China: education on the move

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In the past couple of months, some information has emerged about an impending change of policy concerning non-compulsory education and young learners in China.

On March 3rd, The Fly quoted Bloomberg and commented on New Oriental Education & Technology Group shares falling “following a report that some local governments in China are carrying out inspections of after-school tutoring institutions and have suspended offline classes until further notice”. This news affected other online learning companies, such as TAL. Despite downgrading, the shares of both companies have held with minor losses.

On March 26th, investment bank Jeffries reported that China may ban the use of online education for students below seven years of age “and may also ban online education companies from advertising in Chinese state-owned media” (see the source here).

Little is known about the extent of these potential changes. What is well known to all operators is that educational authorities are pursuing enforcement of existing regulations for online tutoring organisations. For example, government inspections have been occurring to ensure all teachers have government-required qualifications irrespective of their location (in China or overseas).

Having said this, a change in policy may be in the making if we take into consideration other news released in recent weeks. We refer, in particular, to an article in The Global Times (April 1st) about the MoE discontinuing “the Main Suite Exams (MSE), a worldwide recognised English qualification designed by Cambridge Assessment English”. This news adds to the stance defended by some lawmakers that English should be removed as a core subject from the Chinese curriculum (see here for the latest on this reoccurring saga).

It is too early to say how new policy and other changes will affect the public and private education segments. As market players in China understand, new government policies and pronouncements have an unpredictable impact until provincial and district-level authorities interpret and attempt enforcement in line with the perceived urgency of the Ministry of Education and other central government policy makers. What seems clear at this stage is that the new policies will affect the entire non-compulsory education sector (whether offline or online).

We understand that some of these changes are welcomed by families especially as they choose from a flooded market of sometimes dubious educational offerings. The MoE is adamant about reducing the pressure on students (for example, secondary schools are no longer allowed to recruit students based on competition results and certificates). The government also wants to ensure that private institutions comply with policies around providing quality education (the drive for adequately qualified teachers has been going on for some time). Another macro policy goal is an attempt to level the playing field between the top middle and high schools and the rest (the recently implemented admissions for both private and public schools based on a lottery rather than one’s home location or student ability).

Whether there is also an interest in regulating the emergence of new market entrants — and the massive investment that is going into mature startups and listed companies — remains to be seen. Across many education sub-sectors, customer acquisition costs are reaching thousands of yuan with some companies spending 2-3x their revenue on advertising. Competition among online tutoring centres is fierce, as we know, and it may well lead to a situation where equity capital to fuel advertising and market share grabs runs dry and only the fittest survive via mergers and acquisitions. This impression is reinforced by recent news released by South China Morning Post about the authorities fining some operators for “false or misleading pricing methods”. Again, this is not the first time that we see companies penalised in this respect.

Leaving aside the need to regulate the space, It is EDT’s impression that the Government is primarily interested in consolidating quality in private education offerings. Families spend a considerable amount of their disposable income on supplementing the education of their children. It is only natural that the authorities concentrate on safeguarding standards and favouring compliance across the different operators. In this context, solid programmes, sound technology and optimal instruction will continue to make a difference for all the agents in the education value chain.

At the end of the day, we may also be talking about changes that affect how Chinese society perceives education. The administrations of other Confucian countries in the region have tried to alleviate the pressure exerted by some parents on children. In countries like Korea or Singapore, change is slowly happening. It remains to be seen how operators and families will adapt to a similar push in China.

 

 

 

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B2B2C the changing ecosystem of education engagement. Distributed networks

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From 3 to 83

A series of articles from EDT Partners on the subject of education technology that embraces all aspects of education from preschool, to lifelong learning, to workplace, and everything in-between. That looks at the technology and the impact both within academia and outside of institutions. Distributed networks, online resources, formal and informal learning engagement, and fundamentally “where does learning happen”? From 3 to 83 is a personal perspective and reflection on education, that by default and at the same time is unfair to 2-year old’s and 84-year old’s.

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On March 10, 2020 I returned from my office in Central London and set myself up to work predominantly from home for the next few months. Being of a certain age, and in remission from cancer, I do not consider myself to be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, but it did seem practical to step out of the way, or at the very least mitigate risk to myself, family and colleagues. Little did I know that I would still be sitting here twelve months later, today with my first vaccination completed.

