New research published Wednesday by 'Economist Impact', and commissioned by Qatar Foundation, has revealed that most education leaders are making personalised learning a priority for their schools – and that Covid-19 has accelerated adoption. However, to ensure that personalised learning can reach its full potential, there needs to be further work to develop new forms of performance metrics, enhance collaboration between classrooms and EdTech firms, and secure buy-in from students and parents.
The report and international survey of hundreds of educators and EdTech executives, launched at the WISE Summit 2021 in Doha, explores how Covid-19 has impacted attitudes towards personalised learning in the UK and the US. The report examines how technology can support personalised education, what its adoption could mean for teachers, and whether it can lead to better learning outcomes for students.
Its findings also show that while educators feel an increase in EdTech is inevitable, funding could affect the quality and effectiveness of the solutions that schools and universities are able to use, while concerns also surround student privacy, data usage, and ethical considerations.
“The lockdowns experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented reliance on education technology,” said Abeer al-Khalifa, president of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, which oversees 13 mainstream and specialised schools.
“This new research commissioned by Qatar Foundation confirms what has been an almost universal expectation – that the use of technology within education systems will increase – but that concerns about funding remain. It also demonstrates a need to ensure that technology is designed around teaching and learning, rather than the other way round, to avoid adopting tools that are low-cost but fail to bring us closer to achieving the end goal: improving the learning experience of students.
“We hope this report is just the start of a conversation about how we can ensure the EdTech tools that are ultimately used most broadly are designed to make learning more personalised, rather than an attempt to use software as a way of increasing productivity.”
The report finds that 92% of those surveyed are making the provision of personalised learning experience a priority in their schools, with almost all feeling that Covid-19 has accelerated EdTech adoption, and a widespread belief that school budgets for personalised learning will increase. The majority of survey participants also feel personalised learning will benefit low-achieving students more than their high-achieving peers, and those with disabilities more than those without, while 95% are confident that personalised learning technologies will help ensure teaching methods are tailored for the needs of more marginalised students.
However, students and parents are less supportive of personalised learning than teachers and school administrators, and a quarter of participants said student pushback has been a prime obstacle to introducing EdTech-enabled personalised learning. Meanwhile, 98% feel the sudden shift to remote learning during the pandemic has created too great a focus on the technology aspect of personalised education, with nearly half of educators being concerned about students becoming over-reliant on technology, and 61% fearing increased personalised learning may reduce student-teacher interaction and stunt social development.
The full report is available free for download at https://www.qf.org.qa/the-economist-intelligence-unit-report/pre-university-education