Automation technologies have permeated just about every industry, streamlining complex tasks and reducing tedious, time-consuming work across sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, and banking. Now, automation is forging its way into the education sector, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spurred a quicker transition into e-learning models.
As an angel investor, I see great potential in the education automation sector for years to come, and so do industry experts. The RPA in education (robotic process automation) is expected to reach USD $13.74B by 2028, and the AI market in Education Market Revenue is expected to cross $20B by 2027.
In 2021, we will continue to see education become more integrated into technology and automation than it ever has before, with industry leaders creating software and tools that will change education for the better.
Opportunities and Challenges in Education Automation
Students today are digital natives, but they primarily use gadgets and technology for entertainment and communication. Simultaneously, school systems and teachers are often resistant to these changes, preferring the traditional, one-size-fits-all lecture model.
Even still, while research from McKinsey shows that most teachers enjoy their work, they don’t enjoy the mundane work of late-night grading sessions, lesson planning, and seemingly endless paperwork. Teacher burnout rates are rising, and in the US, teacher turnover is over 16% annually. In the UK, it’s worse, with 81% of teachers considering leaving the profession due to the unrealistic workload.
Automation has the potential to reduce teacher work hours by taking over monotonous, repetitive tasks using existing technology, giving teachers back hours of their time.
What is the Latest in Education Automation Software, Changing Education for the Better?
We can get a better understanding of how automation is reshaping the educational system by looking at some of the most influential and innovative technologies that have come from the growth so far.
Brilliant is a software program that provides interactive, hands-on lessons to tap into play and make learning more enjoyable and engaging for students. Brilliant offers courses for students of all ages 10 and up. The idea is that curiosity is a better motivator for student success than the threat of tests, and Brilliant’s goal is to help these students master their work, not memorize it.
CourseKey is a career college management software used to maintain compliance while boosting student retention and improving better learning outcomes. Its full suite of applications helps colleges track attendance, digitally evaluate students, identify and nurture at-risk students to improve retention, and automate audit reports for every learning environment, whether in-person, online, or hybrid.
Wisenet is a learner management system that helps higher education organizations streamline operations. With Wisenet, organizations can market courses, offer complete online enrollment (including online payments), integrate with other finance and e-learning applications, communicate with all stakeholders, track compliance, and more. It goes beyond the standard capabilities of a learner management system to reduce paperwork, eliminate repetitive tasks, and free up more time to focus on learners and outcomes.
Carnegie Learning presents a personalized learning opportunity, fueled by continually tracked data to improve learning outcomes. Carnegie Learning offers several learning solutions, from math and world languages to applied sciences and literacy. Most of these solutions include a textbook and award-winning software program that work in tandem to engage students with cognitive and learning science while providing teachers with the insights they need to ensure student mastery.
Botsify allows educational organizations to create chatbots that can enhance the learning process, increase student participation, and draw insights from data and feedback. This tool is primarily used to automate things such as enrollment, personalized learning recommendations, and collecting feedback. This eliminates a lot of administrative work and allows educators to focus on teaching.
The Future of Work in Education – Automated Teaching
While some in the education field worry that introducing automation into their work will eventually replace them, making human teachers obsolete, this isn’t the reality. Both existing and emerging automation technologies will complement human teaching, helping teachers do their job better, work more efficiently, and feel more fulfilled.
And despite some of the bleak statistics surrounding teacher turnover rates, human teachers aren’t going anywhere. McKinsey estimates that the number of school teachers in the US will grow by 5-24% between 2016 and 2030, and in other countries like India and China, that growth will skyrocket closer to a 100% increase.
While the teaching sector continues to grow, so will automation within the field. By 2030, nearly 40% of elementary teacher work could be automated. While this will take work off their plates, it also means they’ll need to become more familiar with these algorithmic systems to collaborate with them effectively in the classroom.
Can you really automate teaching in every sense?
While technology will be able to enhance and facilitate better teaching, it will never be able to replace teachers, and it won’t find as much success in some subjects and aspects of education as it will in others.
Research shows that there are several areas with major potential for automation in teaching – administration, preparation, evaluation, and feedback. While instruction, coaching, and engagement may have the potential for improvement through automation, they are more resilient to these opportunities.
Education automation in action will primarily help teachers reduce their workload by taking over administrative and preparation responsibilities. Automation will reduce their hours spent on administrative tasks from five to three hours a week, and it will reduce their preparation time from 11 hours per week to just six.
How Automation Is Changing Education Globally
Automation has been inching its way into the education sector, but it’s become more relevant in our post-COVID-19 world. With many classes and schools online, there’s more automation technology at play than ever before. Education leaders are recognizing more of the benefits of integrating automation into current systems or using them to create new, more streamlined systems, and we’re seeing how impactful the introduction of automation into education really is.
There are a number of ways in which automation is changing education around the world, from personalized learning and grading automation to chatbots and college management software.
About a third of teachers report that they would like to personalize their learning more, but don’t feel that they can do so effectively. Their main constraints are time, materials, resources, and technology.
Enter automation, which can make learning more personalized than ever. We’re seeing this now integrated into different learning management platforms like D2L’s Brightspace, Geekie, and Smart Sparrow, which can accommodate different learning styles by monitoring progress and comprehension and making adjustments to resources and curriculum based on this data.
There are also customized learning platforms like Nexus Learning that allow teachers (even ones that aren’t tech-inclined) to develop their own materials (digital, video, audio) with valuable student outcome feedback.
Grading is one of the most time-consuming and tedious tasks that teachers are responsible for, and while electronic grading is nothing new (Scantron machines were invented in 1972), automated grading goes beyond traditional multiple-choice style assessments and allows for greater assessments of things like essay responses. While it can’t do what a human teacher
does and consider external factors that relate to responses, these technologies are getting better each year and can significantly improve teacher time management as well as offer a completely unbiased system of grading.
Non-academic administrative activity is another costly area in terms of inefficiency. Registration and enrollment require a large workforce to handle the massive workload, as does classroom-based admin work, like taking attendance and responding to student questions.
Programs like Involvio’s Attendance Kit offer an automated solution for attendance. Rather than spend precious classroom time marking students down with a pencil and paper, Attendance Kit lets students check in to class on their phone with WiFi prompts or QR code scanning.
Automation can take on a majority of this responsibility and manage these tasks more efficiently while freeing up administrative teams to focus on building positive school climates, inspiring students, building relationships, and resolving conflicts – all capabilities that automation will never be able to emulate.
I love finding and investing in innovative tech that solves legacy problems. Tech can and should exist to free humans up to do more important work, not replace them.
If we continue to innovate in the education tech spaces, and if new startups continue to expand the capabilities of educational automation, in ten years, we’ll see major changes – for the better. We’ll see teachers with more time for themselves and students and learners with better outcomes due to personalized instruction. We’ll see administrators more focused on creating healthy school climates than on working through procedural roadblocks and entire academic systems functioning more effectively.
Machines will never make teachers obsolete, but they can improve many aspects of their job and the educational system at large. As an angel investor focused on world-changing tech solutions, I’m committed to identifying and developing the best ideas in education automation into impactful, innovative solutions with real-world applications. If you’re a founder with one of these ideas, reach out.