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Perspectives

A Framework for Picking Digital Education Tools

2017-07-04


By identifying high-impact digital technologies that address learner-centric requirements, educational services providers can select, pilot and deploy innovations at the right time and place to advance educational outcomes.

New digital technologies such as virtual reality (VR), cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing how education is delivered, paving the way for next-generation digital learning. In education, publishers, institutions and technology providers are struggling to find ways to unleash learner-centric new tools and techniques that improve student experiences and outcomes. Educational organizations know they cannot afford to experiment with and invest in every new technology (whether or not specifically geared to learning) that comes along. They need a methodology to evaluate the level of learner-centricity, relative maturity, degree of potential impact and level of innovation of each new technology. 

Our 4Si Framework and 4Site tool provide a pathway from the constant barrage of new technologies. The 4Si Framework helps education companies answer these key questions:

  • How does an emerging digital technology trend affect learning effectiveness? 

  • How to transform existing learning products into a next-generation digital service?

  • How can digital learning tools be evaluated and deployed to suit learners’ needs? 

The 4Si Trend Evaluator (4Site) is a tool for educational publishers, institutions and learning technology providers to evaluate learner-centricity and digital innovation.

Our methodology and tool help education organizations to analyze new technologies and make the right call to deploy at the right time. 

The ‘Four Ss’: Dimensions of Learning 

Traditionally, the learning environment — where it takes place, when, how and with whom — has been constrained by time and physical space. That is no longer true. 

Space.

Until now, the classroom has been virtually the only place to acquire knowledge. Now, learning can occur almost anywhere in the world, at any time, thanks to the widespread use of modern communications technologies. 

Schedule.

As with the classrooms, the boundaries of time were also set by educational providers concerning when learning would occur, usually within a narrow one- or two-hour schedule. Digital-enabled learning modalities expand those boundaries. Learners can access materials when they have time and are so inclined. 

Style.

Traditionally, assignments, quizzes, assessments were used to ensure learning happens at the designated time and place. One person, the teacher, stands in the center of the space; students are seated and they take in the material being presented by the teacher. With digital, there can be multiple teachers — or no specific teachers, in the case of peer learning — and interactive technologies to support a variety of learning styles. 

Supplement.

Teachers typically use resources and tools such as textbooks, reference materials, projects, quizzes, tests and activities to supplement the learning process. Digital technology changes all that. A wide range of open educational resources (OER) are available without charge, changing the game for learners who struggle to pay for learning materials. 

Today, educational organizations are placing the learner at the center of the holistic learning process, but need to make sure they apply the right digital tools and techniques to attain this. The where, when, what and how of learning are aligned with the learner’s desired outcomes. Learner-centricity is achieved when the needs of the learner are met across the dimensions of space, schedule, style and supplement. 

As Figure 1 reveals, the learner is at the center, with concentric circles representing the degree of innovative maturity (blue for low, yellow for medium and green for high), as well as the four learning dimensions helping determine the learner-centricity of each technology trend. The closer the score is to 0, the closer it is to learner-centricity. 

The 4Si Framework at a Glance

Figure 1

A Tool for Trend Evaluation

Our 4Site tool works as follows: 

  1. Identify the key technology trend to assess.
  2. Select the key technology trend in the 4Site Baseline section. On selecting the trend, the baseline value is populated. Also, the 4Si Maturity Chart is populated according to our baseline values.
  3. Assess the digital technology trend based on the dimensions of space, schedule, style and supplement, along with the technology trend’s innovation maturity.
  4. Enter the assessment values into the 4Site tool. The 4Si maturity chart will then show the following:
  • Gaps in results from the assessment and the baseline for the four dimensions and innovation.

  • How far or close the individual is from learner-centricity and in which dimension(s).

5.  Define and prioritize the organization’s digital learning product journey using the results from its 4Site assessment.

The 4Si Framework and 4Site tool provide education organizations a way to minimize the risk surrounding new technologies and make informed judgments using a structured method — a major competitive advantage. 

This article was written by Venkat Srinivasan, who leads Cognizant’s Education Practice, and Manoj Chawla, Senior Manager in Cognizant’s Education Practice. To learn more, please read our white paper “Helping the Education Industry Learn and Ascend the Digital Technology Curve” or visit the Education section of our website.

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A Framework for Picking Digital Education Tools that Transcend Traditional Space, Schedule, Style & Supplement Constraints