Technology is rapidly transforming education, and its implementation is accelerating at a rapid pace as institutions seek to modernize their operations for a digitally-empowered audience.
The education technology (EdTech) market is currently worth $244 billion worldwide. In schools, EdTech usage has increased 99% since 2020, growth which was catalyzed by the global pandemic as institutions and companies shifted their education initiatives online due to unprecedented lockdowns.
The UAE is home to one of the most mature education sectors in the region and EdTech is quickly gaining traction as a valuable tool for increasing accessibility to learning with digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, blockchain, and sensor-based IoT improving processes for learners and teachers.
These advanced solutions are being integrated into core education in formal education settings and adult training and upskilling initiatives.
In this article, we take a deeper look into how technology is transforming the education sector in the UAE and what this means for the future of learning in the region and across the globe.
How is technology transforming education in the UAE
Technology is improving access to learning opportunities for people of all ages. By expanding the potential for collaboration and communication in learning environments, technology is widening the scope for students and professionals to learn in their own time in ways that are most effective for them.
In the UAE, 72% of Gulf educational institutions have advanced their digital initiative roadmaps by at least a year due to the ongoing effects of the global pandemic. Although this happened quickly, technology has been infiltrating the education sector for decades and it was only a matter of time before EdTech took off as a key vehicle for learning in a digital-first world.
Traditionally, education was a relatively isolated process that limited students to being physically present in the same building or classroom. Technology negates this requirement by allowing learners to connect in virtual environments through various digital vectors. Not only does the internet increase access to information, it also enables students to collaborate virtually on projects using technology-based tools – all of which break down the barriers of the classroom to facilitate new ways of learning and working collaboratively.
Additionally, technology has transformed the traditional roles assigned to teachers and learners. Where, in the past, teachers were a vehicle for delivering information that learners passively absorbed, today they are taking on more of a guidance role as facilitators. Students are taking more responsibility for their own learning through virtual learning environments or dedicated EdTech platforms, resulting in a new model of education and a reworking of conventional learning spaces.
There are many key ways that technology is transforming education in the UAE – which can also be applied to the rest of the world – such as helping teachers create and share materials in novel formats, enabling new ways for learners to work together, and increasing accessibility that’s not tethered to physical locations.
For instance, someone who lives in a small town outside the city who isn’t financially advantaged can access the same educational potential that well-off people in the city can. The ubiquity of smartphones and other devices also means that anyone can connect to an entire world of education right at their fingertips. Tech companies are already leveraging the potential of technology to create more effective and efficient channels for education that empower learners with the agency to learn on demand, no matter where in the world they are and regardless of their socioeconomic status.
EdTech investment in the UAE
The region has experienced a significant rise in investment in recent years due to ongoing digital transformation initiatives outlined by the government. It’s predicted that investment in VR technology alone is set to rise by 59% over the next few years. Moreover, the UAE expects to invest a whopping $23 billion in national ICT by 2024 which is likely to trickle down to the education sector eventually. Many institutions are focusing on creating adaptive learning spaces and using immersive learning experiences to provide a more personalized approach to education.
There are currently 288 EdTech startups in the UAE. Investment in EdTech is growing rapidly in the region, with thriving tech ecosystems being established in cities like Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital. In an interview with Verdict, Charif Hamidi, founder of edtech startup Ed4.0, commented on the city’s burgeoning reputation as an investment hub for startups:
“Abu Dhabi has positioned itself as a promising hub for startups across industries. It’s not just for education or edtech. What Abu Dhabi offers is a combination of public and private initiatives that provide Abu Dhabi with a solid infrastructure and an entrepreneurial ecosystem that in turn has proven to be quite attractive to entrepreneurs worldwide and across sectors. The education technology sector stands in the forefront of the most boisterous sectors in Abu Dhabi.”
In addition to the growing market for EdTech, the UAE is embracing education with platforms that bring together thought leaders and educators from around the UAE where they can share ideas and best practices about teaching and learning.
