What is digital education?

Defining digital education

Digital education uses electronic tools to create, store and process content and information to enhance teaching and learning. It is the teacher’s role to choose the electronic equipment and devices that complement their teaching approach. The decision that a teacher makes on what digital tools to use to achieve what outcome is an essential part of moving towards integrating digital teaching in the classroom. The use of technology in digital education improves the quality of learning through access to digital media such as video clips, online tools (such as interactive assessments) and teacher-specific tools (such as analytics that track learners’ progress). Digital media also provides learners with opportunities to self-study and interact with ideas and topics in new and exciting ways.

digital education in the classroom using tablet devices
Digital learning in the classroom

Digital education is not a new phenomenon. For over 25 years, teachers have used technology to enhance the learning experience in their classrooms. There is a wealth of information and expertise on what works and how to use it. For example, teachers have used video content to show science experiments and documentaries on historical events, CD-Roms to provide interactive experiences, test banks to assist in the development of classroom assessment and audio CDs to assist with listening and pronunciation. More recently, this digital content has been made available through interactive whiteboards in classrooms. With the advent of the internet and the provision of online access, and the ever-increasing availability of affordable devices such as tablets, various digital education options are now available, and widespread adoption is expected in coming years.

Learners can interact with digital education tools at their own pace and use these tools in ways that respond to their learning styles. For learners exposed to various digital media applications (apps) in their day-to-day lives, digital education tools offer new ways to engage these 21st Century learners, for example, through educational strategies such as gamification or approaches such as mobile learning.

Synonyms for digital education include e-learning, online learning, mobile learning, EdTech, technology in the classroom and ICT-supported learning.

Digital education in an educational system

Digital education is a focus area for government educational departments/ministries. In addition, developers of various educational materials have prioritised developing high-quality digital education programs and content.

Prioritising digital education at a national level

Many government educational departments/ministries have prioritised digital education. Programmes for e-education have been implemented to transform teaching and learning by integrating information and communication technologies (ICTs).

These programmes aim to prepare and implement the system-wide use of ICTs for teaching, learning and administration, through objectives such as:

  • creating an education and training system to support ICT integration in education
  • ensuring teachers’ and managers’ confidence in the use of ICTs
  • building a competency framework for teachers’ integration of ICTs in teaching and learning
  • establishing an ICT presence in institutions for administrative, teaching and learning purposes
  • providing institutions with evaluated, approved digital content of high quality
  • connecting institutions so that they can access the internet and communicate electronically
  • ensuring community support of ICT facilities.
digital education in a computer lab at a school
A computer lab facilitating digital learning

Focus areas of programmes for e-education include:

  • Devices and connectivity: Schools provide devices and internet connectivity using partnerships between government and service providers.
  • Professional development: educational practitioners are trained by external service providers and relevant academic training bodies.
  • Digital content development and distribution: various broadcasting platforms with curriculum-compliant content are made available for use by teachers and learners.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: the relevant educational departments/ministries are provided with the capacity to monitor and evaluate ICTs integration nationally.

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