Posted by: admin Category: Education, IT Solutions Comments: 0

Ashith Piriyattiath, Group Head of IT at Dubai-based Al Masah Capital, tells Intelligent CIO how digitization is impacting the education sector in the Middle East.

The term digital transformation has been widely heard in the academic sector in the last few years but most people have conceptualized it in the wrong way so that the content of learning is getting changed completely to equip the students to adapt to the technology trends.

But in reality, the digital technology is not basically changing the content of learning- it is changing the method of the learning ‘process’ by making it more technologically fashionable where students will get more exposure to the technology in the early stages – making learning more interesting and interactive with the concepts thoroughly dealt with in a fraction of the time of the traditional education system.

Digital technology is enabling teachers to create more interactive, engaging, flexible learning materials in a range of digital and multimedia formats and make them available to students online.

Educators are also able to teach in a variety of different ways in the classroom, using in-class technologies, online materials and students’ own mobile devices. These changes are enabling educators to have a more diverse set of pedagogical approaches to support their learners, which means that they can be more inclusive in their teaching methods.

I have seen wide usage of the concept ‘BYOD’ in the education sector in the year 2017, where the schools encourage children to bring their own devices or procure their own devices, as per the standards specified by the school, to enhance interactive digital learning. Also, even schools are procuring devices for the students directly from the principal vendor in large volumes to get educational/academic pricing benefits.

Apart from digitizing the traditional curriculum, the schools in the region started including the latest technology trends as optional/additional subjects for the students to get a flavor of them in the early stages. A few of the schools have already started training on robotics, 3D modeling and printing etc from the early grades. Equip the ICT lab for meeting these requirements and training the staff on the technological trends are key challenges for us as an IT team.

MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions were also marketed well in the education sector in the year 2017 as most of the schools adopted digital learning as the key method for interactive learning. Most of the MDM solutions in the education sector are focused to enhance safe and secure usage and control over the devices, content filtering and publishing the learning contents in a centralized fashion.

Another area I have seen in 2017 is the wide usage of mirroring/casting devices like smart interactive TVs, smart interactive boards and short throw and laser-based interactive projectors in the classroom. Most of these devices are about having the option to share the content with the students’ devices and thereby they can directly interact with teachers during classroom sessions from their devices themselves.

All these trends point towards the eradication of carrying heavy school bags and shrinking the number of books to just one iPad/tablet.

Traditional Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) trackers are moving towards a completely different version with more software-controlled IoT based functions where one RFID device is sufficient to track the student, the assets, transport and can even be used as an e-wallet where students can use it for purchases from school stores and canteens.

Even Bluetooth technology has also grown to a stage where it can replace the functions of RFIDs with small beacon kinds of devices and tags at much less cost. A few of the schools have started using the technology already in the region.

Most of the above points are examples of the outer view/student-front model of digitization in the academic sector. Whereas digitization is happening in backend activities it is also occurring in terms of the utilization of cloud infrastructure for storage, content hosting, security, etc.

Compared to previous years large numbers of schools and educational institutions have already migrated their data centers onto the cloud and some have opted to keep disaster recovery sites on the cloud too. Most of the school management system vendors also started to insist on cloud and SAAS models in the region.

And last a point I should not miss in terms of digital transformation is the money the educational groups are spending on digital marketing and online reputation management. SEO/SMO and other digital marketing and online reputation management techniques are heavily used to retain and enhance ranking on all internet platforms.

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