If there was one industry that Information Communication Technology was definitely going to revolutionise it was education. Unsurprisingly, more than two decades after internet access became widespread, modern classrooms are unrecognisable to the class of the 1980s and 1990s.
Back then assignments and essays were hand written, homework deadlines were recorded in quaint little school diaries and for many primary schools educational multimedia involved Fuzzyfelt. As you progressed to secondary school, it was the wheeling-in of the school TV and video recorder, usually to hushed whispers of ‘Yes!’ as your classmates grinned at each other.
The EdTech or Education Technology industry is driving these changes and in Ireland it’s as dynamic as it is lucrative. Last June Education and Skills minister Ruairí Quinn announced a €100 million investment package to build new “state-of-the-art” schools across the Republic.
According to the Press Release: “This major investment will see 18 primary schools and 10 post-primary schools replaced or refurbished to provide state-of-the-art classrooms and facilities for over 12,000 students.”
Government and industry see the creation of a tech immersed generation as the priority investment in the country’s future.
The Irish EdTech Industry
Concomitant with this the Irish tech scene has produced a cluster of creative, world class EdTech start-ups such as aPperbook, a PaaS operation that delivers digital books to schools and also Onwards Learning, a firm that aggregates and delivers English language e-learning technology, tools and apps from a cloud platform.
And just like IT enterprises selling into other markets, the local EdTech players are building a global customer base. aPperbook were at the Irish EdTech Showcase in New York last November and the month before was part of an Enterprise Ireland mission to Brazil; Onwards Learning has won multi-million Euro contracts in China as mentioned in our previous article.
Not only are Irish firms global leaders in the EdTech industry but local EdTech players like Fishtree are demonstrating a genius for innovation by creating smart educational engines that adapt lessons to individual students needs.
The Fishtree product enables educators to create a “learning DNA” profile of each student. This allows the software to continually adapt content and resources according to their performance, style of learning and interests.
The paradox of the Fishtree offering is that it’s marketed to a mass global student body potentially running into millions but at the same time it personalises the experience for each user.
Another innovative Fishtree feature offers direct teacher-pupil communication which is always a measure of the quality of any educational course.
Ireland is also at the centre of a closely related industry: Online Professional Training. Qstream, a US based online training solution provider, is setting up an engineering hub in Dublin. The Irish team will drive innovation and create new features that will differentiate the product from the competition. Qstream delivers training products for corporate sales team, medical professionals and financial staff. You will be able to listen to Qstream’s General Manger & VP of International Sales, Louella Morton talk to us on NewJobRadio later this month.
Education is no longer something you leave behind in your early twenties. Ambitious professionals are expected to keep going back to it throughout their lives, sometimes even to re-train for a new career in middle age.
It’s not uncommon today to meet a top executive well into his 40s doing an MBA or a senior software engineer upgrading his technical certifications.
Innovations in educational technology offer flexibility that allows professionals to study but minimizes disruption to the working day.
These technical advancements are usually combined with psychological innovations making the learning experience more effective.
The emphasis here is on change but there are still some constants in education: students will always need teachers. But as in other sectors undergoing rapid technological advancement, only those staff who can use IT to raise productivity and performance will thrive.