Training and Development

eLearning: How Global Schools Keep Pace With Digitisation

As digital age technology is becoming increasingly integral to the daily lives of people around the world, teachers will be working with a new generation which has been ‘born digital’ – a population of young people who use technology intuitively. Consequently schools will have to match the pace of change and teach students by using 21st century digital technology.

At our annual Cambridge Schools Conference in Singapore on October 16-17th last year, attended by over 370 teachers from around the world, the focus was on how to prepare learners for the new digital age. We looked at the impact of new digital devices on learning; the latest technologies in the work place; the emergence of new categories of jobs driven by technological innovation and how technology can be best integrated into the classroom to benefit learners. The resounding message from  teachers and renowned speakers at the conference is that effective application of digital technologies will be the prerequisite of success in the 21st century. “To prepare our students for these changes it’s important to use technology not only as a tool but as a partner,” commented Ayesha Khana, Chief Executive at Urban Intel.

Across the globe, schools must keep step with students whose access to technology at home means that much of their work will be developed on digital devices. The results from a recent survey of over 500 Cambridge schools around the world clearly shows that the significance of new digital technologies is being acknowledged by schools, teachers and learners. Over half of teachers have a strategy for using technology in the classroom and 90% believe all lessons will be supported by some form of technology ten years from now. Indeed, a third of teachers feel that the rise of technology may well make bricks-and-mortar classrooms obsolete in the near future.

Technological developments offer a fantastic opportunity to increase the level of student engagement and productivity and many teachers are starting to employ the new technologies to transform their lessons. During the conference, several teachers commented that technology had afforded them access to a wealth of content and enabled them to create more variety in their lessons.  Over a third of teachers are using the latest smartphones and tablets in their classes, and the same number are using apps or social networks for educational purposes.

While traditional technology such as TV, radio and CD players are falling out of favour, over 80% of teachers now use laptops in their classrooms to support teaching. Over two-thirds of students have individual access to laptops and PCs and 80% of teachers expect their IT budget to increase over the next 5 years.

At the same time schools are addressing the access issue by encouraging students to use their own technology. We are therefore seeing the rise of BOYD (Bring Your Own Device) in schools, with over 60% of teachers confirming that students are allowed to bring their own devices for use in the classroom.

Interestingly our survey revealed that the technology application with the greatest appeal for teachers is the ability to connect classrooms around the world. Four-fifths of teachers would like stronger and more durable links with their colleagues worldwide to share information and best practices. Cambridge is pleased to be supporting our teachers in this area through a new online learning space developed by us, Cambridge IGCSE Global Perspectives. This virtual learning platform provides media-rich learning resources, enables students and teachers to build online communities and share their work with other schools around the world.

Technology is indeed metamorphosing the entire education system and within perhaps twenty years I believe we will see the end of paper and pen examinations. E-assessment will develop speedily over the next five years – both formative assessment tests used by teachers in their classrooms and high-stakes examinations which measure overall achievement. Already the ways in which technology is being utilised to support assessment and curricula have become crucial. The value and usability of e-assessment will, of course, depend not just on technology solutions but on several other factors including the readiness of schools’ infrastructure, recognition by universities and governments, and the willingness of parents and learners to accept these modes of assessment.  

It is not just up to schools to deliver a digital education. The entire education system, including assessment providers, must match the pace of change. Technology is undoubtedly changing both how assessment providers work with technology-receptive schools and how students learn.  By working in partnership with schools, new strategies and technologies can be embraced in ways which improve learning and prepare learners for a fast-moving and fast-changing world. As we will soon face a period in which the scale of change may well exceed even our more imaginative predictions, schools and examination boards must become flexible in adopting new media and methodologies for learning and assessment.

The march of new digital technologies is inevitable and should be embraced by teachers, schools and exam boards alike to deliver learning outcomes which will create global citizens fully equipped for the demands of higher education and 21st century employers in the modern world.


Michael O'Sullivan is Chief Executive of Cambridge International Examinations. Prior to his appointment in April 2013, he was Director of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and Cambridge Overseas Trust, and prior to that role he was Secretary General of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China.


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