“Books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye” – Said Thomas Edison in 1913
Sure enough, there’s been an exponential growth in teaching & learning technology over the past few decades all the way from the simple Blackboard to Digital Classrooms to connected classrooms and mixed collaboration environments.
Applications of these technologies are not just exclusively in schools and colleges but across a broad spectrum of industries and also among individuals and groups wanting to interact and collaborate.
Need for Collaboration Technology
Across Education Institutes and Enterprises, collaboration solutions can significantly reduce operational expenditure, improve teacher / instructor productivity and enhance student / employee learning.
Several variants of collaboration technology exists, enabling simple to complex interactivity between individuals and groups of people participating from classrooms, conference or training rooms and from remote locations using personal devices like Laptops, PCs, Smart Phones and Tablets.
These solutions provide significant value to establishments across market segments (detailed in the table below)
Collaboration solutions address various needs among establishments across these market segments (See Table 1). They can be broadly clubbed under two categories. “Business Centric” and “Teacher & Student Centric” as depicted in the following graphic.
Available Technologies for Remote Collaboration
There are several available technologies for enabling remote collaboration between individuals and groups of people. For ease of comparison, we have classified available solutions under the following:
1) Collaboration Solutions (Web Conferencing, Video Conferencing, VSAT)
Most products in this category allow people to collaborate from remote locations by supporting simple levels of audio, video and content based interactivity.
2) Collaboration & Management Solutions (Emerging)
In addition to supporting complex interactivity between participants, solutions in this category also support the management of content and users, scheduling of collaboration sessions, post session analysis and review and in certain cases, allows integration of third party tools and applications.
These solutions support both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration by enabling real-time audio, video and content based interactivity between participants AND by providing later access to content repositories for post session reviews and self pace learning.
These are very powerful solutions that help people achieve collaboration objectives much faster with quantifiable process and operational improvements when used consistently over a period of time.
The comparison grid below shows the capabilities of each type of solution.
Each solution category is assessed across five performance attributes. The colour green indicates availability, Red indicates non availability and orange indicates that this feature is emerging among recently launched solutions within that category.
The five performance attributes are explained below:
1) Device Based: Supports collaboration on Laptops, Tablets, Smart Phones & PCs
2) Room Based: Collaboration between groups of people in multiple conference rooms, classrooms and training rooms
3) HD Video: Supports HD video of the participants across the network (Large screen displays in Classrooms, Conference and Training rooms and on personal devices – Tablets, Laptops & PCs)
4) Content Sharing: Digital content (Presentations, Videos, Animations, Documents, Etc) used during collaboration is visible across the network on large screen displays, PCs, Laptops, Tablets and Smart Phones
5) Enhanced Interaction:
- Annotation on content across the network of connected Class Rooms (Interactive Whiteboards, Large Screen Touch Displays) and users with devices (Tablets, Laptops, PCs, Smart Phones)
- Audio & video interactivity between every participant in the network (Teacher to student & student to student)
- Instant tests and assessment across the network
- Contextual note taking using personal devices during the collaboration session
- Session Scheduling
- Lesson Planning
- Content Management
- Lecture and interactivity recording
- Integration of third party solutions, tools and applications
- Analytics & Reporting (Built in and integration support)
Deployment & Usability
The “Cloud” is the latest technology that is changing the way solutions are being deployed and consumed. Solutions are cost-effective and deployments are instantaneous and simple.
In the Collaboration environment as depicted in figure 2; new, agile solutions are fast replacing conventional solutions that require expensive proprietary hardware and multiple software components at each location. MCU based videoconferencing is a prime example of a dinosaur that is soon going to be extinct.
Collaboration needs of establishments and individuals across segments (see Table 1) are changing at a rapid pace and current solutions MUST enable collaboration independent of location or devices used.
Content for collaboration sessions should be available at any point within the network and remote participants should be able to interact and collaborate with each other with the same ease and convenience of being in a single physical location.
The “Cloud” is making all this possible and cloud based solutions have the potential to significantly change the way individuals and groups interact and collaborate, world over.
Impact of Collaboration & Management Solutions
The eLearning Guild (http://www.elearningguild.com) published a survey report on Synchronous Learning Systems (SLS). The 2008 survey covered 1,200 participants representing over 1,000 organizations. Following are their key findings:
- 63.7% use Synchronous Learning Systems (SLS), and 71.1% of organizations with more than 5,000 workers use an SLS.
- They are resoundingly positive in giving synchronous learning very high marks for its impact on their organizations. Specifically, 94.7% are convinced that a SLS is essential to their organization.
- Synchronous learning is poised for growth with 51.3% indicating they plan to do more sessions, 49.9% planning to add more learners, and 16.9% planning to invest in a new system in the next 12 months.