It has been an interesting twelve months. Frankly never busier, conversations and propositions that I have been advocating for since joining Apple Education in 2004, are more relevant today than they have ever been. One of the earliest impressions at Apple in 2005 was influenced by an observation (nurtured by two mentors for whom I remain most grateful, Professor Stephen Heppell and Lord David Puttnam). That schools are responsible for efficient administration, for empowering and developing teaching staff, so that they can engage, promote and support the teaching of children and helping them fulfil their learning aspirations. However, this was then, and there still remains something missing, the empowerment and engagement of parents. Parents as mentors, parents as advocates for education of their children, and fundamentally a joined-up system whereby parents have access to and engagement training in leveraging digital assets and resources to complete the four-part collaboration in education being Administration, Teachers, Students and Parents that completes the circle and truly fulfils the potential and aspirations of each cohort. Back to today, homeschooling is now a necessity not an option, and even as schools open up again, is it not time to meet the challenges of a joined-up process for the four cohorts? Why waste a pandemic, when the opportunity, the need, the aspiration of all can be deployed and escalated to improve learning outcomes for all school students. Which is fundamentally why I advocate anything less than a B2B2C (Business to business to consumer/student) engagement for education technology is less than desirable.

We will return to this B2B2C model numerous times. Education technology has generally been built for institutions, fundamentally because they are the major budget holders or decision makers. However, in today’s world of distributed networks, homeschooling and extending teaching and learning beyond the classroom is there not a challenge to put the pupil, the student, the learner, at the centre of education technology build, development and deployment? There will be many voices shouting at me at this point, “of course we do that”, “we have always done this”, when in fact few education companies have achieved this objective. There are some examples of ones who have achieved this or are being built to deliver better engagement in this challenge.

Utter. Utter is an English language APP, India engagement and deployment, with over 5m users, each with a personalised learning journey. The technology is predominantly a “smart chatbot”, mobile deployed, agile and intuitive. Where they as a company excel is in their deep understanding of “Digital Pedagogy” (a subject we will revert to in future articles under impact audits). Consider also how this plays to TELCO companies, the distribution model at scale, light, easy to deploy and infinitely scalable into other subject and domain opportunities.

Kahoot. A Digital APP and platform established commercial education business, extensively deployed, and a mainstay in education technology engagement worldwide. I am privileged to be friends of the Founders who I met at the earlier stages of their roll out (and questioned whether this would scale). They have more than delivered against their promise, as one of, if not the leading personalised education application deployed worldwide.

SalesForce Education Cloud. Really impressive development in the current education ecosystem whereby their robust and proven CRM model, established in Enterprise, is now being deployed at scale to manage the Digital Identity of the student. By default providing the student with a secure, managed and evolving management of their individual and personalised learning journey, records and resources. Consider also that SalesForce has Tableau Software as a portfolio business, then you have the most powerful and flexible data analytics modelling capability as a powerful resource.

There was a really interesting interview with Prof. Scott Galloway at ASU/GSV Conference in the fall (Sep 24, 10:30 AM-11:15 AM PDT: A Conversation with Scott Galloway). Where he made the case for the dispersion of students at University or at Colleges (predominantly in the USA, but applies globally), with their education being better managed remotely rather than on campus. Many Universities and Colleges are still grappling with this challenge, although technology development to support this distributed network has existed for some years. The problem that I see in this area is predominantly to do with a deep understanding of engaging digital pedagogy, which I touched on previously. Together with what is increasingly becoming a major problem, that being the wellbeing and/or the mental health of students. The later point has always existed, whether on campus or within remote learning. There is a significant movement addressing what are generally referred to as soft skills, together with the cognitive understanding of students within their personal learning journey. Which brings me back to the central discussion of building B2B2C technology, with the “C” being the critical touch point. An example of a technology business meeting this structure:

Area9 Rhapsode™Capable. Area9 is a successful and significant Adaptive Learning platform, an LMS capability with a superior and powerful adaptive engine. In development in 2020 and beginning to scale into market in 2021 Capable is their next generation product-market-fit platform engineering. I and colleagues at EDT Partners believe Capable solves two critical challenges. Firstly bringing adaptive learning to the individual student more efficiently than other similar platforms. Secondly, within the technology stack the technology monitors and impacts on the wellbeing aspects of the individual, the soft skills personalisation, and ultimately the digital identity management and remarkable personalisation of education for the student within the institution, and remotely for distributed networks. Deployed within Education Institutions, equally immersive and engaging for Enterprise and their distributed networks, when many of us are not actively returning to the office.

