What trends are shaping ed tech in 2014?
Campus-based apps are also on the rise. Campus Tap‘s mobile app, for example, helps students manage class schedules and workloads while providing professors with analytics from features like automated attendance, as well as communication tools. Blackboard has also entered this space with its own campus-based apps under the Mosaic name. Its apps provide everything from campus maps to alumni portals.
As you might expect, education social networks and other web-based tools have also made the natural move into this space. EduClipper, which is something of a Pinterest for educators, recently unveiled its free iPad app. That network alone has over 200,000 users and has been incorporated into over 4,500 classrooms.
“One-stop shop” is the new name of the game for LMS providers
The current trend in learning management systems seems to be toward an all-in-one platform approach. Blackboard Learn, for example, now combines social media features, analytics, and a library of tools that can be used to incorporate a variety of content into class materials. Desire2Learn, Pearson’s Open Class Exchange, and others have taken similar approaches. Blackboard andDesire2Learn have also made moves into the MOOC space, and Blackboard just last week announced that it is even planning to integrate an online bookstore into its LMS.
Higher ed LMSes aren’t the only ones with all of the one-stop shop bells and whistles. Alma, an LMS and SIS solution launching this week, makes curriculum management, gradebook, report cards, student records, and data analytics functionality all in one place. Furthermore, it provides its core features free. Paid add-ons include custom report cards, custom report building, state reporting, SMS text messaging and automated voice calls, advanced class scheduling, and records migration and support services. Additionally, Engrade, which began as a student-created gradebook, also offers a one-stop platform in the K-12 space and wasannounced Tuesday as the latest acquisition of McGraw-Hill Education.
Adaptive learning will experiment with automatic essay grading
Though there’s some debate over what exactly constitutes adaptive learning, and whether or not it is the same thing as “personalized learning,” it remains one of the hottest segments of ed tech today. While platforms in this segment have long been capable of offering and adapting to instant feedback on multiple choice and other basic question formats, a solution for grading exams has long been absent.
Admittedly, it’s a difficult task to pull off and many have resigned themselves to believe that a computer could never do the job as well as a human being, who can understand context and emotion and plays on words and other complex things of that nature. Essays, after all, are much more nuanced than a letter or a “True” or “False,” and those who question the practice say a computer would really only be “reading” a piece for correct grammar, spelling, and structure at best.
Vantage Learning CEO Peter Murphy says his company has a competent solution for grading essays, though — one that uses hundreds of algorithms and has shown results in encouraging students to revise their work. Will this be the year that big ed publishers and platforms like Knewton begin to experiment with similar technology in their own adaptive learning solutions, at least for simple short essays?
Specialized robots and apps enhance K-12 special ed
It’s easy to overlook the benefits of technology for special needs students, but a number of new technologies are aiming to revolutionize classrooms for these students, as well — particularly those with autism. One such company, RoboKind, recently introduced an autism intervention program called Robots4Autism, which uses humanoid robots and developmental instruction. The robots can make realistic facial expressions and body gestures while also tracking a student’s face with its eyes, delivering lessons consistently with non-threatening interactions. Meanwhile, visual learning apps like BrainParade are working to reach special needs students and make physical picture cards obsolete with stunning, high-definition virtual picture cards.
According to data from the CDC, one in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Statistics cited by RoboKind say that the number of U.S. children identified on the spectrum rose from 100,000 (about 10 per district) in 2000 to around 1 million (about 10 per school) in 2012. As researchers continue to work to better understand these disorders, adopting tech to facilitate the needs of students diagnosed with them will become a bigger concern for districts and schools. And this tech could also help reduce the cost of university research, as well.