The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in traditional learning methods in the classroom and in corporate events, accelerating the spread of EdTech, says Hosni Zaouali (pictured):
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many industries. And it was inevitable that corporate event planners were among the business sectors that suffered the most. To survive, these organisers had to adapt. They quickly adopted the latest remote meeting and learning technologies to offer clients as close to a live-event experience as possible. Some of these e-learning platforms were relatively unknown before Covid-19 made its unwelcome appearance. Now such names as Zoom or GoToMeetings gained protagonist status in a market that has literally gone viral in response to the pandemic. But, will these platforms secure the survival of corporate events by themselves?
No. These platforms may allow for the temporary survival of corporate events, but they won’t allow the industry to grow. Indeed, if anything, the best corporate event organisers will have used the pandemic to uproot their entire business model, whether the events are delivered remotely or in five-star establishments with crepes for breakfast. More than additional coronavirus variants and lockdowns, the corporate events’ sector’s biggest enemy is boredom. And EdTech is the solution to this boredom, as it offers the prospect of using fun and intuitive learning strategies that might look more like entertainment than traditional lectures and seminars.
Education Technology, or EdTech, refers to the coming together of technology and education. In particular, it increasingly involves the introduction of artificial intelligence technologies in the classrooms to teach traditional subjects as well as to promote new ways, and the necessary skills, to work and socially interact remotely. Therefore, EdTech is much more than robotics, new software or devices. Rather, it is a whole new approach to teaching, learning and working. That is why EdTech’s potential extends far beyond the classroom and into the realm of business or academic events, from conferences to roundtable discussions, increasing opportunities for exposure and revenue.
In that regard, it’s critical to realise that EdTech is not merely a solution to the coronavirus pandemic. It is quite simply the way of the future.
Consider children in school or adult professionals at a conference. To instruct the youngsters, teachers still rely on good old-fashioned chalk and blackboard. To enlighten and inform the adults, presenters, including highly paid high profile speakers, are either speaking without any aids, or using PowerPoint slides – the most adventurous ones, daring the audience with an embedded video perhaps. Astute observers might wonder how, in a world where both children and many young adults, have grown up immersed in an interactive world, rich in quick digital dopamine stimulants might extract any value from ancient and slow ‘tech’ methods.
Traditional educational methods, and even those that were modern just a decade ago, have become obsolete. Behavioural psychologists like Daniel Kahneman have demonstrated the existence of separate cognitive systems co-existing in the same brain, and the way that ‘fast-thinking’ tends to prevail over ‘slow’. Whether we like it or not, the modern brain cannot negotiate new and complex information without the immediate impact that technology can provide.
Combine more traditional corporate-event approaches with distance and remote scenarios, and no matter how far out of the way organisers go to get a former US president to speak about strategy, audiences will lose attention before the end of the national anthem. For this reason, Zoom, Microsoft ,or any other virtual meetings technology becomes obsolete without artificial intelligence, which adds to these basic tools to enhance learning and to captivate audiences.
Artificial intelligence, in its broadest definition, refers to the implementation of different techniques that allow machines to behave as if they possess the ability to think or to interact. The father of the modern computer, Alan Turing, had already described A.I. in his ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, and he invented a test (the aptly named ‘Turing test’) to help us decide whether we are witnessing artificial intelligence or not. The test involves blindfolding a human person, and then having that person pose questions to both another human and to a machine. If both the human and the machine answer correctly, without the blindfolded subject being able to discern who is who, then it can be said that artificial intelligence has manifested itself. Therefore, A.I. is already widely present among us. Just ask Alexa… But, it has much more potential than merely telling us what song is playing in the video.
Apart from being able to give directions, provide information, register, or even perform facial recognition tricks for security of guests at physical events, A.I. can analyse guests’ behaviour, how they react to speakers, which presentations did they like the most, whom they approached for further talks and any number of other parameters measurable using sensors. But that’s just the thinnest layer of the surface. Technology is advancing at such a rate that the events industry will be uprooted.
Hosni Zaouali is CEO and chief innovation designer for Tech-AdaptiKa, and founder of VC Bootcamp in Silicon Valley, Toronto, Paris, and Johannesburg. He is on a quest to build a global virtual community of lifelong learners.