- 30% that use a SLS use more than one tool in their organizations.
- The median costs to acquire, install, and customize a SLS for all industries and organization sizes is $33.65 per learner.
- The median cost to maintain the SLS is $20.83 per learner.
- Key areas taught for corporates are Technical Skills, Desktop Training, Product Knowledge Training and Business Skills
Key benefits of collaborative teaching and learning solutions
- Enhance teacher productivity & student learning
- Enrich the teaching and learning experience by using engaging and interactive digital content
- Provide expert teacher access to more students by ensuring that a single teacher can teach students in multiple locations
- Enable on time remedial action by identifying students that need special attention
- Enable peer supported learning among students by providing an environment for collaboration outside the classroom
- Enable self paced learning by providing anytime access to recorded classroom content to students from outside the classroom
- Optimize the teaching and learning environment by replicating the physical classroom model across the network
- Reduce operations expenditure
- Leverage limited teaching resources
Collaboration technology is evolving at a rapid pace and ensures that teachers can teach from anywhere and students can learn from anywhere without any sense of disconnect or alienation.
Participants can experience teaching and learning in these virtual environments as comfortably as being in a single physical classroom.
Teachers are always faced with the challenge of teaching and mentoring students at different academic and skill levels. Research has shown that the most important factor influencing student success, is an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. So it is important to ensure that teachers are trained frequently and appropriately with the objective of providing students with the best possible learning environments.
Teacher Training Pain Points
To begin with, teachers whether experienced or new are the most important resources in an academic institution and their time has to be optimized. Following are some of the main pain points of conventional training programs:
- All teacher training programs require the teacher to attend training sessions outside the institution. This could be an expensive process as it requires travel and stay
- Students are disadvantaged because regular classes may get disrupted while teachers are being trained
- Once the teacher resumes classes after training, effectiveness or improvements cannot be monitored or measured
- Formal training programs are usually time bound and rigidly structured. To optimize the teacher’s time, more frequent, shorter on-demand interactive training programs may be more effective. This will require training to be delivered directly to the teacher while at the institution
The Elucido Solution for enabling effective teacher training
The Elucido Learning & Collaboration System (ELCS) provides an environment for collaboration across multiple classrooms over the Internet. In this connected environment, a single expert can train teachers located in geographically distributed institutions.
The solution also supports on-the-job training where the remote expert can instruct, help and monitor the teacher while the teacher is in the classroom, teaching students.
Additionally, expert teachers can deliver training sessions to teachers directly to their homes, from remote locations using laptops or tablets with all audio, video and content based interaction features enabled.
- Teachers can be trained directly at the institution. Teachers do not have to travel. The institution can realize significant savings on travel / stay budgets
- Training frequency can be increased, improving the overall quality of the teaching staff at the institute
- Post training, teachers can opt-in to be monitored by the expert teacher while teaching students in classrooms. Subsequently, additional training sessions can be planned if required
- Trainee teachers can play back video recordings of all teaching / training sessions for later self-evaluation and improvement
Quality education starts with well trained and motivated teachers. But these teachers, like students require support and encouragement to be able to do their difficult job well.
Improving teaching quality is simply the most effective measure education institutions can take to enhance student learning.
Rural Education: Situation Overview
Rural India accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total population. The recent Census 2011 indicates that of the 1.21 billion population, 833 million live in rural India.
India has one of the lowest enrollment and highest dropout ratios, translating into net enrollment levels among the lowest in the world
More than 40 percent of India’s population is illiterate and cannot read or write. Also, schools in rural areas are inadequate and often equivalent to being non-existent.
Furthermore, according to a World Bank-Harvard University study, in India “with one in four government primary school teachers absent on any given day, and only one in two teaching, India is wasting much of its budget for education”. It is found in the study that India is among the countries with the highest average absence rates of teachers. India has about 25 per cent absence rate of teachers. However, it is interestingly revealed that better infrastructure and frequent inspections in school ensure a lower rate of teacher absenteeism.
According to Mr. Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development, India is short of 1.2 million teachers; 42 million children aged between 6 and 14 do not go to school; roughly 16% of all villages do not have primary schooling facilities and 17% schools have just one teacher.
Key concern areas:
- Severe neglect in the area of teacher training and diminishing pay scales has caused an acute shortage of expert and competent teachers in every segment of the Indian education continuum, all the way from pre-school to university level.
- High teacher absenteeism
- Most of the schools do not have proper infrastructure. So children do not get most of the facilities such as computer education, sports education and extra-curricular activities.
- There are no proper transport facilities so children don’t like to travel miles to come to school and they have house hold responsibilities as well.
