Where education meets technology: Three trends to watch in the ed-tech industry

Photo courtesy of Nordic Startup Bits
Using computers to learn is just the beginning.

Lisa Mallner
Nordic Startup Bits

As ed-tech is becoming the next industry to watch in the Nordics—with success stories like Kahoot, DigiExam, and Funzi—we take a look at three major trends in the ed-tech world.

Adult education
Ed-tech is often thought about in terms of “gamified” learning tools like Duolingo, but the real face of adult education is in the corporate world for continuous, lifelong learning.

“Obviously, you can sell to schools and make a living off it, but in the Nordics, there is much more money on the corporate side. That is the way things are moving in our society,” explains Hege Tollerud of the Oslo EdTech Cluster. “Companies are thinking about how they can use education tools to make sure their staff are on top of what they need to learn.”

Gone are the days when one would leave the workplace, get an MA, and return to the field. Now companies are turning towards ed-tech to train their workforce themselves.

Jannie Jeppesen of EdTech Sweden agrees that adult education is where the money is and that it will be a major market driver for ed-tech companies in the Nordics.

“There is a strong need for ed-tech in larger businesses and SMEs because you don’t make products anymore—you are a service provider. Service is competence. If you don’t have the right competences, you can’t sell anything,” says Jeppesen.

Learning management systems
Learning management systems are often overlooked by the general public but are crucial to the continued development of the classroom. Viktor Sebes, founder of EdQu, an education management tool from Sweden, explains, “Education management…is software that supports teachers, principals, and administrators in their everyday business. It can be, for example, class attendance, or in our case, a system to manage the progress of students, individually or in tailor-made groups.”

Tools like EdQu seek to better integrate computers into the learning experience of students and the teaching work of teachers by digitizing and streamlining frictions in the learning and administration process. For the students, this can make classroom time more effective. On the administrative side, learning management systems free up more time to spend with students.

Geir Sand Nilsen of Edtech Foundry, a Norwegian education management system that puts students’ course-related communications in a single place and automates best-practice pedagogy with intelligent bots, believes these are the tools that will truly change the way knowledge is shared.

“We are working our ass off to improve the teacher’s ability to stimulate students to collaborate, ignite their playfulness, and make them believe they can achieve anything they want,” he says.

Adaptive learning tools
The most hyped companies within ed-tech fall under adaptive learning tools, which help teachers individualize education for students and often have a strong interactive element.

As schools look to digitize their traditional infrastructures to be more agile, adaptive learning tools are pushing the boundaries of student engagement and even the function of a classroom.

Hanna Kristín Skaftadóttir, founder of Icelandic ed-tech company Mimi Creations, has developed an adaptive learning tool that animates learning material for toddlers to enhance and improve the development of speech and communication.

She notes that adaptive learning tools form an important building block in increasing diversity within education and feels that the current trend within ed-tech of “prospering and fostering the individualism of students” is a huge leap in making education better worldwide.

Adaptive learning includes everything from intelligent tutoring systems to adaptive testing and can be especially valuable for self-directed learning. Probably the best-known examples of adaptive learning are educational computer games.

As adaptive learning schools do not need to stay within the classroom, they can serve a huge variety of students. For example, new refugees to Europe seeking to learn the languages of their new homelands can greatly benefit from access to adaptive learning tools.

This article was originally published on Nordic Startup Bits at www.nordicstartupbits.com/2016/07/04/3-ed-tech-trends-watch-2.

This article also appeared in the Feb. 10, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.