Powering Future-Ready Learning
Singapore, July 24, 2017
The education landscape is in the midst of a transformation. Even as the digital era reshapes industries across the board, recent decades have seen a proliferation of technology-driven educational tools. These have the potential to dramatically enhance the student learning experience and evolve educators’ approach to teaching – and, indeed, the role of ‘teacher’ itself.
Singapore’s education system has long been among the most highly regarded in the world.1 Now, as part of its Smart Nation efforts, the government is using these new technological developments to transform the sector, incorporating them into education from an early stage.
From learning management systems to coding games, robotics and augmented reality, our schools are experimenting with innovative digital initiatives. The aim: to foster a more engaging learning environment that better equips students with the innovation and problem-solving skills they will need to succeed in the digital workplace of the future.
But are schools going far enough? “NCS believes there is untapped potential in the vast amounts of data generated every minute by students, corporate learners and self-directed learners,” says Janet Chiew, Education Technology Practice Lead at NCS. “This wealth of information across learning and administrative systems can shed light on each learner’s motivation, strengths and challenges. Educators can also leverage this data to tailor-make effective early interventions for learners and
realise personalised learning.”
The Promise of Analytics
Learning analytics are defined in the 2016 Horizon Report as “an educational application of web analytics aimed at learner profiling, a process of gathering and analysing details of individual student interactions in online learning activities”.2
Using system-generated dashboards and adaptive learning recommendations, advanced analytics platforms can quickly and easily sift through massive amounts of complex data on educators’ behalf, translating it into real-time insights. Combining these insights with educators’ observations and teacher-student communications can help create tailored recommendations for institutions, allowing them to adjust their curriculum and programmes so that students are nurtured to their fullest potential.
There are three main ways that analytics can help deliver targeted outcomes for institutions, educators and learners:
1 Personalised Learning
As markets globalise and Singapore prepares its workforce to progress from a knowledge-based economy to a skills-based one, there is an increasing emphasis on educators delivering holistic learning and a skills-based education. But this also places additional pressure on the education system’s ability to cater to individual needs. NCS recognises the challenge to deliver an efficient and effective systemic education, while responding to the diverse needs of individual learners.
By using real-time or near-real time student data (from academic performance information to records of extracurricular activity and socio-economic variables) and applying predictive algorithms, teachers can gain a clearer picture of learning gaps, as well as student motivation and engagement levels. Together with sophisticated learning management tools - such as adaptive content recommendations and collaboration platforms - educators can efficiently adapt and deliver differentiated learning activities to target specific areas of need, rather than falling back on a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
A data-driven approach also makes earlier interventions feasible, by identifying clusters of students and predicting potential gaps before they widen. Empowered by these insights, educators can step in with remedial activities and allocate the necessary attention to guide specific learners towards achieving their identified outcomes.
2 Holistic Learner Development
In the 21st century, learning encompasses a series of higher-order thinking skills and learning dispositions. Put together, they form a far-reaching vision: to empower students at all achievement levels to become valuable contributors to society.
Realising this requires educators to go beyond knowledge and content delivery. Instead, they need a deep understanding of students’ ability when it comes to the ‘Four Cs’: Critical thinking; Creativity and innovation; Communication; and Collaboration3. This kind of understanding allows educators to monitor skills such as participation, leadership and concept formation. Alternative definitions of successful learning, beyond academic grades, require institutions to develop a set of meaningful metrics - such as co-curricular achievements, community involvement and career readiness - to guide their education programmes.
Education institutions that adopt a data-centric approach are rewarded with greater insights into the efficacy of their programmes. As a result, institutions are equipped with analyses to refine their institution's offerings - courses based on economic and industry demand; learning goals and success indicators mapped to workplace successes; reflecting the true value of a quality educational institution.
3 Teaching Fraternity Support
The value of digital transformation for educators and their professional development cannot be overlooked. As their role evolves from content instruction to include more mentorship and guidance, educators can do with greater assistance in reducing administrative overheads so they can focus their
resources on refining their teaching strategies and lesson designs.
Timely feedback on the effectiveness of teaching, intervention or remedial strategies provides the basis
for educators to adapt and modify their programmes and methods. Data mining can reveal a student’s
perspective on their learning experience and their satisfaction levels with regard to teaching strategies.
With the support of statistical data and analytics to assess the effectiveness of the programmes, educators can identify areas of improvement and share success cases with peers. At the same time, analytics can also be applied to teachers as part of their professional development. This may produce insights into the effectiveness of a professional course, as well as motivational assessments, staff attrition rates and talent retention rates – all active components of a sound professional development framework.
How Can Analytics Improve Decision-Making in the Education Domain?
The Power of Analytics with Digital Education Technologies
Educators today can use a range of tools to create a ‘flipped classroom’, along with problem-based learning or inquiry-based learning for classes of up to 30 students. At the same time, these tools allow
teachers to customise learning activities and monitor students’ outcomes based on their learning pace
and understanding of the content.
Collaborative tools such as forums and discussion boards promote greater interaction between learners
and educators, while gamification tools, leader boards and badges can generate a greater sense of ownership and engagement among students. Teachers can use analytics to enhance the learning experience and further direct learners toward the desired outcomes. Adaptive learning technologies and intelligent algorithms can adjust assessments and recommend learning content based on individual responses and achievements, enabling students to learn at their own pace.
Dexterity in Digital Education Transformation: the NCS Approach
The path of digital transformation will vary for each education institution, based on its unique vision, critical problem statements and stakeholder readiness. Other differentiating factors include the range of technology, content and services available to support the transformation in each institution.
Rather than embarking on large-scale system and process overhauls, NCS recommends a less disruptive, more agile and ‘digitally dexterous’ approach to change. It entails breaking down transformation initiatives into stages for end users, or more digestible, bite-sized ‘chunks’. We also recommend a nimble feedback mechanism to incorporate learnings and refinements for the next wave of initiatives through rapid development.
Analytics: The Nucleus of the New Education Paradigm
The digital age is bringing with it exponential changes in learning expectations. In a world fully connected via devices and sensors, robots and artificial intelligence will replace mundane tasks and jobs and students may soon find themselves learning from machines.
Education institutions need to refine their education offerings so that students will be able to respond to the demands of future industries.
Acting as collaborators in learning, educators must empower students to act as catalysts of change, instilling the skills that will enable continuous innovation and value creation. Analytics – the fusion of data and digital technologies at the nucleus of the new education paradigm – is what will drive successful transformation within the new digital economy.
Education Technology Practice Lead, NCS
Advanced Analytics Senior Lead Consultant, NCS
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1 BBC News, ‘Pisa test: Singapore top in global education rankings’, 6 December 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38212070
2 Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition, The New Media Consortium, https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2016/2/hr2016.pdf
3 P21, Framework for 21st Century Learning, http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework
NCS is a member of the Singtel Group and the leading information, communications and technology (ICT) service provider, with a presence in over 20 countries. NCS delivers end-to-end ICT solutions to help governments and enterprises realise business value through digital transformation and the innovative use of technology. Its unique delivery capabilities include consulting, applications development, systems integration, outsourcing, infrastructure management and portal solutions. It also provides mobility, social networking, business analytics and cloud computing services.