Whether you are a school, university, college, business school, medical school, publisher of education content, a dedicated training company, or professional development organisation, an Enterprise, there is a strong case to answer and a huge opportunity to leverage, construct, deploy and engage your student or workforce adopting a B2B2C model and application. With the consumer, the student, engaged, providing them with their personal learning journey, their dedicated repository of knowledge, and contextual search.

We at EDT Partners work closely with many companies at the cutting edge of these technologies. As the author of this brief perspective I welcome constructive feedback, and would be pleased to discuss these assumptions, views and research, in debate on Clubhouse, or privately. Feedback always welcome.

 

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***Disclosure: All the opinions here are solely those of the original author. From time to time, there may be companies and initiatives mentioned here that are either partners or that have engaged with EDT Partners or its consultants at some point in time. Salesforce.org and Area9 belong to this category. Alan Greenberg is also an advisor to Utter app.

 

 

 

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This is a space to share our vision of education globally, in a personal way through our knowledgable and experienced team members, thus allowing you to imagine, inspire and improve your educational vision.

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Mending bridges

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Taken in Lebak (Indonesia), this image depicts children in peril while crossing a partially collapsed bridge over an overflowing river while trying to get to school. When asked, children said they’d rather take this risk than walk another 30 minutes to use the next bridge. The image has often been brought up as a shocking example of how arduous “the road to education” can be.

This picture went viral in early 2012 and the bridge was mended soon after. Yet many other bridges are still waiting to be fixed. One should not think only about physical or technological infrastructure. Poor quality of instruction; shortage of suitable content, and the lack of qualified teachers are just a few of the core issues to solve when it comes to education in emerging markets worldwide. This is especially evident in early childhood learning. The imbalance in science and maths instruction in rural schools due to lack of qualified teachers in India, Indonesia, Malaysia or the Philippines remains largely unresolved.

The road to equity in education is long and winding. Fortunately, many stakeholders in the education industry are determined to bring balance and sow the seeds of social and personal growth for current and future generations.

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This is a space to share our vision of education globally, in a personal way through our knowledgable and experienced team members, thus allowing you to imagine, inspire and improve your educational vision.

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Re-thinking Assessment

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Covid-19 has changed our modern lives in a way that we are only just beginning to understand. We are in an environment that we have not experienced before, where we are learning day by day, assimilating data that quickly emerges in this new world, and uniting patterns that arise from reflecting on relevant questions.

Unprecedented global shock

We are now living in a world that, in many ways, seems to be more aligned with life from another era, with the difference that now we are globally connected in a 24×7 flow of information.The health contingency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world has impacted everything about our way of life, including in education.

This worldwide period of emergency remote teaching in education is an anomalous and (hopefully) temporary situation, but it is nonetheless forcing education providers to re-think most of their expectations, as it is hard to imagine going back to where we were before this happened.

 

There are signs that some educational institutions are recognizing the challenges ahead, and we at EDT Partners, have been identifying a diverse and broad perspective on the patterns and questions that affect the Future of Assessment.

As an example, some of the data shared by Times Higher Education triggered us to approach this topic with a new perspective:

Stop the damage; build a better future

The immediate response has been to adapt classroom activities to a virtual environment with different levels of interaction with teachers synchronously or asynchronously. The first reaction for some teachers was to transfer all the content and the face-to-face experiences to the virtual environment without further adaptation, as if it were copy and paste. But it is evident that this doesn’t work, and that the change of environment is also a change in the rules.

Up until now, the appropriation of digital culture in education has mostly consisted of replicating the pedagogical experience of sharing knowledge that is packaged and non-interactive, designed for a uniform set of students, to be used at the same time, in the same space.

In digital culture, less is more. Would this be also applicable for assessing student learning?

In recent years, we have witnessed a progressive evolution of assessment processes that has changed the focus of attention towards students’ strategic and lifelong learning.

Start by asking the tough questions

Based on that, here are some questions we believe are going to drive the transformation going forward in terms of assessment:

  • Do we still need summative and high stakes assessment during this period
  • How can we use assessment to identify the external conditions in which students have learned during the pandemic?
  • Will the COVID19 influence help educators to establish new and better aligned mechanisms of evaluation and assessment?
  • How shall we integrate and ensure equity and safety conditions in our assessments?
  • Is Proctoring really needed, or do we give trust another chance?
  • Are existing assessment technology tools ready for massive concurrent levels?
  • At an institutional level, how will we measure learning outcomes and impact?
  • Do we modify our previous processes to better assess knowledge, skills, and attitudes from the combination of experiences that our students have experienced during the pandemic?
  • Is it right to have parents assess their own child’s work, and can they be unbiased?
  • What approaches can we think of for post-covid assessment that generates evidence that relevant parties will find credible, suggestive, and applicable to decisions that need to be made?

