If you’re a parent, or just spend time around kids, you know that sometimes the answers our children seek for their homework are a little more complex than a patient parent or an inexact Google search can accommodate. Sometimes there’s a deeper context tied to a child’s ongoing school work that needs to be considered before the question is even properly understood.
However, there is a way to harness both the depth and breadth of the internet, and the intuitive understanding of a human mentor, to create an automated online homework assistant.
It starts by capitalizing on the rise of online education tools; in other words, the games and learning modules that let a child proceed through their school work at their own pace.
And it ends with incorporating the video calling on-demand services that have revolutionized the way companies interact with their customers online. Combining the two gives young students someone to turn to outside school hours who understands precisely what they’re having trouble with, and knows how to help.
Education Meets Customer Service
What we’re talking about is an educational version of the instant online video support pioneered by technology like Amazon’s Mayday service (though that service no longer includes video chat, just screensharing) and Turbo Tax’s Smartlook feature. While neither version of those company’s live support networks is video conferencing, precisely (only the help desk personnel is presented in full visage and the customer is kept physically anonymous), they do provide immediate answers and guided help to find a solution.
In both cases, customers access online support by activating links embedded into the actual product they’re using. There’s no 1-800 helpline, no clumsy email to navigate. It’s just a quick click or tap and human help is on hand.
This same technology and convenience can easily be adopted into the range of online homework and educational assistance software packages currently in use by U.S. schools.
Companies such as Los Angeles’ Knowledge Adventure produce standalone and curriculum-dependent games and courses that cover broad areas like literacy and numeracy, and specialty subjects like health or driver education. The programs are designed to increase in complexity as the student grows, and are in some cases tied directly to what is being taught in class.
These are the platforms that can be enhanced to provide immediate online support–and schools are primed for an online evolution.
75% of U.S. Students Have High-Speed Internet at School
Schools have been quick to adopt online resources. More than 75% of students in the U.S. attend a school that is connected to high-speed broadband, and 26 states have high-speed access within more than 90% of their schools. There are even five states with 100% high-speed connectivity. Those percentages have risen dramatically in recent years as the cost of broadband has decreased within range of most school budgets.
Even more encouragingly, more than 30% of schools in the U.S. currently have video conferencing technology. While our educational customer support concept requires video calling be made available outside school hours, the more exposure students get to the technology, the greater their comfort will be in using it at home.
All this connectivity means most schools are in a position to take advantage of an evolved form of online educational support.
Within this digitally-empowered school system it’s a no-brainer to add the immediacy of video conferencing. A student’s homework would involve using remote learning modules tied to the week’s classroom themes.
As they worked, they’d encounter regular help points–embedded links where they could reach out to qualified teachers whenever they get a little muddled on a concept.
To limit the cost of employing these teachers, the student could first try their question on an interactive chatbot. Chatbots are essentially search engines covered with the veneer of an animated talking avatar. If the chatbot’s automated response didn’t do the trick, the student could take things to the next level and connect with a real person.
Handling these calls offers an extra revenue stream for online tutors and substitute teachers, all vetted for security in the same way in class teachers get their qualifications to work with kids.
The teacher, well-versed in the particular program, could take students through a thorough rehash of the core concepts and listen to any specific concerns, question, or confusion.
Schools have been at the forefront of filtering unwanted sites and strangers online since the introduction of the Children’s Internet Protection Act in 1999, so they’re well equipped to handle any safety concerns.
In turn, the student is left with a conversational approach to problem-solving, and doesn’t get stuck on a single issue or forced to forge on without proper understanding.
To really push the envelope on online learning the system could be incorporated into the new wave of flipped classrooms. This emerging teaching method lets students undertake the majority of their studies online at home, before returning to the classroom for more in-depth assistance from their teacher.
It sounds like a dramatic shift, especially for younger students, but the digital age is going to offer more and more educational possibilities just like this in the very near future–the only question is, when will we take advantage of them?
Image Source: Flickr CC User Amelia Wells