• Monday, April 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Ally in the classroom: How edtech can support schools and teachers

uLesson Screen (1)

While the pandemic resulted in losses to learning — from which our schools, teachers, and students are still recovering — it did produce a silver lining: it fostered greater acceptance of technology in the classroom.

During lockdowns, teachers gathered virtually with their students through learning management systems, like Edmodo, Google Classroom, Blackboard and others. What they found was surprising: there were unexpected benefits to virtual learning. Many students thrived with more academic independence.

Students in Nigeria benefited immensely from the efforts of government, schools, teachers, and parents to avoid disruptions to teaching and learning using technology. A clear example of impact is the post-Covid pass rates in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).

In 2019, 64.18% of candidates who sat for WASSCE obtained a minimum of five credit passes, including in English Language and Mathematics. This was expected to drop sharply in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the school closures. Instead, the pass rates remained steady at 65.24% in 2020, even though learners had only two weeks of physical school before taking the tests. What was even more impressive: performance in 2021 rose to 81.7%, despite the multiple shutdowns within the school year. These gains suggest the efficacy of edtech tools in enhancing learning.

After schools reopened, many have permanently integrated edtech into classrooms. This reflects the shift in schools to blended learning: classroom instruction is combined with other — often technology — resources to improve learning outcomes. By introducing edtech in the classroom, schools can offer students newer, more effective ways of teaching like flipped learning that enables them to take ownership of their knowledge while learning at a pace that’s most comfortable to them.

The rise of flipped learning

Edtech is facilitating the flipped learning method, which is the opposite of traditional teaching where the teacher introduces concepts in the classroom and the student does homework at home.

Post-pandemic, an increasing number of Nigerian schools have switched to flipped classrooms to save classroom time for active learning strategies. Under this setting, the student first learns basic concepts at home by watching pre-recorded lessons, while in-class time is dedicated to exploring topics in more detail and creating rich learning opportunities.

Teachers use the extra classroom time to practice active teaching, where they focus on encouraging analytical thinking through experiments and thought-provoking discussions.

Students also have more control over their learning, participating in and evaluating their learning in a personally meaningful manner. Pre-recorded videos let them pause or rewind lectures and read through content repeatedly to familiarize themselves properly with the topic. Not only does this help develop independent learning skills but also builds a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Teaching to both lower percentile and extension learners

Edtech also helps teachers to support students of different aptitudes. The average Nigerian classroom comprises 40 students or more. Teaching periods are broken into 40-50 minute blocks, with students and teachers having to move on to the next lesson on the schedule. Teachers, always eager to help, struggle to find time to support students who need extra support. With edtech, teachers can design and implement strategic differentiated learning strategies with greater efficiency and less guesswork. This enables them to reach students in the lower to mid percentile, as well as top students who were usually ahead of the curriculum.

For instance, twenty students from Preston School who scored less than 60% in mathematics were placed in an exclusive learning experiment using uLesson. Under this pilot, instead of attending their regular maths classes, the students were taught solely through the uLesson app. At the end testing period, the students performed excellently, outperforming students in the control group.

The edtech platform’s pre-recorded educational videos also promote an asynchronous way of learning that appeals to the top students. An Abuja-based educator who teaches JS- and SS-level mathematics, saw his students take ownership of their education through uLesson. During a mathematics lesson, one of his students pointed out how the answer would have differed if the question demanded partial and not a joint variation. He then realized his students were studying ahead of the lesson. Another student, who had also studied ahead, joked she could teach the next class.

This is one of the many Nigerian teachers who understand that edtech isn’t a replacement for teachers. Instead, it’s a useful tool to reduce the effort on the educator’s part while engaging students to absorb the study material and maximize results.

It is also easier for teachers to teach to different levels in their classroom, partly thanks to assessment tools in edtech platforms. Teachers can better understand each student’s comprehension of academic subjects and provide targeted support when necessary. Traditional assessment methods provide vague statements like “needs improvement in chemistry”. They do not say exactly where support is needed. However, edtech tools, like uLesson, show whether a student has learned the key concepts from a particular lesson by taking a quiz. For example, a chemistry student will see that there’s progress in metals and non-metals, but gaps in organic chemistry. The learner receives instant suggestions on videos to watch to close the gaps.

Read also: FG, German govt partner to promote entrepreneurial education in schools

Harmonized curriculum with easy test prep

Nigerian schools are also embracing edtech because of its harmonized curriculum that infuses elements from the Cambridge, UK, and Canadian curricula.

Foreign online programs like Khan Academy and Purple Mash don’t follow the same sequence of lessons. This makes them disconnected from the Nigerian curriculum, thereby making it harder for students to follow and learn independently. Most of the educational videos also have different accents and are based on different curricula, restricting the student’s ability to gain a deeper understanding of concepts.

Meanwhile, local edtech solutions like uLesson are in line with the Nigerian curriculum. Students frequently access its pre-recorded content library to learn educational concepts at their own pace, as well as take the integrated assessments and additional lessons for exam prep to build on their knowledge.

Taking ownership of education

With edtech, students are doing what teachers never thought possible: owning their learning.

Combining innovative teaching styles like flipped learning with edtech gives students the ability to learn and build on their knowledge at their own pace while taking assessments and quizzes to gauge their preparedness.

At uLesson, we see that students study on the app in conjunction with their school work to get better grades and expand their learning. A case in point — 90% of learners used the app to prepare for the new school year. Students are learning to retain, which is well beyond what the traditional “chalk and talk“ classroom could ever do.

Akwitti, Senior Vice President of Academics & Curriculum, uLesson