We are convinced that there is not a right answer for every level, every subject, every country, every institution or every student. With that in mind, our proposal is to promote a broad and diverse discussion by which we can guide a transformation in assessment.

It is all about what we value most

Assessment threatens to be an exercise in measuring what’s easy, rather than a process of improving what we really care about. We must resist the temptation to simply reach for the most common or convenient assessment format available.

The quick change of pace will transform the nature of the skills demanded by labor markets, favoring adaptability and flexibility. In turn, academic institutions will need to use assessments that are more flexible and adaptable to a changing environment.

Assessment practices currently tend to focus on what students know. Students are typically assessed, above all, on their understanding of some domain of specific knowledge within the subject area they studied. Progressively, the emphasis has been refocused on what students can do and the value of transferable, generic or essential skills, that is, the skills and competencies that all students should develop.

At stake are the future lives of many millions of young people, and the competitiveness of entire economies. The crucial thing to focus on now is how to learn. Future skills will not only encompass those meant to help students find gainful employment in the future.

It’s now common for a group of classmates to be pursuing wildly different activities given their own home context where everything is interdisciplinary. Judgement on assessed skills during the pandemic needs to be fair and equitable; it is vital that we rethink our competence in the practice of assessment.

  • Which ones best demonstrate our aim for skill development?
  • How do we develop new tools for identification or discernment of standards (and what is the new standard)?
  • Can we apply these standards to a given student?
  • Which new techniques for calibrating judgement are valid?

The future of assessment

The assessment strategy should now emphasize less tangible creative and analytical skills, such as leadership and entrepreneurship. Trial & error and iteration are the hallmarks of the innovation era and not easily taught through traditional methods. There is a strong influence of context, including cultural context, on developing and assessing these skills.

There is an opportunity to optimize learner performance with technology that offers flexibility to craft a more immersive assessment experience for learners. Relying on technology that lets authors quickly create interactive assessments for a more engaging, personalized learning experience would accelerate this transformation.

We must keep students engaged with dynamic, adaptive assessments that adjust question difficulty according to individual learner performance and estimated ability. It is important to get a deeper understanding of learner progress across individuals or groups of all sizes with reports, live tracking, and specific item analysis. Institutions must also control how assessments look, feel, and perform.

Formative feedback is facilitated by technologies such as connected classrooms, videography, online formative quizzes, and manuscript multi-draft editing. Technology-assisted formative assessment represents a powerful option to promote improved classroom communications that support formative assessment practices for teachers in twenty-first century classrooms.

Change in teaching and/or learning strategies for either individual students or for the whole class completes the formative assessment cycle.

The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. There is a disconnect between what institutions value and what they measure.

Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Educational values should drive not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so. We recommend that assessments from now on are constantly questioned and permanently integrated into a valuable student experience.

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

REFERENCES:

Adachi, C., Tai, J., & Dawson, P. (2018). A framework for designing, implementing, communicating and researching peer assessment. Higher Education Research and Development, 37(3), 453–467. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2017.1405913

Ajjawi, R., & Boud, D. (2017). Researching feedback dialogue: an interactional analysis approach. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(2), 252–265. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1102863

Ajjawi, R., & Boud, D. (2018). Examining the nature and effects of feedback dialogue. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(7), 1106–1119. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1434128

Bearman, M., Dawson, P., Bennett, S., Hall, M., Molloy, E., Boud, D., & Joughin, G. (2017). How university teachers design assessments: a cross-disciplinary study. Higher Education, 74(1), 49–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-016-0027-7

Boud, D. (2014). Shifting views of assessment: from secret teachers’ business to sustaining learning. In C. Kreber, C. Anderson, N. Entwistle, & J. McArthut (Eds.), Advances and inovations in university assessment and feedback (pp. 13–31). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd. https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748694549.003.0002

Boud, D. (2016). Current influences on changing assessment: implications for research to make a difference. In EARLI SIG1 Conference. Munchen.Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2007). Developing assessment for informing judgement. In D. Boud & N. Falchikov (Eds.), Rethinking assessment in higher education (pp. 181–197). London: Routledge.

Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (Eds.). (2013). Feedback in higher and professional education. London: Routledge.

Boud, D., & Soler, R. (2016). Sustainable assessment revisited. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(3), 400–413. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1018133

Boud, D., Ajjawi, R., Dawson, P., & Tai, J. (Eds.). (2018a). Developing evaluative judgement in higher education. Assessment for knowing and producing quality work. London: Routledge.

