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Wow! 33% of COVID-19 Digital Learning Platforms Already Failed

By Wayan Vota on January 26, 2023

edutech failure covid19

Amid the global learning crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, technology-enabled remote learning became a lifeline for many children and young people. However, the large disparities between and within countries magnified the need for a reexamination of education technology systems to be more inclusive, equitable, engaging and learner-centered.

UNICEF Pulse Check on Digital Learning features the first-ever mapping of 471 national platforms in 184 countries and examines the current state of digital learning by focusing on five vitals required to achieve true digital transformation:

  1. The importance of ICT in Education policies and financing
  2. The value of availability and usability of digital learning platforms and content
  3. The key role of teachers and school leadership
  4. The need to build digital literacy across all groups
  5. The necessity of holistic learning opportunities within and beyond classrooms

The results of the study show promising trends across many countries, such as the development of digital platforms, reassessment of priorities, and innovative partnerships. But stagnation is putting the progress achieved during the past few years at risk of regression. The pandemic’s negative effects on education have been disproportionate in low- and lower- middle-income countries.

UNICEF found that:

  • One-third of nationally developed platforms have entirely shutdown, are outdated, or no longer fully functional, limiting learning approaches to help schoolchildren recover their education.
  • Although half the world’s population is still offline, over 70 per cent of platforms do not offer offline functionality. Just 49 per cent of platforms in high-income countries and 18 per cent of platforms in low-income countries can be run offline.
  • Majority of platforms, 67 per cent, do not provide engaging content despite interactivity being a central component of student-focused learning, with most offering only static content such as videos and PDFs of textbooks.
  • Only 22 per cent of digital learning platforms contain features to make them accessible to children with disabilities. Even among the few, the provisions are basic, such as closed captions for videos.
  • Critically, 85 per cent of platforms were mobile-friendly, the most commonly available modality for digital learning in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Most digital learning platforms (84%) offered features using all of a country’s national languages.

These results speak to the need for a broader transformative approach to education to avoid replicating outdated and obsolete models of teaching and learning, even with the use of technologies. Persistent and deeply rooted issues require immediate attention and consolidated efforts through targeted and innovative reforms and human-centered technologies, as well as coherence among all stakeholders.

The resultant healthy and revitalized education systems and overall empowering environments can support the children and youth of today to become the change agents of tomorrow.

A lightly edited version of UNICEF Pulse Check on Digital Learning

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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