The advantages and disadvantages of technology in education
Although many people are skeptical about the use of technology in the classroom, the benefits are undeniable. Here are just a few of the advantages that implementing digital transformation initiatives in the workplace yields:
Improved collaboration and access to learning materials
When learning is hosted in the cloud, the technology that most EdTech platforms rely on, students and teachers are better able to collaborate on projects. Virtual spaces offer various methods for collaboration, including games, communication platforms, innovative technologies, and various apps.
What’s more, the internet facilitates limitless collaboration that allows teachers and students located anywhere in the world to connect in seconds using any internet-enabled device. Students can access learning materials from home or on the go as they’re stored and managed online. This makes learning a much more flexible process.
Attention-grabbing Lesson content
EdTech platforms rely on various technologies to enhance the learning experience. Applications, digital games, virtual collaboration platforms, and more advanced technologies like AI and VR can be used to create more engaging learning spaces.
Another advantage of EdTech that we can consider is that it’s environmentally friendly. Since all learning happens online, there’s less need for paper and other physical materials that can harm the environment. What’s more, students don’t have to travel every day which can reduce time spent commuting and carbon emissions.
Prepares learners for the future
We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly reliant on technology. Technologies are built into the fabric of our society, with most industries and processes depending on them to some extent.
It’s more important than ever for young learners, and those seeking upskilling opportunities to ensure they are prepared and equipped to enter the workforce as digitally empowered adults. The skills and knowledge that are to be gained from exposing learners to technology early on are vital to ensuring they have a solid foundation for success.
It’s important to note that one obvious disadvantage of EdTech is the technology gap. Many students are not fortunate enough to have access to the technology required to utilize online learning platforms.
If students don’t have computers, tablets, or mobile phones at home then they’ll be at a clear disadvantage when it comes to learning online. This was made clear during the pandemic when many schools and other institutions had to provide essential technologies to students so they could continue learning during the adaptation period.
How are educators in the UAE embracing technology
In the UAE, EdTech companies are embracing digital transformation strategies to carve new avenues for learning. As the world develops alongside technology, with it playing a vital role across industries, there’s no doubt that the education sector will continue to implement new tools and strategies to develop learning spaces that reflect the current digital climate.
With new EdTech companies establishing themselves at a rapid pace, digital transformation plays a key part in how they utilize marketing strategies to grow. Companies are embracing digital marketing strategies and new technologies to ensure their platforms stand out from the competition and offer something new in the way of learning.
As we emerge from the global pandemic, EdTech is here to stay. These tools are guaranteed to play an important role in shaping the future workforce, both in education for school and university students and professionals in the workplace.
What does the future of EdTech look like?
Moving forward, we’re likely to see increased investment in the EdTech sector in the coming years. With technology already established as a crucial factor in modern learning spaces, institutions, companies, and students are recognizing the benefits that it brings to creating more accessible and inclusive learning spaces that allow people more control over the education they seek.
EdTech brings with it different benefits for diverse learners. For young learners in schools, it helps to bridge the communication gap between parents and students, allows for more engaging and fun lessons, and reduces the costs involved for classroom equipment. There’s no doubt that these platforms offer countless benefits for kids while also preparing them for the future of work in a digital world.
In universities, EdTech can be implemented to better reach and impact learners. Technologies like AI and robotics, VR, and predictive analytics offer a more immersive experience while introducing students to the kinds of tools they might encounter once they reach employment in their field. These technologies can also be used to offer deeper insight into the world around us, whether it’s analyzing human behavior or developing tools to benefit the medical industry.
In the professional world, automation is being implemented rapidly and has made the concepts of upskilling and reskilling necessary. With companies increasing their focus on learning on the job, EdTech is set to play a vital part in lifelong learning to help people succeed in fulfilling careers that don’t stop once they have mastered their role. Digital skills are going to be critical for workers, as industries try to keep up with the rapid development of technology. Adults are set to become the largest group in the education sector, with their skills needing to be revitalized regularly, making learning mission critical for businesses.
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