving into unconventional sports, or anything with an engine. And, of course, there’s my most cherished role - being a dad.