Supporting e-learning with robust hardware
Acer’s country manager for MEA, Paul Collins discusses the need for developing robust products that can support educational institutions’ remote learning initiatives
The education sector has been tapping into the digital revolution for quite some time now, experiencing a significant push towards a more mobile-centric classroom. Understandably, education technology (EduTech) has become an integral part of curriculum mapping, classroom instruction and assessment.
The technology and resources utilised by the education sector are in different stages of development across the globe. The recent pandemic has altered this focus towards some necessities such as robust products, speed, battery life, security, privacy and connectivity. Consequently, the educational sector is stressing on developing remote learning capabilities, which has fuelled the need for comprehensive solutions.
Acer has developed its products in line with the requirements of the ‘connected student’. These products are a result of rigorous research and focus on solutions that drive collaboration, ease of communication and interest of learners.
Paul Collins, country manager for the Middle East and Africa, Acer explained that ‘always available’ products are increasing in demand as students rely on mobile devices both within school premises and for distance education. “Basic specifications of the devices that today’s learners use include Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, good battery life and military specifications for ruggedness. Acer’s portfolio for the education sector are certified for all such specifications so that young learners can focus on learning,” he added.
Acer is also working to expand its capacity to deliver solutions by developing key partnerships across the region. “Our network of resellers and Education Solution Centres, as well as innovative schools, can assist in bringing the latest available solutions to a broader student audience. We are currently working to provide a number of our devices to multiple education solution centres and schools across the Gulf region,” he added.
Role of emerging technologies
Artificial intelligence is being implemented in nearly every industry and is transforming the education industry like any other. “The latest developments in the educational technology arena are around conversational AI platforms. These systems help educators in addressing issues with student understanding, well before they manifest. Besides, the first signs of BioTech assisting learning with applications such as facial recognition indicating mood, engagement and boredom levels are inspiring as well,” explained Collins.
Furthermore, advances in design and thinking techniques have resulted in necessary yet straightforward adaptations to technology that few would have previously considered. For example, the lower case keyboards in devices have assisted with early learning of the alphabet, and the stylus pens with multi-touch sensitivities have enhanced writing capability (and drawing ability for older students).
“Such capabilities are available in most Acer convertibles laptops. Moreover, we have customised our devices for the education sector to enhance the pedagogical experience rather than inhibit it, as with the Acer Spin series convertibles. These devices allow the educators the flexibility to walk around the classroom while efficiently delivering lessons,” he explained.
Acer’s product range is also compatible with a wide range of tools and apps, such as G-Suite, Teams, Skooler and Minecraft. “The growth in edutainment products will define the classroom of the future, where collaboration and teamwork will drive educational outcomes rather than notes and assessments. Acer’s strategy is to design devices that appeal to this demographic and genuinely engage their interest. This strategy is directed at gaining the interest of the learner before trying to educate them,” said Collins.
The biggest challenge faced by technology companies is the natural resistance in changing from a ‘chalk and board’ approach to a more technology-centric approach, added Collins. However, this has presented opportunities for training and change management companies to come up with innovative solutions.
The advent of Covid-19 has elevated distance learning to the top of the agenda, sometimes at the expense of other initiatives. Technologies such as augmented reality, 3D printing and the gamification of education, which were gaining significant momentum in a pre-pandemic era, will now be applied to the optimisation of the virtual learning process. “This trend will dominate the foreseeable future as connectivity, home learning pods, security and privacy take priority. These factors must be addressed before any new initiatives such as collaborative learning or e-sports can be considered.”
Collins added that an immediate priority is to revisit the virtual classroom to fix the practical problems and enable a seamless e-learning experience for teachers and students. For the next six to twelve months, this will be Acer’s main focus.
“EduTech is starting to mature, and recent events have realigned the industry on what is important. Security, privacy, cyberbullying and isolation will be challenges and by-products of the remote institute. However, as an industry, I am sure we will resolve these in time,” he concluded.