“Distance learning” is the new reality for many students in the U.S. and around the globe, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An interesting angle on this discussion is how the technology space is participating in distance learning, either by enabling it through existing solutions or by developing innovative new solutions and forming new partnerships to rise to this unprecedented occasion. In the long term, and as a result of what’s going on now, will connected devices and solutions play a more important role in the education system? Will distance learning bring education to more young people in more places?
Some of the solutions educators are turning to in order to provide distance learning include digital learning-management systems, mobile learning services, apps that offer self-directed learning content and other skill-building content, collaboration platforms with integrated live video communication, and tools for educators to create their own digital learning content. For example, Google Classroom is a popular digital learning-management system, along with others like Moodle and Schoology. Cell-Ed offers remote education, training, and upskill opportunities from a cellphone, even offline, providing myriad possibilities not only in education but also for businesses and for international development. Collaboration platforms have exploded in the business world to support the sudden and massive need for work-from-home enterprise solutions, but they’re also playing an important role in bringing students back to school. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype all offer video communications solutions for education as well as enterprise.
To meet the demands of students worldwide, companies are putting their heads together to provide the systems and solutions necessary to support distance learning—and they’re moving fast to provide these systems and solutions. A new partnership between Intel, AWS, and Career Launcher called Project Aspiration 2020, for instance, is addressing the needs of thousands of students in India during the pandemic. The companies developed an online learning platform, aspiration.ai, in record time and have since scaled the platform from an initial group of 1,500 students to more than 165,000 students. The platform integrates AWS cloud services and Intel processors to facilitate connection, live streaming, and creation and engagement tools for educators and students, in addition to advanced analytics for teachers.
Innovative software isn’t the only thing coming out of the tech space that’s aimed at helping educators and students this fall. Tech companies like AVer Information are flexing their ed-tech muscles by offering IoT (Internet of Things) devices that can make distance learning better. AVer just released an AI (artificial intelligence)-enabled camera that can automatically track a teacher as he or she moves about a physical space, providing uninterrupted learning for viewers and one less thing to worry about for the educator or presenter. The distance-learning device leverages AI to recognize the presenter’s body and follow it seamlessly around a room. It doesn’t require a second operator and can recognize the presenter even if he/she is wearing a face mask.
It’s probable that even after COVID-19 becomes a nasty memory, distance learning will be more prominent in global education systems. The technology solutions that are making it possible in these early days will grow in sophistication as adoption and cashflow increase. Technologies like AI, AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality) will enhance these solutions to create a new type of distance learning that will one day feel as normal, if not more normal, than a traditional classroom setting.
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