Surveys Find Districts Are Using More Edtech Tools — and Teachers Are...

column | Surveys

Surveys Find Districts Are Using More Edtech Tools — and Teachers Are Bearing the Costs

By Frank Catalano (Columnist)     Jan 11, 2021

Surveys Find Districts Are Using More Edtech Tools — and Teachers Are Bearing the Costs

“Virtual” learning may be on the upswing—corporate VR learning, that is. Teachers are paying out of pocket for edtech tools while using more of them. And educators want to know what actually worked in remote instruction. All in this Edtech Reports Recap.

Is That Avatar Annoyed or Are You Just Unhappy to See Me?

A new survey on corporate skills training forecasts that a lot more companies will try doing it using virtual reality environments in the next two years.

The human resources advisory firm Future Workplace and Mursion, which provides VR simulations, commissioned a survey of more than 300 corporate learning leaders in organizations with at least 1,000 employees. The focus was on those highly prized, sometimes hard to define “soft skills” like communications and collaboration, and how VR sims could help with training in areas such as leadership, HR, sales and customer service.

The resulting report, “VR Changes the Game for Soft Skills Training,” projects that 72 percent of the survey respondents will have tried VR simulations by 2022, more than twice the 35 percent that say they’re using it today. Another 20 percent don’t have any plans, and 8 percent aren’t sure.

“VR Changes the Game for Soft Skills Training” survey
Source: Mursion and Future Workforce: “VR Changes the Game for Soft Skills Training

Of course, money talks. The survey asked what kinds of approaches the respondents would invest more money in if they could double their learning budget. VR simulation was in the top three, at 51 percent, behind virtual online learning (57 percent) but ahead of social learning (46 percent). Further behind were gamification, micro-learning, in-person learning and artificial intelligence (none of these were defined in the report).

Why the appeal? VR sims allow for avatar role playing scenarios to help staff learn how to deal with cranky customers and passive-aggressive peers. Not to mention they’d likely be a welcome replacement for dated, one-size-fits-all workplace compliance videos. The limits that the pandemic has put on in-person training—and the continued popularity of remote work—may have learning and development departments at larger companies actively seeking new options.

Teachers Are Using More Edtech Tools—and Paying More

It’s no secret that edtech product use has spiked during pandemic-related school closures. What may be a surprise is the cornucopia of products that have poured onto remote screens.

LearnPlatform, which has issued regular reports covering the more than 8,000 products it tracks over the past several months, ended 2020 with a stunning statistic: Since school closures in March, average U.S. school district use of different edtech products each month has risen from 952 to 1,327. The company’s data comes from tracking daily product use by 2.5 million students and teachers in more than 250 districts across 17 states.

LearnPlatform survey of edtech products used by U.S. school districts
Source: LearnPlatform

Many tools are used for the same purpose. On average, LearnPlatform says, there are more than 70 products for math and English language arts, more than one learning management system, and more than one single sign-on provider in a single district.

While calling all this variety “a well-meaning attempt to give teachers and students more options,” LearnPlatform CEO Karl Rectanus said in the analysis that, “instead, it creates a confusing landscape for everyone involved ... and definitely increases costs for districts.”

And potentially teachers, too. A survey from online course platform finds 86 percent of K-12 teachers asked say they’ve used personal funds for classroom tools due to circumstances around COVID-19. survey of teacher spending on classroom materials during COVID-19

The amount varies. In prior surveys, says only 25 percent of teachers spent between $251-500 of their own money on their classroom in a year. But in the one-week November 2020 survey of 101 teachers, that figure ticked up to 32 percent. And 17 percent say they have spent over $1,000.

Despite the plethora of tools already in use, 49 percent of teachers in the survey say the one thing they most need is subscriptions to online learning platforms for this coming spring.

Show Me the Data

Data Quality Campaign has pulled together a wrap up of its 2020 research and surfaced interesting nuggets that are worth highlighting as the pandemic spreads into a new year. Two data points:

  • 65 percent of teachers want data about what lesson plans or teaching approaches were the most successful when schools were closed.
  • 89 percent of parents want to know how school closures and related COVID-19 interruptions affected students’ long-term outcomes (such as high school graduation, college enrollment or future wages).

The full surveys—with a lot more detail—were done by The Harris Poll on behalf of the policy and advocacy nonprofit and include 750 full-time K-12 teachers and 1,725 parents of children ages 5-17.

Data Quality Campaign research on what teachers and parents want
Source: Data Quality Campaign

Here’s the kicker: The surveys were done in late April and early May. That was when the first round of school disruptions was still fresh. It’s not a stretch to think the concerns DQC reminds us of now remain fresh, and may even be greater, today.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up