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Will academia face a tsunami of edtech products soon?

By G. Balasubramanian

When I started learning my nursery lessons in computers in late seventies, I was introduced to the Punch card system and was taught how to read and interpret them. I moved on to use tapes for data management in a few years. Soon I started using floppy discs and compact discs, and the journey continued. So did my interaction with computers from Cobol and Basic to Java and C++. Generations have only taught me that one cannot be just complacent about the future, but one needs to be ready to accept and move with the future.

As an educator, I have been a witness to the dynamics of Information technology from eighties to date and I acknowledge with all humility that I have not moved any further from my nursery classes. Nevertheless, as an administrator in constant communion with K-12 system, I have been a witness to some mindboggling changes in the intercourse between knowledge assimilation, knowledge processing and knowledge marketing systems. The pace at which the knowledge industry has moved in the last two decades is beyond anyone’s horizon of predictions. No authentic system of predictive processes would have even captured its outer orbit. We are now possibly moving to an entirely different phase of educational technology which is likely to dislodge some fundamental operatives of formal learning systems and knowledge delivery systems. Let us not be shy about it because of our poverty of understanding of these dynamics and thus avoid facing it. It cannot be stocked into any cabinet of a learning process as a futuristic tool because it is now and here. All that I am concerned about is that it is likely to hit the academic world more like a tsunami with a speed and intensity that it might flood several of cognitive and pedagogical models in place today, leave alone the assessment tools and their credibility and validity. Some of our established methods of pedagogy may be washed out to give place to more current models. Beware, Academia, the tsunami will strike sooner than later. The system needs to be ready to handle its onslaught with vision, conviction, courage, comfort and competence.

To be precise, the impact of Artificial intelligence moving like an octopus capturing almost all known fields of knowledge dynamics and knowledge management, is a matter of concern. It is both for good and bad. While it might help in individualization of learning, customisation of learning and in processing information and knowledge with a third eye, its side effects are yet to be understood, and dealt with. Says Charles Wiles in his article “Surf where the waves are big” - “One sector that definitely fulfils the brief is EdTech (“Education Technology”). This sector has seen explosive growth in the last two years. In fact, the growth has been so strong, that it would not be amiss to describe it as a rising tsunami.”

In the magazine of ‘e-learning industry’ Robin T writes “The use of Artificial Intelligence in learning has numerous benefits. AI can personalize learning by tailoring lessons to individual student's needs, providing immediate feedback, and offering guidance. Chatbots like ChatGPT can engage students, answer their questions, and keep them motivated. Additionally, AI can collect and analyse data on student performance, enabling educators to make informed decisions about teaching methods and curriculum improvements.

The potential benefits of AI in learning are significant, with the ability to revolutionize teaching and learning processes. Despite challenges, such as bias and limitations in individualized learning, the potential benefits make AI a promising tool for educators to consider. AI in learning has the potential to enhance the educational experience, improve learning outcomes, and support student success.”

Most international forums have taken up the role and impact of AI on human learning and more specifically the student’s learning at the formative stage for engaging debates. In a discussion at the Stanford University, it appears the following discussion was reported: “In fact, by no longer requiring mastery of proficiency, Demszky argued that AI may actually raise the bar. The models won’t be doing the thinking for the students; rather, students will now have to edit and curate, forcing them to engage deeper than they have previously. In Khan’s view, this allows learners to become architects who are able to pursue something more creative and ambitious.”


“One area in which this can be extremely valuable is soft skills. Emma Brunskill, associate professor of computer science, noted that there are an enormous number of soft skills that are really hard to teach effectively, like communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. With AI, a real-time agent can provide support and feedback, and learners are able to try different tactics as they seek to improve.”

Goldman Sachs have reported in one of their articles on the future of AI, that the investment to this industry could grow up to $200 billion by 2025. They have also predicted a high growth rate in the industry and early adoption of AI by most industries and the education sector.

With debates ranging to several relevant issues on how Ai would impact learning, Edtech industries appear to be galloping to articulate and put in markets new versions of their products which are mentored by AI. The early bird syndrome is already forcing them to get ready for the new dawn. The flash and fury these products might bring along with them may sometimes diminish their core value. Hence the academia should be well educated to understand the relevance of these products as their shelf-life could be short and relevance limited. It is indeed important that educating the educators on the emerging scenario by authentic technologists appears critical. The schools should also understand that these should not be used more for window shopping as their inappropriate use could be more lethal than its non-availability.

As for the Edtech industry, they should certainly capture the opportunity lest they become irrelevant but should ensure their product architecture has to be more purposeful, more far-reaching and value added.

The academia is left with no option but to face this tsunami – a technology revolution they have so far not seen!