How EdTech companies have been supporting students throughout lockdown

During lockdown, edtech companies have been enabling millions of young people to continue with their studies.

Lockdown has resulted in unprecedented changes for the education sector. Globally, schools, colleges and universities have shut, disrupting the lives of millions of young people and their parents. But thanks to innovations in the edtech space, they've been able to carry on with their studies.

 

Edtech to the rescue

When governments globally closed schools to prevent children from catching and spreading coronavirus, home schooling became a daily reality for millions. To support parents, students and teachers during lockdown, many edtech companies made their platforms accessible at no cost.

Murray Morrison, founder of online learning program Tassomai, says: "Anticipating that schools were going to have to close at short notice in March, we at Tassomai, like many other EdTech companies, took quick steps to make our products available more widely (and for free) during lockdown."

Its platform aims to help students build knowledge, boost their confidence, reduce exam stress and achieve their best results, according to Morrison. "Our software is used extensively in schools as it solves many fundamental problems at once: it engages students in useful practice of 'knowledge retrieval' (learning the essential facts, in other words)," says Morrison.

"But it also uses their interactions to personalise the pace and difficulty to each student and fill in gaps in understanding. Meanwhile that information is also fed to teachers and parents so that they can offer help where needed."

Tassomai is already being used by more than one in three schools across the UK. But after making its platform free for all schools during lockdown, it saw huge interest from parents and students alike. Morrison adds: "I think we onboarded around 100,000 extra students in time for the first day of lockdown."

 

Live stream lessons

Throughout lockdown, a former headteacher and e-learning expert Leon Hady has been live streaming lessons for pupils studying GCSE subjects such as English, maths, chemistry, physics, biology, computing, literature, PE and drama. His lessons have been taking place daily from 9:45am to 12pm.

Hady, who now runs Guide Education, says: "We ran a free streaming school on 10 subjects and 8 teachers every morning of lockdown, for no other reason than providing an open forum for teachers and students who may be missing out. Thousands tuned in every day."

As well as supporting students, Hady and his team have also provided lessons for parents on how to teach. "We have also just launched a free parenting course so parents can utilise school teaching techniques to improve the relationships with their children whilst they spend extended time at home," he says.

"This course and all other content hosted on our e-Learning platform is made interactive by in-video questions and peer engagement which makes it easier to complete the course and share responses with others. It's open, it's not a test, it's learning."

One of these parents is Jim Norris, who says the course helped him to realise that learning is about engaging with your child, offering real-life context and linking everyday occurrences of whatever subject it is to the lessons you're giving your own children. He adds: "It made it so simple for them to understand and guided them towards many issues related to the subject, giving them a more complete view. I was never taught this way, I wish I was, so this course was super helpful."

 

Supporting universities

It's not just schools that have been affected by the pandemic. Universities, too, have closed their doors to millions of paying students. Matthew Jones, head of education at online learning library Perlego, says: "The lockdown has affected everyone. However one could argue that students have been hit the hardest. Their place of work, homes and friendship groups have largely been shut down completely."

"Whilst many industries have been able to start up remotely, that luxury hasn't been afforded to students due to the severe limits of universities' digital ecosystems. Without physically going to campus, the amount they are able to do is significantly limited."

Perlego, whose online library offers 300,000 textbooks from the likes of Pearson, Cengage and Wiley, has taken a number of steps to support higher educational institutions and their students affected by this crisis. One of these included providing free, unlimited access to students.

Jones tells IDG Connect: "At Perlego, we're proud to have worked with various higher education establishments at this time, providing access to the content students need to learn and set themselves up for future success.

"During lockdown; we have expanded globally, launching in Australia and New Zealand, as well as partnering with Barclays, Vodafone and Cambridge University Press, in order to help those who need and want to learn from wherever they are at any time."

 

Teaching new skills

Lockdown has also been an opportunity for young people to learn new skills, one of which is coding. Companies like Fuze are actively encouraging children to develop computational thinking. It offers a platform for Nintendo Switch that enables children to develop their own games to be played on the games console.

Jon Silvera, MD and founder of FUZE, says: "Learning to code or even just improving one's understanding of the digital landscape can open the doors to thousands of careers otherwise perceived as out-of-reach to all but the geeks and mathematicians."

He explains that FUZE4 Nintendo Switch has been designed with all key stages of the computing curriculum in mind. "This means that completing a few tutorials in FUZE will ensure students are kept up-to-date, and in fact more likely ahead of the game when they return to Computer Science class."

During the lockdown, it released free downloadable project workbooks, YouTube video tutorials and a live stream workshop. Silvera adds: "We wanted to make sure that any student with an interest in computing had the resources to continue to learn at home - especially those with parents who had no experience in coding."

Cypher, a leading coding school for children aged 4-14, pivoted by launching live sessions to support young people and their parents in lockdown. CEO Elizabeth Tweedale says:

"We have been thrilled to see how enthusiastic our online learners have been since the start of lockdown. The technological advancements made by our students has been unprecedented, and unlike anything we've seen before.

"Naturally, moving entirely online was new to both parents and kids alike. However we've seen students thrive in the new online format, engaging with teachers and cohorts as they would do in-person. Key to this success is that each session has a teacher live online throughout the session and classes are kept small - 4-6 children in a group."

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures have been challenging for everyone, including the millions of young people who have been unable to attend school, college and university. However, edtech has enabled them to continue learning - even if they can't attend classes physically.