- There is no access to supplemental education.
Can Technology help to improve the current situation?
While on one hand we have the Government initiating ICT based learning in schools, on the other hand most schools lack infrastructure and basic facilities like toilets. There is also a shortage of quality trained teachers. This is a huge cause of concern. Hence the burning question is how many of these issues can technology effectively address?
The answer to that is definitely not easy. Few of these issues can be addressed through innovative use of ICT based tools. It can to an extent address or minimize infrastructural roadblocks in the educational system and will definitely meet certain pedagogical needs. But it is not easy and cannot be done overnight. Private and Public players need to work together innovatively to enhance the quality of education in India.
The primary area where technology CAN make a difference is in ensuring the consistent availability of quality teaching staff across rural schools.
Challenges in Technology enabled Education
For technology to be effective in these environments, it has to ensure a strong teacher student connect irrespective of the teacher being physically present in the classroom
Also, the curriculum should be presented in a manner that is interactive and engaging to interest the children and retain their attention
One more extremely important aspect to ensure success in this environment is to identify and support students who require special attention very early on during their academic career. This will reduce dropout rates
In addition to the prescribed curriculum, it is important that these students are frequently exposed to industry and academic leaders who can inspire them to work harder and achieve success
Remote teaching & learning solutions should be optimized technically and at the same time made cost-effective and easy to use, to enable high quality collaborative teaching and learning in rural environments that have poor telecommunication infrastructure
To address these challenges, technology should be capable of doing the following:
- Ensure a single trained teacher can teach students across multiple remote locations
- Remote teaching should ensure that all physical classroom interaction attributes between the teacher and students and among students are retained across the network of remote connected classrooms. This is to maintain a strong teacher-student connect in spite of the teacher not being physically present in the classrooms. This calls for enabling high quality audio, video and content based interactivity between remote teachers and students, very cost-effectively
- Use Expert teachers to train teachers across remote locations in order for them to improve their quality of teaching. Rural teachers should be trained in real-time and on the job by professionals located elsewhere
- Ensure that instant collective assessment of each student is possible across the network of connected classrooms. This will help in identifying students that need special attention at a very early stage in their academic career
- Built-in tools that can be accessed on-demand, to enhance teacher productivity and student learning
- Make learning more interactive and fun by delivering rich interactive education content comprising of games, quizzes and other animated multimedia
- Enable Student to Student interaction across schools. This can ensure that academically successful students can mentor / adopt / collaborate with students who need help. Peer supported learning has proven to be highly successful in helping students with learning problems succeed
- Industry and academic experts should be able to interact with students in remote locations, in real-time. This could be hugely inspirational to students and teachers in rural environments
- Ensure on-demand availability of high quality, cost effective education content from multiple sources
- Make teaching available to multiple, smaller groups of students close to their homes, thus ensuring they do not have to travel long distances to schools
Collaboration Technology, along with telecom infrastructure is evolving at a rapid pace in India and is capable of addressing diverse education needs across demographics and geographies cost effectively
Appropriate deployment of cost-effective technology, coupled with quality teaching resources is capable of significantly changing the education environment in India in a relatively short span of time.
Excerpt from the article (By Doug Harward, CEO, Training Industry, Inc):
You may not have noticed, but a new era is quietly dawning on the training industry. It represents a change that is both profound and permanent. For the very first time, learners have the ability to take control of his or her own learning experience.
So what’s responsible for this shift in the learning landscape? It’s the advent of new technologies, social platforms, and the search engine. The search engine has become a near ubiquitous tool of the 21st century. Surfing the Internet has become everyone’s favored solution for resolving information challenges large and small.
Read the whole article at: http://www.trainingindustry.com
Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com
About the video (From Education Week):
Tessa Falcetta, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dysgraphia, and general anxiety disorder; and her mother Esther Falcetta, talk about why online learning is the best fit.
Tessa Falcetta is a rising 8th grader who lives in Grove City, Pa., she has taken online classes in the past and will be taking them again when she starts school in the fall.
Watch this video and many other related videos at: http://www.edweek.org
Excerpt from the article (By Chuck Dietrich, CEO SlideRocket on Forbes.Com):
There is a raging debate about the effectiveness of the ‘digital classroom’ – with arguments solely focused on the $31.2 billion education technology market and whether the investment is delivering a return to cash-strapped school districts.
In the heated discussion over education technology, we are missing out on a crucial component of education – the ethos of how to work together. Collaborative technology is a valuable aid in teaching students to engage in meaningful discussion, take responsibility for their own learning and become critical thinkers in a rapidly-shifting world – skills necessary for success in the 21st century workforce.
Read the whole article at: http://www.forbes.com
About the video (TED Talk):
Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.
Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com