Future technology trends


We asked industry expert Martin McKay to give us six worldwide trends that we can expect to see more of in the UK education sector.

1, Analytics and payment by results

Learning analytics is already a big trend in schools. One interesting opportunity that detailed learning analytics creates, is payment by results.

Imagine an educational technology company who has the confidence in their product to say, for example: “If your students spend one hour per week using our courseware, and we cannot demonstrate a learning improvement you will not have to pay for the software.”

The software can track student’s time on task, and their demonstrated learning improvement. It is good for publishers, teacher and students. The learning improvement could be showing mastery of a skill, a demonstration of gained knowledge, an improvement in grammar or sentence length, comprehension etc.

Analytics also allows large-scale studies of the effectiveness of learning interventions. For example, do students who use a writing intervention improve their writing faster than students who do not?

2, Bring Your Own ‘Approved’ Device

BYOD is here to stay as schools make the most of their educational budgets by capitalising on consumer investment in technology. 

However, BYOD as a concept presents IT departments with significant challenges in terms of security, network management and controlling exactly what that user is doing.

I have seen many schools adopting a slightly revised policy – bring your own “approved” device, such as a Chromebook, Nexus Android tablet or iPad. Often the purchase price of the device is subsidised by the school.

3, The ‘freemium’ business model

The dynamics of purchasing in the education sector are set to change with the mass adoption of “Freemium” – a business model in which suppliers of digital content give learners something that is genuinely useful and that they can use every day for free. Sales are secured at a later date when that supplier approaches users, who psychologically have already started to think as customers, with premium “value added” offerings that can then be purchased for a fee.

The “freemium” sales model is here to stay and one that is set to feature more and more in the UK education sector.

4, Plummeting hardware costs

Hardware costs are set to plummet. According to the analyst Gartner, Chromebook sales will reach 

14.4 million units by 2017, nearly tripling the current market size. And part of the reason for that growth is the slowing PC market.

Its report quantifying the economic value of Chromebooks for primary and secondary education, showed that in the US, schools purchasing Chromebooks reduced the per-device cost of ownership by $590 over three years compared with alternative devices. 

This benefit was seen before new Chromebook pricing was introduced in May 2012; which dropped monthly per-device costs for hardware/software from $20.75 to $13.30 and boosted the three-year cost of ownership savings to $935.

However, in the UK schools have been slow to invest because major nationwide investment in wi-fi is required to utilise devices such as Chromebooks, which are designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet, with most applications and data residing in the cloud.

5, The flipped classroom

The flipped classroom – a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed and short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions – will continue to grow in education in the next few years.

One of the greatest benefits of “flipping” is that the level of interaction between teacher and student, and student and student, increases dramatically. The teacher is no longer presenting the content to students, rather they spend their time talking with students, answering questions, working with small groups, and guiding the learning of each young person individually.

Twenty-two per cent of children in the US do not speak English at home, so their parents are unable to support them educationally. Send a child home with a computer and get them to consume content in video and they can return to school and solve problems by doing homework in the classroom.

6, Universal Design for Learning

In the US, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is being embraced – an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.

In the UK, architects are not allowed to design a public building without wheelchair access or braille on the lift buttons, so why are we as a nation so slow to embrace universal design in educational software development?

I believe it is a question of economies of scale. In the US, state-wide purchasing of content is making it cost-effective for major publishers to incorporate important features that provide access for all students, such as those who have English as a second language or literacy difficulties.

We should introduce purchasing frameworks in the UK that demand that all developers embrace the concept of universal design for learning.

  • Martin McKay is chief technology officer of Texthelp Ltd, which specialises in the development of technology for English language learners and struggling readers and writers.


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