Harnessing the Power of Web for EdTech

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The education sector is not “top of the class” when it comes to technology. In fact, education is “grossly under digitized compared with other sectors,” with less than 3% of total expenditure being spent on technology, according to research from education intelligence firm HolonIQ.

Despite this limited allocation of resources, a recent report from Cambridge International, found that use of technology in schools worldwide continues to grow, with 48% of students reporting they use a desktop computer in the classroom, 42% use smartphones, 33% use interactive whiteboards, and 20% use tablets.

And this is all based on data collected before the pandemic hit.

To get an updated pulse on edtech in the world of COVID-19, DockYard recently surveyed and interviewed parents, teachers, and students. The majority of respondents (68%) agreed that virtual learning will never be as effective as in-person learning. Despite having to rely on digital tools to teach and learn in the wake of the pandemic, users struggled to maintain motivation and to properly use the more than 30 e-learning tools they are collectively applying to digital learning.

With schools nationwide reopening in physical, digital, and hybrid formats, time is of the essence to close the wide gap between edtech experiences and user expectations.

Elevating Education Technology to “Best in Class” with Web

So, how can educational technology platforms and providers deliver more accessible, consistent, and enjoyable experiences—and how can they do it quickly? By harnessing the power of the web.

Web technologies have the potential to deliver more reliable experiences and can empower edtech providers to deliver new solutions more quickly and consistently for the broad array of users who need them.

Web applications are internet-enabled apps that are accessible from any device via a web browser. Unlike native applications, which must be built specifically for certain mobile device types, web applications require a single code base to deliver the same experiences across diverse devices.

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs), championed by none other than Google, are next-generation web applications that offer advanced, mobile app-like capabilities without users ever having to install an app (although users do have the option to add the app to their home screen if they want to).

PWAs are better, faster, and more reliable. Here are just a few ways they can help address today’s virtual learning challenges (and quickly).

  • Teachers and students rely on a variety of devices, making it difficult to deliver consistent experiences: PWAs are written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript while providing some of the same advanced functionality as mobile applications, such as geolocation capabilities and push notifications. For edtech providers, this enables them to develop and maintain one code base that works the same across devices (which can also lead to faster time-to-delivery). For parents/guardians, teachers, and students using the apps, this means it’s possible to deliver more consistent experiences whether an app is being accessed via the newest Android device, Chromebook, or an older laptop because all they need is a web browser.
  • Communities with unreliable bandwidth are at a learning disadvantage: Known as the “digital divide,” a lack of access to technology or fast, reliable internet access can put students in rural areas and from underprivileged families at a significant learning disadvantage. PWAs have service worker caching capabilities that can deliver pre-fetched content even when connection is lost. This means they can work offline and maintain usability in low connectivity areas. Leveraging the power of PWAs in edtech can help ensure that students and communities with limited bandwidth or unreliable internet connections have access to the same content as individuals with access to better connectivity.
  • Poor usability and slow UX makes it that much more challenging to keep students engaged: Our recent edtech research found that parents and teachers are struggling to keep students engaged in the virtual classroom. This is not surprising as today’s users have little patience for mediocre digital experiences—especially digitally native generations which have grown accustomed to on-demand access to information. The good news? PWAs allow developers to build superior caching strategies in order to serve up content faster to users. With more reliable and faster digital experiences, students can spend less time waiting in the virtual classroom and more time engaged in the actual lesson.

Educators Need Better Tools (And They Needed Them Yesterday)

As evidenced by our research, there are a sea of edtech tools available to educators today. While it is great that they have options, it can also be challenging for instructors to learn how to implement and use each tool effectively.

PWAs can empower edtech providers to deliver virtual learning tools that are easier and more enjoyable to use by combining the best of native mobile apps and traditional web apps. With PWAs, organizations can also reduce programming effort, time-to-delivery, and cost by offering a single code base so they only need to build once, avoiding approvals (and fees) needed from iOS or Android app stores, enabling faster deployment of new features and bug fixes, and reducing overall maintenance.

Edtech providers need to build better experiences to support today’s complex learning environments and to create a more sustainable future in which technology can become a catalyst—not another hurdle—for educators.

Reach out to the DockYard team today to find out how the web can help unlock edtech’s full potential and usher in a new era of technology-enabled learning.

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DockYard is a digital product consultancy specializing in user-centered web application design and development. Our collaborative team of product strategists help clients to better understand the people they serve. We use future-forward technology and design thinking to transform those insights into impactful, inclusive, and reliable web experiences. DockYard provides professional services in strategy, user experience, design, and full-stack engineering using Ember.js, React.js, Ruby, and Elixir. From ideation to delivery, we empower ambitious product teams to build for the future.