EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Gamifying EdTech Launches Learning to Loftier Levels

The EdTech, or education technology industry is learning new lessons for using web apps in the wake of the pandemic. Innovative technologies are pushing learning limits for academia and enterprises alike.

App-based education platforms such as Codeacademy and Duolingo, for example, were already widely used prior to Covid-19. This form of EdTech is typically used in a more leisurely way for learners to pass the time while waiting for a friend or commuting to work.

Learning via apps is not necessarily perceived as an integral part of the modern educational system. But those narrow perceptions are starting to change, according to Nikolas Kairinos, CEO of software firm Soffos.

“There has been a slow march to greater innovation in the education industry for some time. Indeed, Covid-19 restrictions made this more of a necessity than a choice, but it was only a matter of time before online learning platforms and app-based technology took a more prominent position in traditional education settings,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Equal Access

A key issue with educational technology today is that without the necessary tools to participate and engage fully with EdTech, disadvantaged children may be impacted negatively by the shift to online learning, Kairinos cautioned. Signs of that happening are highly evident already over the last two years.

In an ideal world, every student would have access to a reliable internet connection and an up-to-date laptop or computer. However, all too often this is not the case, he noted.

“If a large proportion of students do not have suitable technologies in place, we run the risk of exacerbating the current learning gap. As such, EdTech must be accessible to everyone, not just privileged institutions and those who can afford it,” he added.

Blindsided Educators, Financing Factors

Kairinos, whom EdTech Digest recently named as one of the top 100 influencers in EdTech, has strong insight into what the future has in store for the industry.

He has participated as an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor in building numerous software startups around the world for more than 30 years. In particular, he has a strong passion for artificial intelligence and EdTech solutions which elevate the learning experience.

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO Soffos
Soffos CEO Nikolas Kairinos

Implementing these technologies will be useless if educators do not embrace them. With the shift to online learning in 2020 blindsiding many teachers, the quality of the education they delivered suffered because they were ill-equipped to deal with the crisis, alleged Kairinos.

Growing EdTech learning strategies will require significant investment from government bodies. The results will be a significant step to democratizing education, he predicts.

Few institutions prepared their staff with sufficient training or knowledge to use new technologies effectively. Some were reluctant to even embrace it in the first place. As such, a key challenge of EdTech today is the lack of proper training for educators, Kairinos observed.

“Although increasing training can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor, thankfully, most products on the market are fairly intuitive. So, educators should be able to get to grips with them in no time,” he added.

The associated costs are worth it too, given that some technologies have the potential to reduce the workloads of educators, while simultaneously improving the specificity and quality of education offered to students. In many ways, it is money well-spent, he said.

New EdTech Solutions

Soffos.ai launched a new web app, TestMe, that brings study materials to life and helps learners understand essential concepts in minutes.
The AI-driven EdTech platform’s algorithms read uploaded student notes to create personalized flashcards and quizzes for end-users. This offers an engaging gamified experience.

Besides saving time, TestMe enables learners to drill down on content by creating question and answer pairs in a matter of minutes. This allows them to spend less time creating revision materials and more time learning independently.

A unique aspect of TestMe is its use of natural language processing (NLP). This enables learners to speak to TestMe and answer questions in typed natural language so that they understand their learning materials in their own words.

TestMe helps to improve learner engagement when learning at home because it gamifies the experience. Studying for exams and is not always the most fun. So, making learning course content more interactive and enjoyable is a passion of TestMe’s developers, noted Kairinos.

“It is also important to acknowledge that the sharing functionality will allow teachers to test and measure their students’ knowledge remotely, if necessary,” he added. “It is this kind of technology that will help the sector strike the right balance between in-person and at-home learning.”

Paradigm Shifting to EdTech

Other industries excelled with technology to revolutionize processes and practices. The education sector, however, has long relied on old-fashioned approaches to learning, bemoaned Kairinos. The pandemic brought this into sharp focus and institutions quickly adapted.

“However, the need to improve the scope and flexibility of learning still exists and had been there long before we had even heard of Covid-19,” he said.

The most prominent issue he sees is that schools, colleges, and other institutions generally fail to see EdTech as an integral part of education today. Put simply, EdTech is not just here to provide education continuity alone.

“When properly harnessed and integrated in traditional learning settings, it has the potential to improve teaching and move education into the modern age,” he noted.

The education arena needs some improvement with personalizing the curriculum to individual learners. Since no two students are the same, implementing a solution that accounts for individual differences can be very difficult in practice without the right technology in place.

“Educators already work long hours and have a lot on their plates. So, investing in solutions that gather sophisticated data analytics about individual learners and coming up with a personalized action plan would solve a huge problem,” he added.

EdTech can help level the playing field for students when individual needs are recognized by their educators and adjust lessons and learning materials accordingly.
If a student has a gap in understanding when it comes to literacy, for example, AI technology will assist educators in identifying their needs so that all individuals get the help they deserve, explained Kairinos.

Gamified Learning’s Appeal

Gamification places game-design elements such as gaining trophies, progressing to new levels, or gaining virtual currencies, into a non-traditional gaming context. This is a particularly fascinating aspect of app-based education technology and provides students with fun and unique ways of testing their knowledge, according to Kairinos.

Gaming gives learners the opportunity to progress through increasingly difficult levels. It also enhances the ability to compete with friends and colleagues.

This process has been scientifically proven to increase dopamine production, noted Kairinos. Gamifying the learning experience is likely to influence learners to associate feeling good and having fun with their educational endeavors.

“This is something we have really tried to build on with TestMe. We hope that this will be a step in the right direction when it comes to empowering individuals with the tools they need to spend more time learning and that they will feel re-invigorated by the solution, which streamlines the sometimes-clunky process of revising material,” he concluded.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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