E-learning experts gather in Dubai to discuss efficacy of digital learning innovations
Educational experts from around the globe have gathered in Dubai to attend the Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University Congress, held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and President of HBMeU. The congress brings together three different conferences in the fields of healthcare, quality and education.
This year’s education conference was the sixth conference on e-learning excellence in the Middle East, with the theme of 'leadership, design and technology for 21st century learning'.
Furthering excellence in digital education is of special importance to the UAE and its neighbours, as governments in the region pour unprecedented funding into 'smart technology' for classrooms and lecture halls. Through projects such as the Federal Mobile Learning Initiative, the UAE has been at the forefront e-learning uptake in schools and universities.
Speaking at the conference, Senior Vice President at Pearson Katelyn Donnelly emphasised the need for evaluating the capacity of e-learning tools to create measurable improvements to the learning outcomes of students in the region. Donnelly, who also works as a consultant to governments on education system transformation and delivery, led a session around the findings of a recent publication she co-authored entitled, 'Alive in the Swamp: Assessing Digital Innovations in Education'.
The report identifies the gaps that exist in learning technology innovation and makes recommendations for what still needs to be achieved if technology is actually going to transform the learning experiences of individuals for the better. The authors of the report believe that the industry should be striving to create digital learning tools that produce at least twice the learning outcomes for half the cost of currently available tools.
Ms Donnelly says that the report contains an index that will allow for the systematic evaluation of new digital innovations and should help policymakers and educators when deciding which digital innovations to invest in, as well as guiding developers in designing new e-learning tools:
'We are in a period of unprecedented digital innovation – we have designed the Index to add clarity in a market constantly being flooded by new options. By making the Index simple and easy to use we believe that it will drive an improvement in digital learning products and an improvement in the way those products and services are employed in classrooms. We hope that the Index encourages entrepreneurs in this field make their products more efficacious and more impactful on the entire education system.'
Donnelly is well-placed to offer advice to educational stakeholders struggling to come to grips with the e-learning revolution. A pioneer in the e-learning field, she is well-known internationally for her work across the education sector. Forbes Magazine recently ranked Donnelly on its '30 Under 30' list for education – a list identifying people under the age of 30 who are changing the world through their chosen field. As well as leading Pearson's US$15 million emerging market venture fund, Donnelly also heads up the Affordable Learning Fund, a venture fund that invests in early-stage companies serving low-cost schools and services to educational institutions and learners in the developing world and seeks market-competitive returns. Donnelly also sits on the board of the Omega School Chain in Ghana, which is now responsible for educating 20,000 children.
Donnelly says that the 'Alive in the Swamp' findings hold pertinence for the Middle East, where the digital transformation taking place in the education sector is occurring at a particularly rapid pace:
'The digital learning revolution has taken off at such speed that often we are tempted to embrace technology for technology’s sake – without actually questioning the value of the technology, and whether it can make a meaningful improvement to the way we teach and learn. We hope the Alive in the Swamp findings encourage teachers to use products and services that have the most advantageous gains for their learners, and lead to a substantial improvement in learning indicators across the education system, in this region, and right around the world.'