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How online learning is creating independence in learners

Educational technology is transforming teaching and learning: we explore the concept of personalised learning and what this means for students.

Online learning possibilities delivered through today’s combination of computers, software and teaching practice (often referred to as educational technology, or EdTech) is taking online tutoring to new heights. Specifically, the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in adjusting learning material according to a specific student’s needs is revolutionary. Together, such digital learning has the capacity to create a new generation of independent learners, empowering students to take ownership of their learning.

Personalised learning is determining the types of resources and information being made available to children. For example, students benefit from a library of teacher-created learning materials tailored to individual students’ strengths, weaknesses and behaviours. They can access a personal dashboard and see how far they’ve come, what their strengths are, which topics have a little bit of room for improvement and where knowledge gaps might be filled. AI-driven tools work to adapt and deliver learning material according to each student’s learning journey.

Access to a wide range of multi-media study materials, from video to audio to text, enable paced instruction (students having the ability to pause and rewind) meaning that students can stretch themselves. They can revisit the material at their own speed and they can review the learning material when they get back home. Digital ink allows teachers to emphasise key points or mark up diagrams or assignments on-screen ‘in the moment’. Such interaction contrasts with traditional tutoring environments where children would often be learning at the tutor’s pace through limited means of instruction.

The same personalised learning is also steering how educators provide feedback with AI-generated analytics giving insight on student performance. These analytics enable teachers to make better informed decisions because data is collected in a more measurable way. AI brings an agility to teaching by allowing teachers to adapt mid-lesson to whatever they and their student/s need to focus upon. It offers the possibility of creating different learning opportunities for different students, depending on what they are experiencing at that time.

Nonetheless, the value of online tutoring extend beyond impressive AI software. Resources can be shared in an organised and coherent way, lessons are more interactive especially where digital media is used, and ‘chat’ functionality means that any web links or tutor/student comments are immediately accessible and stored for easy future reference. Digital learning makes all of this possible, whilst helping to build those essential skills of self-awareness, listening, collaboration and presentation which are so valuable throughout life.

Such digital infrastructure is transforming learning. It is changing how educators prepare and deliver the curriculum whilst enabling students to develop their digital and interpersonal skills. Crucially, online tutoring serves to enhance students’ adaptability and decision making, reflecting real-life scenarios and preparing them not just for a far improved experience inside the classroom, but also for life beyond the classroom.

Developing independent learning in young people so that they can monitor self-progress – know where they are, where they want to go, and reflect on how far they’ve come – are critical skills for young people to develop as they prepare for their future.

Sabrina Espasandin and Andy Perryer are Digital Learning Advisors for Cognita Schools