A lot can be said about the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Most people touch on the fact that it is hardly practical enough to give students some hard-earned skills. Others emphasise that it is not updated enough to stay relevant in today’s markets. All in all, the actual facts speak for themselves.
According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group about upskilling and reskilling, 60% of youth respondents said they spend a significant amount of time on learning per year. Among them, developing countries topped the list with most of them spending up to a few weeks per year, learning.
One of the key takeaways from this is that most youth from developing countries feel they lack the skills necessary to compete in the global economy and get employment especially in their economies where unemployment is rife. For this reason, they choose to upskill themselves in order to increase their employment opportunities.
Upskilling is an important ingredient for any modern society regardless of its developmental status, particularly due to rapid technological changes and the one thing that makes it all the more possible is edtech.
Before edtech came along, traditional learning ruled the scene. It focused on in-class lessons with little to no out-of-class learning included. This made some abstract concepts really difficult to grasp. Of course, a lot of educational institutions still do traditional learning majority of the time even today. But thanks to much of edtech, we now have blended learning.
Blended learning utilises technology to incorporate both in-class and out-of-class learning in order to deliver a rich educational experience to the students. This kind of learning does not just benefit the learner. It also benefits the teacher who can focus more on the student’s understanding rather than on their own delivery tactics.
There are a number of advantages that make blended learning an obvious winner when pitted against traditional learning. First and foremost, it mimics the day to day lives of post-millennials. Generation Z has grown up with technology so it makes sense to have their educational experience reflecting that. Using technology for learning is an extension of their day-to-day lives.
Blended learning also enhances the students’ understanding of complex concepts, it allows for better convenience and flexibility, it empowers teachers and it supports social learning whenever possible.
All these reasons make it ideal for this day and age that is stepping deeper and deeper into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
Due to the fact that blended learning is one with technology, it is no surprise then that today’s edtech startups are venturing into 4IR staples such as Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and more, in order to meet their objectives.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these startups from around the world.
Edtech Examples in Virtual/Augmented Reality
Let’s begin with the most obvious choice because nothing says ‘immersive learning’ better than Virtual/Augmented Reality.
This 4IR staple is a front-runner not just in education, but also in other industries, especially gaming. Case in point, Pokemon Go.
Gaming, just like education, works best when the people involved are as close to reality as possible. This enriches the experience and makes it difficult to forget. That’s why VR/AR is a game changer within edtech.
Here are some statistics.
According to a study by AR Insider, AR - compatible smartphones are set to shoot to 1.5 billion in number by the end of 2020 and spike up to 3.4 million by 2023.
It’s safe to say that Virtual/Augmented Reality is here for the long haul.
Here are examples of edtech players in this sector:
Early-Adopter is a company focused on immersive learning through the use of Augmented and Virtual reality. What better way is there to explain how planets revolve around the Sun than to have students actually see it happen?
Utilising Augmented and Virtual reality means students can let go of rudimentary imaginations of complex concepts and actually see them in action.
Such an immersion is bound to do way more for their long-term learning than a night of serious cramming before an exam.
Blippar is a company that specialises in augmented reality experiences and even empowers users to build their own.
While the company’s work spans across different sectors, its engagements in education are compelling. An example is the 3D model of a volcano that shows students exactly how a volcano erupts then gives them a pop quiz to determine how much they have learnt.
Edtech Examples in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
When it comes to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, there are a number of ways that edtech startups are plugging in.
This could be via virtual learning assistants, algorithmically sorted content and study plans, sorted analytical data about students that is useful for teachers, as well as tasks and accessibility functions such as text to speech and voice recognition.
When it comes to applications in edtech, what AI does best, contrary to popular belief, is to empower teachers. Instead of manually collecting data or basing their premises on individual biases, teachers are now able to gather intelligent data that gives them knowledge about their students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Since the edtech industry is evolving as much as the AI scene, there is still a lot in store for this merger.
Here are some examples of edtech players in this sector:
Cognii is a virtual learning assistant that engages students in conversation by prompting them to answer a question and then giving them real-time formative feedback. This conversational edtech uses Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Cognitive Science.
By using Cognii as a “tutor”, students get personalized hints and tips, therefore moving closer towards conceptual mastery.
It’s a brilliant way of pushing the blended learning envelope so that students can learn even when they are not in school.
Nuance is a company with a wide range of products across industries but what we are interested in here is their speech recognition software for the education industry.
The software, named Dragon, is useful for teachers and students alike; but it’s especially useful for students who struggle with writing. All the student has to do is speak and the software will type it all down without spelling concerns getting in the way.
Last and certainly not least, is Jijali. It would have been difficult to end this list without adding the Kenyan edtech that is taking the world of upskilling by storm.
Jijali is an AI-powered, adaptive, blended, professional skills development program that runs for three months, targeting youth within the ages of 18 and 30, who are unemployed or underemployed, in order to grow their professional and business skills and ultimately grow their economic empowerment by over 100% within a year.
Jijali was created against the backdrop of a rapidly growing youth population, country-wise and continent-wise. There are over 226 million youth(18-30) in Africa, representing 19% of the whole population, and growing. 25% of those are unemployed, causing lifelong consequences on their income levels and their mental attitudes.
The challenge is two fold, only 40% of youth make it past tertiary education. Secondly, for those who make it to tertiary public education, not a single public university in Africa provides practical skills development and professional training to ensure employability.
Adaptive learning technology has proven to increase outcomes in the West but a lack of data and access to technology has made the adaptive e-learning space in Africa very limited; that is changing and Yusudi wants the education world to change with it.
Yusudi believes that every young person deserves the tools to achieve their best possible future. That’s why Jijali was created.
Current solutions to help individual youth needs are “no-tech” programs, which are prohibitively expensive, or too “high-tech” where there is low accountability, low customization, low guidance, and low chance for practice learning. The majority of them are also created for the Western world and are hard to relate to for youth in Kenya.
Jijali is a game-changer because:
a. It is adaptive. It uses AI to personalise content for each young person.
b. It is accessible. It operates entirely through a mobile web-platform at an affordable cost - $10 or less per month.
c. It is localised. Its content is built by a team of local content experts and responds to the needs of the markets it operates in.
In using AI, Jijali will be able to personalise content for each user, by changing the level of complexity, the format of content and the amount of external support necessary depending on the user's needs.
AI, in this case, would automate the process of learning content allocation for a given user to ensure the highest level of success within the program in relation to goal achievement and post-program in relation to income level achievement.
As you can see, edtech is taking a deep dive in the fourth industrial revolution by championing blended learning.
If this is not the future of education, we don’t know what is.
Click here to sign up for Jijali.