While EdTech platforms experienced a boom during the pandemic, what’s its future like in the post-pandemic world?
The COVID-19 pandemic had led to a boom in EdTech, as parents sought alternative channels to minimize disruption to their children’s education.
With this increased demand, EdTech platforms such as LingoAce – which offers an immersive language learning experience tailored to meet the needs of learners aged 3 to 15, harnessing research-backed digital content featuring animation, gamification and AI, and passionate teachers – experienced exponential business growth and new student acquisition.
But with the almost total loosening of pandemic-related restrictions, as we head back into the normal of physical in-person lessons, are EdTech platforms here to stay, or will they be left behind as part of the Zoom era?
DigiconAsia asked Hugh Yao, CEO and Founder, LingoAce, for his views on EdTech in the post-pandemic world:
What are some key EdTech trends over the last 3 years, and how do you see EdTech moving forward post-pandemic?
Hugh Yao: The pandemic has changed how people learn and teach.
One key trend that many of us experienced was the acceleration of online learning, fueled by global school closures at the peak of the pandemic. Before 2020, online learning was still considered a niche offering that was more suitable for adults who were pursuing higher education degrees or professional development training. Few parents saw it as viable option for young children.
That’s changed today. As pandemic restrictions have loosened, we have observed that many families still want online options for school – especially for enrichment classes. Or they want the flexibility and level of service that online schools offer.
For example, LingoAce offers free trials for new students. This is a common practice among online schools. We do this to let students and their parents experience the quality of our teachers and the seamlessness of our learning platform. It also helps us ensure students are placed in the right program before they book. What we’ve heard from some tuition centers is that they are being asked by parents for free trials, which would have been unheard of before. We see this as an example of how the pandemic has changed consumer expectations and behaviors.
Post-pandemic, we believe personalized learning is the future. There will be continued demand for learning online to supplement in-person school education because it can give students more options and ensure better learning outcomes, no matter where they live.
How does hybrid learning relate to hybrid working trends, if at all? What are some innovations in tech-enabled learning in this hybrid world, as we prepare for work and learning in the metaverse?
Hugh Yao: There is a lot of evidence that in-classroom learning helps kids develop cognitively, socially, and emotionally – benefits that are hard to replicate online. That said, online learning isn’t going away. One outcome of the pandemic was that it made students and their parents much more open minded about different ways of learning.
Right now, there are many solutions being developed with AI and AR that could potentially make learning more engaging and immersive. However, the barrier to entry is often high and widespread consumer adoption can be slow. The edtech solutions that will have the biggest impact will be the ones that are accessible.
We believe that the most successful tech-enabled learning are the ones that can offer a personalized experience that makes it possible to learn any subject from anywhere. For example, curriculum can be tailored to each child’s needs specific to how and when they learn best.
While we continue to refine our online language learning platform, we are exploring hybrid options as well. In Singapore, LingoAce has started to experiment with different variations of online and in-person learning. We now offer a blended learning program: This MOE-certified program combines weekday online lecture (1.5 hours) and in-person tutoring on the weekends with a small class and teacher (1.5 hours).
Why is hybrid learning considered an ideal learning experience by students?
Hugh Yao: Hybrid learning brings out the best in online and in-person learning that maximise learning outcomes. For example, LingoAce’s Blended Learning programme for Mandarin Chinese gives students instant access to their learning materials wherever they are and whenever they need them.
Through our online interactive platform, they can learn at their own pace and acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in the manner that best suits their individual learning styles. Later, during the in-person classes on the weekends, our teacher-led classes provide live instruction and real-time guidance to reinforce what they studied at home.
How do EdTech solutions advance parents’ goals in investing into their children’s education?
Hugh Yao: Many parents around the world view their expenditure on their child’s education as investments. Learning a world language early, like Mandarin Chinese or English, is one of the most popular “investments” that parents make. Being fluent in a second language can open so many future opportunities. This is something that many of us at LingoAce know first-hand and want for our own children.
However, the opportunities for language learning vary depending on where you live. In Singapore, learning Chinese is part of the standard curriculum, but is often taught using traditional methods that rely on rote memorization. For modern learners who are growing up in a digital world, this isn’t a very engaging learning experience. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world like the United States, students don’t start studying a world language until kids are 12 or 13 years old. For these students, the opportunities to learn a second language are very limited.
In the last five years, we have seen that parents are demanding more for their children’s education. They want the best teachers and curriculum designers to be teaching their children, even if that means crossing borders. EdTech solutions like LingoAce are making education more accessible to students, allowing them to learn any subject no matter where they live. They are also improving learning outcomes by modernizing teaching methods and curriculum for digital natives.
How do you think the EdTech sector can ensure quality education solutions are scaled globally to enrich and enhance learning?
Hugh Yao: The key is to focus on the learning outcome. This requires understanding the needs of your learner and what challenges they face, which can vary in different markets.
Using LingoAce as an example, our learning goal is to help kids become proficient in Mandarin Chinese. When we got our start in Singapore, our program was very much designed for students who are taught the language at a young age in schools. The challenge was making the learning experience more engaging and effective, relying less on rote memorization.
Start small and take the time to refine your product. For us, this meant training teachers on the best practices of teaching Chinese as a second language in a virtual classroom. This also meant investing in R&D to develop our own gamified curriculum with original animated storytelling and other interactive media. Our seamless blend of content and instruction in a virtual classroom is what has made our language learning platform effective.
By building a strong core product, we were to adapt it to different markets. For example, in markets where language learning is not taught early, like the US, we developed a new program to help students build a strong foundation. This program was developed using the coursework template that we’ve refined over the years.
Although the content is completely different, it applies the same principles. Games and animation are used to engage students to learn a rigorous curriculum that’s pegged to globally recognized syllabi. To date, we have taught more than 5.5 million class hours, reaching students in more than 100 countries and regions.