It’s Time for Big Breakthroughs in Education and Learning. It’s Time for Smarter & More Connected Learning.

We founded YOURIKA because we saw too many people facing too many learning barriers.

After watching the last ten months of the pandemic unfold and create havoc within our educational system, there now seems to be even more barriers than we imagined. As the pandemic forced a massive transition to online learning, many struggled and many more didn’t have access to the tools they needed to be successful. Education and learning are failing at scale. Unfortunately, these aren’t new problems. They existed pre-COVID, exist today, and will continue in the future unless we quickly ignite a bold new direction in learning. Now is the time for change. Here’s what and how we can work together to transform the way we learn.

We Have Large Innovation and Equality Gaps in Education and Learning

2020 was a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic created the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, forcing more than 1.6 billion learners in over 190 countries out of school at the peak of the crisis. K-12 school districts and universities shifted to remote learning and the use of digital platforms almost overnight. This disruptive transition has revealed significant gaps and shortcomings in how online learning has — or has not been adopted — causing disadvantages to learners affected by technological disparity, social-emotional distress caused by remote and distance learning, and educational inequalities and achievement gaps.

After the shock of the first wave of the pandemic hit, I wanted to better understand what was happening within the learning ecosystem, so I interviewed or surveyed over 160 students, teachers, tutors, administrators, edtech leaders and parents. Some of what I discovered is that:

  • everyone is overwhelmed and stressed about learning and education
  • many students and their parents are questioning the value of education — especially higher education
  • most instructors feel unsupported
  • most students and learners feel unsupported, disengaged and even lonely
  • only 15% are satisfied with their e-learning systems, tools and experiences

As an entrepreneur, having so many important problems you are passionate about solving is exciting. As a parent and citizen, it is absolutely terrifying to hear so many stories of frustration, stress and dissatisfaction.

I was particularly struck by how many were dissatisfied with their e-learning experiences. How is this even possible in an age when we can do almost anything remote or mobile? It is easy to shop, work, stream from anywhere — yet we can’t learn anywhere? Why? Why are other similar industries thriving during the pandemic? Why are education and learning drowning?

As reported by EducationWeek, recent data from Clayton Christensen Institute reinforced what online learning advocates and experts have said about the pandemic since the start: online learning that’s taken place doesn’t represent the best it can be; most teachers were underprepared for abruptly switching to a new instructional model; there are reasons to be hopeful that more robust online learning will remain viable for schools to offer in the long term.

Importantly, the survey data revealed that hybrid and remote instructions are the new normal. However, many teachers are attempting to replicate their conventional classroom experience online. Only 22% of teachers use commercial materials designed for remote instruction — which tend to cater to asynchronous learning. Instead, most teachers come up with their own resources, adapt conventional classroom curriculum for remote instruction, or curate materials from various online sources. Likewise, the technologies teachers use most are the types of technology most often used for migrating conventional classes to the cloud — such as learning management systems and video streaming. In contrast, tools for facilitating student-centered practices such as mastery-based learning and individualized learning pathways are far less common.

(Source: Breaking the Mold: How a global pandemic unlocks innovation in K-12 instruction)

One takeaway from the analysis put forth by the Christensen Institute drives us at our very core:

Online learning can facilitate student learning, but online learning is not inherently student-centered.”

Read that again and let it sink in. Isn’t learning supposed to be about the student? Isn’t the student the most important customer?

It is time for us to unite in making learning smarter and more connected.

What does Smarter & More Connected mean?

It means the development of “customer-centric” solutions with the reminder that students and learners are the ultimate customers. Learner-centered pedagogy is a proven best practice, viewing learners as active participants in their own learning, with their education shaped by their interests, prior knowledge and active investigation. As an industry, we must continue to make this a priority and unified vision. Edtech must support this by designing and developing systems built for learners first.

It means embracing AI-enabled solutions. Data-driven comprehensive evaluation powers personalized knowledge and better outcomes. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible and we are creating unprecedented amounts of useful learning data. If we use this data appropriately and ethically — we can completely transform learners’ and instructors' experiences for the better.

It means working together to remove digital inequity — Last but not least, we must continue to provide a top down and bottom up solutions to closing the digital divide, ensuring students have access to materials, technology and internet services. (For additional perspective, BCcampus provides helpful resources on Removing Barriers to Online Learning Through a Teaching and Learning Lens

Let’s Commit to Smarter & More Connected Learning

At YOURIKA, we are deeply committed to leading the shift to Smart & Connected Learning. We are committed to putting students and learners first and at the center of everything we do. We are committed to AI-enabled learning, as proven by our world-class team and partnerships with the University of Waterloo AI Institute and Amazon. We are committed to making learning more efficient, effective and equal for all, as it lies directly in our vision statement and supported by our mission to make it easy and affordable for anyone to learn anything, anytime and anywhere.

Join us in this important cause to re-ignite innovation in Smarter & More Connected Learning. I welcome your feedback and thoughts and at YOURIKA we’re always looking to partner to explore new ideas and new ways to improve the way we learn.

Rob is the Co-founder & CEO of YOURIKA, that creates AI-enabled products to make learning more efficient, effective and equal for all.