Overcoming the hardware hurdle is just the first step to delivering high quality remote learning, according to digital experts – usability, cross-device capability, accessibility and the end-to-end user experience all need to be considered too.
Hilary Stephenson, managing director at Sigma, a user experience (UX) design agency, which has delivered a number of high-profile education tech projects, said: “Children of all demographics need access to sufficient technology, such as laptops, printers and internet access. But in parallel, we must also overcome barriers to usability, cross-device capability, accessibility and user experience in many digital education environments.
“While schools must update their approach to remote teaching based on previous lockdowns, the key to making the transition to online as successful as possible is to make sure each child can use and access the technology they need.
“There will again be a rush to new ways of handling remote learning, but as we’ve seen over the last year, not much of the current crop of EdTech delivers the experience that young people, and the parents, teachers and support staff who work with it every day really need and expect. EdTech needs to be easy to use, robust enough for cross-device and often low-bandwidth usage, accessible to everyone who needs to, and to deliver a carefully considered end-to-end customer experience, from device compatibility, through registration and onboarding, to problem resolution.
“Many providers are simply trying to digitise their offline learning without thinking properly about the real context of use, and that leads to a sub-standard, frustrating experience for parents, pupils, teachers and support staff. Education providers need to rethink the end-to-end user experience of the whole service, based on a proper understanding of the needs of students, parents and teachers. But in the meantime, they face the pressure of ‘getting something out quickly’ to meet urgent, critical demand. It’s a tough and unenviable job, but a two-pronged strategy – focusing on how we can best meet immediate need while also striving for the best possible long-term solution – with clear communication and transparency along the way is required.
“The transition between face-to-face and virtual education needs to be seamless to minimise disruption of a child’s education. For the best outcomes, teaching staff, parents and children are going to have to work together to iron out any creases which were apparent earlier in the year, and any new issues that may arise as learning continues to be primarily digital for the time being.
“Looking ahead, a blended approach to learning will becoming increasingly important as digital becomes more and more integrated in teaching and learning. While the coming weeks will be challenging for all involved, schools must assess which blended learning approaches work best for their teachers and pupils. Schools who are able to optimise their use of technology will place themselves in an ideal position as we move more generally to a more modern ways of teaching and learning.”