The coronavirus pandemic reshaped the education industry in 2020, forcing 1.6 billion students and teachers online. Across the spectrum of learning, we are seeing unprecedented acceleration in adoption of online learning models and virtual environments. Commercial education providers have also accelerated the industry-wide digital transformation, with brick-and-mortar learning centers pivoting to offer online courses and others further enriching and investing in their existing online offerings.
In fact, many EdTech companies realized years of growth in merely months – some even weeks – from the influx of online users. With its flexibility and convenience, online learning is more than likely here to stay to complement in-person learning as it removes many constraints and brings numerous benefits. Among the many benefits of this new hybrid reality is for students and educators not being bound by location or a specific schedule, with students having gained a level of control over their own pace of learning since they can access quality content anywhere, at any time.
Building Real-Time, Scalable, and Customizable EdTech Platforms
Today, learners want to interact with tutors in real-time over audio and video and on a device of their choice, they want to access lessons over interactive, live streams from any part of the world, and also communicate over messages in real-time. But creating more human-to-human connections in real-time is complicated. There are many technical issues to solve like delivering smooth video, supporting scale, cancelling background noise, supporting more concurrent users and more complex use-cases.
One company, however, is enabling a wide range of uses cases to deliver real-time communications. As a RTE Communications-Platform-as-a- Service (RTE CPaaS) provider, Agora recognized early that to serve both students and educators, offering the building blocks for EdTech companies to embed high-quality audio/ video calls, real-time messaging, recording and live streaming into their applications, was imperative.
That is because EdTech require customizable solutions for their online learning platforms to cater to the unique demands of their students while keeping their own branding, According to Agora Vice President of Solutions and Technology, Yaniv Elmadawi. “What we have created is a flexible and customizable suite of education products, that eliminates the need for a one-size-fits-all video conferencing solutions,” said Yativ. “For example, we recently launched Flexible Classroom, a first of a kind low-code solution for a full-featured, virtual classroom platform. What this does is it accelerates development time, shortening time to market while offering a robust set of tools and features that will make online classrooms more engaging and easier to manage.”
Accelerating Learning, Teaching and Innovation
There is also accelerated adoption of hybrid learning, flipped classrooms, and dual-teacher modes, which offer enhanced learning experiences. All these innovations and optimizations will continue to improve online learning outcomes and exponentially increase student engagement.
Today, with these simple-to-use SDKs and APIs, Agora is providing any EdTech company the ability to easily customize their online learning platforms regardless of development capabilities.
The differences between video conferencing and real-time engagement are staggering. While traditional educational video conferencing solutions providers offer limited one-to-one engagements (teachers talk at students and provide moments for return conversation), customized online learning platforms provide collaborative features, such as a fully interactive whiteboard, breakout rooms, and various classroom management tools.
From Customization to Scalability: The Many Challenges in Delivering Truely Real-Time Experiences
Compared to video conferencing solutions that are often not tailored to education, institutions today require a flexibility that allows companies to fully customize and brand their online learning platforms.
“With full control over the look and feel of their application, online learning platforms can build solutions that capture the demands of students in specific age groups, learning specific subjects, and in specific class settings,” said Yativ.
Of course, while being customizable is the new imperative, he added, online learning would be stagnant without the ability to scale.
It is here that RTE CPaaS) company Agora is providing an extra wrinkle in real-time engagement that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
That’s because Agora’s Real- Time Network (SD-RTN) handles real-time data transmission with over 200 points of presence across the world. It can support a large number of concurrent users. It powers an average of over 50 billion minutes of human connection every month.
According to Yativ, Agora supports live streaming to up to one million students while giving educators the tools they need to seamlessly accommodate large class sizes.
“The SD-RTN provides a seamless user experience for both educators and students,” said Yativ. “It is capable of monitoring and optimizing data transmission paths on a continuous basis, in real-time. Thus it can help minimize latency and packet loss while enabling high-quality, real-time engagement across millions of concurrent users. Students and educators can stay engaged for longer periods reliably.”
Additionally, said Yativ, Agora enhances data privacy and security by not accessing nor storing any personally identifiable data.
Preply Improves Success Rate of Lessons by up to 18% with Agora
Preply is a machine learning-based online language learning marketplace connecting a global network of tens of thousands of students and over 40,000 tutors in over 185 countries. The online educator facilitates interactions with a split-screen, where tutors and students’ videos are featured on one side and lesson materials on the other.
Video and audio quality are extremely important to Preply’s revenue, retention, and overall customer success. Preply chose Agora for its real-time engagement platform as it offered the highest quality audio and video experience for students and tutors.
“Agora is essential to helping Preply improve our most important metric for online learning — lesson success rate,” said Illia Kazachkovskyi, Engineering Manager, Preply.
That is because Agora’s platform helped Preply to improve the quality of its video lessons — proven by customers’ usage metrics, and thus improve the success rate of each lesson by up to 18%. Preply also offers an audio-only mode for customers, who have limited network capability and is also implementing a new virtual whiteboard feature that will allow students and tutors to draw in the same area.
In the Very Near Future: An Educational Outlook
As more and more students continue to strive through flexible online classroom learning, there will be increased adoptions of different hybrid approaches to learning. Moreover, with 5G technologies maturing and increased device access for students, the education industry will embrace a more established and robust infrastructure that supports online learning and real-time engagement.
In 2021, Agora released Flexible Classroom, a low-code solution for developers to build online classrooms in minutes, and Interactive Whiteboard, with a complete set of collaboration tools, support of interactive media and courseware, and document conversion.
“We are democratizing online education, as we accommodate students with legacy devices and in regions with poor network infrastructure,” said Yativ. “As we continue to innovate with cutting-edge technologies and support the evolving needs of our educators and students around the world, Agora will continue to power the next generation of RTE applications making it possible for entrepreneurs to think less about how to build it and think more about what is next.”