Education software is a massive, all-encompassing term used to refer to any and all software designed for use in the education industry. The term includes everything from student information systems and classroom management software to reference management software and language learning software.
All of it, however, is used with the goal of making some aspect of the education industry more efficient or more effective. Schools have a reputation of being one of the last places to adopt technology, but as the digital transformation has led to the reconstruction and rearrangement of industries in every sector, they too have begun to embrace the inevitable. Some kind of education software is used by nearly every educational institution and will become ubiquitous as the number of solutions and the range of capabilities of those solutions increase.
The scope of tools in the education industry is widening, particularly with the influx of artificial intelligence software and the private sector’s recognition of the massive potential attached to developing education-specific software.
Education software is hugely beneficial for teachers, administrators, students, and parents alike. Solutions in these categories provide users with a host of benefits, from improved visibility and content distribution to analytics and better communication channels. Smart content, enhanced communication, consolidation of data and information, and improved efficacy and efficiency are all benefits that accompany the implementation of education software.
Smarter Content – Education software has the potential to revolutionize the way in which content is created and presented to students. Digital content embedded with artificial intelligence capabilities can offer material that adapts to students’ knowledge levels. This "smart" content is easily changed, distributed, and reused by different generations of students. Digital content contains the added bonus of teacher oversight and often includes built-in assessments that teachers can use to test and track student results.
Teacher, Parent, and Student Communication — Clear communication between teachers, parents, and students is vital to the learning process. There needs to be a strong level of respect and trust that exists to properly educate students. Education software and apps help develop strong bonds between all parties through forums, portals, and other interactive elements. Parents and students have tools that promote easy communication between themselves, teachers, and administrators.
Clear and efficient communication channels facilitate understanding between disparate parties that may otherwise be siloed. Students can ask teachers questions to clear up ambiguities regarding course material and grading methods, and parents can have a clear window into their children’s performance.
Information Consolidation – Many types of education software are designed to combine related information in a centralized repository. Consolidating all related data within a single program allows for better oversight and the extraction of more accurate insights from that data. Administrators and education professionals can utilize those insights to guide both teaching strategy at a lower level and administrative policy at a higher level.
Improved Efficiency and Efficacy — The goal of any institution is to become more efficient and effective, and education software helps organizations achieve these goals. Teachers can utilize resources such as classroom management software to limit distractions and improve concentration on course material. Administrators can leverage the insights afforded by information systems to shape policy and administrative decisions. Education software also saves administrators and teachers a ton of time on administrative tasks, like grading, and gives them the opportunity to find more creative ways to improve their respective outputs.
Better Learning Environment – Education professionals are tasked with ensuring student understanding of class material. The amount of available education applications, and the breadth of functionality they cover in concert, provides educators with the tools necessary to create the best possible learning environment for their students. That may take the form of digital materials supplemented with AR/VR software in the classroom, the use of a learning management system, classroom management tools designed to keep students on task, or something else entirely. Teachers adapt their classrooms and alter their teaching styles according to each group of students’ needs. Education software helps teachers change their learning environments by providing tools that can cater to every learning style.
The main groups of education software users are teachers, students, parents, and school administrators. Each group utilizes education software to improve their educational experience, reduce inefficiencies, and facilitate communication. The majority of education software is designed for administrators and teachers to create content, share lessons, manage classrooms, and house school- and student-related data. Students use solutions in a few categories to consume curated content and lesson plans, take exams, and study. Parents leverage the connection to both administrators and teachers that these tools provide them, to ensure that their child is getting the help they need and to stay on top of their student’s performance.
AR/VR for Classroom Use — Augmented reality and virtual reality technology is improving constantly. As it becomes more affordable and its adoption is more widespread, vendors have been developing applications specifically for the education industry. Teachers can use virtual reality headsets to provide extra reinforcement for difficult concepts, supplement regular teaching materials, or to simply introduce a cool piece of technology that students will find fascinating. AR/VR has the potential to revolutionize the classroom, providing teachers with a tool that they can use to drive home deep understanding and retention of subject material.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Classroom — Artificial intelligence has numerous potential applications within the classroom. Artificially intelligent teaching assistants (AITAs) are used in certain classrooms to alleviate some of the workload for teachers and regular teaching assistants. These digital teaching assistants handle student questions that typically take educators hours to sort through. As these AITAs are machine learning applications, the more questions they handle and the wider the scope of topics they cover, the more accurate they become. Teachers can then use the extra hours freed up by these applications to focus on real value-adding tasks.
Digital Materials — The digital transformation has enveloped the classroom, as schools look to embrace digital teaching materials. Digital versions of materials are much more easily modified and distributed and can be embedded with additional features to aid students during their learning. These materials include assessments, which can be graded and analyzed by AI graders, saving teachers valuable time.
Privacy — One of the largest issues facing the education software industry is privacy. The increased use of software throughout the education sector means more information is gathered and housed by educational institutions. Particularly in K–12 institutions, there are privacy concerns raised by parents and communities who don’t want every little piece of information about their students collected, combed through, and analyzed. As artificial intelligence makes its way into the classroom and the internet of things (IoT) collects and transmits information about every single thing that happens within the classroom, the question becomes how much data does a school have the right to gather. Just because something is possible, does that mean it should be done? When it comes to minors, do they have any privacy rights, or do those belong to the parents? Should students have to opt in to data sharing or opt out? These are all questions that will be answered in the coming years as education software and technology continues to grow and affect the industry.
Security — The more data and information an organization has on file, the more attractive the prospect of stealing that information becomes for bad actors. While schools may not be holding the most valuable information in the world, payment details and identity related information, as well as sensitive personal student information, may be on file. For this reason, security is paramount in education software. Education software tends not to tout security as one of its hallmarks, but that may change as more sensitive information is held in educational institutions’ applications.
Distraction – As technology in the classroom becomes ubiquitous, one of the major issues becomes the potential for distraction. Students armed with tablets and other internet-connected devices are easily distracted from focusing on subject material during class. The solution to this problem? Implementing classroom management software, which allows teachers to monitor and block students from using certain websites. Classroom management has become an integral tool allowing teachers to ensure that their students are on task.
Improper Implementation – While this is an issue in every sector, one of the most glaring potential issues for education software is improper software selection and implementation. Included in implementation is proper training for employees that will use the software, which is often overlooked by educational institutions who do not have enough dedicated IT staff. If the wrong software is selected or it is implemented incorrectly, and the institution and its employees have no idea how to take proper advantage of the features the application provides, then there will likely be issues down the road. The way to avoid these issues is by ensuring a rigorous vetting and selection process, proper implementation, and high-quality training available for employees that will be using the software.