Ahren, T. C. (2005). Using online annotation software to provide timely feedback in an introductory programming course. Paper Presented at the 35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Indiannapolis, IN. Available at: http://www.icee.usm.edu/icee/conferences/FIEC2005/papers/1696.pdf

 

___________

This is a space to share our vision of education globally, in a personal way through our knowledgable and experienced team members, thus allowing you to imagine, inspire and improve your educational vision.

Follow us for more insights on LinkedIn.

 

 

6 essential areas of work for true digital transformation in Higher Education

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Similar to other industries in the past, the whole tertiary education segment has its ground-breaking open. Tier-I institutions will navigate this shift differently than the rest of the industry (if you haven’t read Prof. Scott Galloway on this topic, click here). However, for most of the 19,400 higher education institutions (HEIs) recognized by the International Association of Universities (IAU) around the world, the work ahead is uncertain and it will require a relevant shift in its engagement format and value perception.
Here is a list of 6 key areas of work. We consider 3 of them foundational, or that provide the foundation for future sustainable growth. The other 3 are more competitive in nature and aim at providing institutional differentiation.

 

Foundational Workstream #1 — Smart, Sustainable & Social Campus

These days, a competitive HEI needs to reference a smart, tech-enabled and data-rich infrastructure that favors green and sustainable growth. Campuses can vary significantly in size from small to “city-sized”. HEIs need to rethink how they optimize their resources and the vast amount of data they produce and how that affects their objective of closing the overall GAP to reach the 2030 SDG Goals.
A smart, sustainable and social campus also needs to impact teaching & learning by promoting more informal and hybrid learning, becoming an engine for innovation and entrepreneurship, and ensuring their students’ wellbeing and safety.

Foundational Workstream #2 — Big Data & AI

An increasingly-competitive landscape requires looking further than just the core LMS and student engagement portals to leverage data for quick decision making and greater agility.
Big data and AI-enabled universities will be able to actively prevent dropouts by developing new and engaging programs and initiatives that respond quickly to market needs. They will also be able to apply AI to provide resource and experience optimization in almost real-time.

Foundational Workstream #3 — Interoperability and Cybersecurity

Interoperability and cybersecurity are often listed within the top 10 Higher Education IT issues and challenges. With ever-increasing data sources — including but not limited to biometric, financial and health information — HEIs need to set the standard for privacy and data security.
Avoiding silos of information and securing the institutional data and reputation are transitioning from issues that IT deals with to being strategic differentiators. All the systems, infrastructure and knowledge generated by a higher education institution need to be accessible in a safe format to the different constituents of the university community.

Competitive Workstream #1 — Digital (and Social) Experience

During their HE selection process, prospective students are more likely to be influenced by Instagram, Twitch or TikTok than that of a great library or institutional websites.
HEIs need to think both about the back-office and front line student experiences from the digital perspective over the entire student lifecycle. HEIs have the opportunity to transform into a lifelong capital and skills development service provider, rather than just a one-off undergraduate or graduate experience. For this, HEIs need to ensure a simple digital experience throughout the entire student journey and meet their constituents where they are most active (i.e. WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Instagram or other social media platforms).

Competitive Workstream #2 — New Methodologies

Digital infrastructure and software investments do not guarantee a relevant teaching and learning experience or overall educational impact.
Competitive HEIs needs to be thinking about different models of engagement and competency/skills evaluation. Initiatives like virtual labs, project-based activities, AR/VR/XR experiences, global perspectives & interactions, and increased peer collaboration should be standard in all disciplines and part of a more sophisticated and relevant learner experience. In a world where online and hybrid delivery methods are crucial, this is an essential focal point for any HEI that wants to remain relevant.

Competitive Workstream #3 — Digital Competencies

It is very difficult to prepare digitally-enabled leaders of the future while a university lacks a holistic technical and digital vision.
Aspiring, impactful HEIs need to be laser-focused on teacher and staff professional development, looking beyond its walls to secure industry partnerships and interactions. Ongoing evaluation of internal capabilities and market trends should inform investments in this area. The ultimate goal should be delivering on the evolving employability and life-changing expectations that learners are placing on their higher education service providers.

 

___________

This is a space to share our vision of education globally, in a personal way through our knowledgable and experienced team members, thus allowing you to imagine, inspire and improve your educational vision.

Follow us for more insights on LinkedIn.