Many who have witnessed the growing pains and setbacks of digital learning the past two decades think we should throw away years of progress and return to the traditional education model.
I say now is not the time to give up. In fact, now is the time to double down.
Because reality is, there is no turning back. Instead of pitting traditional and digital learning models against each other, we should be working together to integrate the best of both to propel education forward.
Online is where today’s digital natives spend most of their time. And while most industries are moving at lightning speed to take advantage of this, our traditional, institutional education system is lagging woefully behind. While this system served students well in the past, the students of today and especially tomorrow live, learn and engage in entirely new and quickly-evolving ways.
Curriculum for the digital generation
While there are many ways digital learning is already improving our education model, there are three core areas where it will continue to exponentially improve educational efficacy, efficiency and economy:
- Quality content
- Real-time data analytics
Content is king. It can no longer remain stagnant, cemented in textbooks of the past. Discoveries are being made every day in every subject area taught in schools. Therefore, students need access to cloud-based platforms where continually updated, expertly curated and research-based content is delivered through formats and mediums that engage and provoke creativity. Ideally someday this content will be housed in a massive learning repository and meta-tagged so teachers can easily pull from it to develop their curriculum with any coursework they want and require, including formative and summative assessments.
Data holds the key to seeking out and understanding teacher and student pain points. By removing these problems, teachers are empowered and enabled to offer an increasingly effective, engaging and enjoyable learning experience.
For years educators have been pressured to make data driven decisions. Access to top quality curriculum along with assignments and formative assessments that are computer graded in real time to provide student performance data empowers teachers to provide individualized support and instruction exactly when and where a student needs it most.
Finally, digital learning enables a level of flexibility, personalized support and accessibility that the traditional brick-and-mortar model alone simply can’t replicate. Whether a student is falling behind, has an illness or disability or is excelling and wants to move ahead in school, a dynamic digital model can provide the curriculum and classroom to meet a diverse range of student abilities, requirements and preferences.
Rather than making teachers obsolete, the digital elements described above empower them with the content, time and insights to deliver a truly personalized education and become an effective partner, guide and inspiration to their students.
The most important investment we’ll ever make
No other investment yields as great a return as the investment in education. An educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy.
~ Brad Henry
An education that doesn’t incorporate digital learning with continuously evolving content, formats and data analytics to track and promote student growth will not adequately prepare our students for success in a quickly shifting world. And while edtech innovators are making huge strides, we’re still in the adolescence of the industry and have so far to go.
To continue blazing the trail in digital learning, we must invest a tremendous amount of research, effort and funding. We must come together and find the passion and courage to continue reimagining and redefining education through the digital lens.
About the author
Damian is an edtech visionary with 20 years’ experience in online education. He is founder and CEO of Primavera Online High School, one of the most successful online high schools in the country. He also founded and is CEO of StrongMind which provides cloud-based digital courseware for grades 6-12 that includes award-winning curriculum, leading edge assessments and advanced reporting and analytics.