Three guiding principles for interactive experiences in EdTech

From K-12 to higher education and workforce upskilling, there’s a growing global demand for online learning.

According to one report, the global EdTech market holds an absolute growth of more than 130% between 2022 and 2027. The ethos of EdTech companies is to share education with the world. This alone has revolutionized the education industry. Today, we can learn anything, from anywhere on the globe with access to the best teachers, industry experts, mentors, and peer support systems. EdTech has allowed us to become life-long learners. 

Having broken many barriers to education, EdTech is now moving towards optimizing learning, through technologies like AI that aid cognitive research. EdTech platforms are working on eliminating the “forgetting curve” in the learner’s journey. Interactive learning is the natural next step for improving experiences and retention. 

After managing programs and strategic engagements at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 11 years, I’ve taken away key insights on where EdTech is headed as an industry, including the new frontier of interactive experiences. For leaders diving into the world of interactive learning, there are three main learnings I’ve seen emerge:

Invest in inclusive design practices

The goal of EdTech companies is to make learning accessible to all. To appeal to this global audience, the design intent in interactive experiences needs to be inclusive. This means keeping in mind the specific sociology and cultural differences of users when ideating and designing interactive learning. 

Asia, Africa, and Latin America are thriving markets for EdTech. Organizations need to understand the cultural nuances of the people there to engage them. One has to step away from the dominant Western narrative of what learning is and should be.

Research shows that biases in AI occur because of human engineering; how data is obtained, how algorithms are designed, and how AI outputs are interpreted. The key to achieving inclusivity in design is having the diversity of gender, culture, race, religion, and sexuality within your engineering teams. This way the people who are developing your product are sure to design it with a cosmopolitan perspective. If you are struggling to hire a multicultural team, partners like Andela can help you tap into global talent resources.

Designers should have an understanding of teaching methodologies

In digital interactive learning experiences, the designer becomes the teacher. Effective teachers are those that go in-depth with their subject matter, draw out the nuances of the lessons, and provide purposeful messaging throughout their interactions with students. Adaptable teachers use any interaction with learners as an opportunity to share knowledge.

At Khan Academy, the layered learning experience goes one step further to meet young learners where they’re at. In addition to the regular PreK-12 curriculum and courses, they also focus on life skills courses, such as growth mindset, talks and interviews, personal finance, and career courses. Leveraging designers with expertise in these knowledge bases contributes to a more dynamic experience for their learners.
So, apart from diverse representation, engineering leaders should look to hire designers that can demonstrate thoughtful teaching qualities in their design intent. This intersection of design engineering and valuable pedagogy is what determines the quality of learning in EdTech.

Leverage the Power of AR and VR

Use AR & VR in your interactive experiences. These technologies allow learners to time travel and remain completely assimilated in their learning environment. Users become both a participant in the experience and an observer. AR and VR provide powerful stimuli; both on a visceral and emotional level. This can lead to deep self-reflection, one of the most powerful ways of learning, even after the experience is over. Such learning can also flush out differences in people’s thinking and any biases they might hold.

One of the people who leverage AR and VR for social benefit is Professor Fox Harrell, of digital media and AI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Much of his work conducts social and scientific research studies in VR and video game settings. Along with using AI for analyzing how people develop and use virtual identities.

One such interactive game, developed by Harrell, is “Mimesis.” It follows the “player character, a mimic octopus, which is a species of octopus adept at emulating other creatures. On its journey from the dark depths of the ocean to its home in the tropical shallows, the octopus will encounter several sea creatures whose actions serve as examples of particular kinds of covert discrimination. These sea creatures provoke the octopus, leaving the player to choose between different emotional responses to the creatures to guide the octopus through a series of short conversations. In this way, the project maps the experience of discrimination onto the game world, based on an underwater metaphor.” 

Mimesis is one of the many examples that illustrate the tremendous opportunity to use AR and VR for a positive impact on society. 

In EdTech, interactive experiences can have endless possibilities, depending on the technologies that become available to us. Though the execution of these ideas will demand curiosity, creativity, strong design foundations, and vigor. As an industry, we must strive for this because education remains the most powerful tool for a better quality of life.


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