Through speed and agility, the power is in brands’ hands to transform education

Vinne Schifferstein
By Vinne Schifferstein | 1 February 2021
Vinne Schifferstein

Vinne Schifferstein is managing director, MediaMonks Australia

Through its Great Reset initiative, the World Economic Forum rightly states that we have a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery from the pandemic and improve the state of the world. There are plenty of areas of improvement: healthcare, equality, turning around climate change, just to name a few. I believe education is the core of each of these elements. Making sure every single one of us around the world has access to good education is essential to drive any change and solve many of the challenges the world faces.

I’m aware that this is stating the obvious, but the facts show that we haven’t gotten it right yet. The recent news that students in NSW have fallen behind by three to four months while homeschooling in the COVID-19 lockdown has shown us all that education must transform. The pandemic has accelerated the transformation the educational system has needed for years.

Many education technology startups have been working their way into the education system to enable teachers, school management and students. While this has obviously helped with the swift transition that was needed for homeschooling, sadly the impact of these innovations is still fairly insignificant—the educational system has been dragging its feet, particularly for the more vulnerable students among us.

Innovation is Key to Reaching Students Today
Education hasn’t changed much since you and I went to school. So when teaching had to move out of the classroom and into the world of distant learning all of a sudden, schools, teachers, parents and students all scrambled to get it to work (sort of). We have all learned the hard way how difficult homeschooling is, and therefore how incredibly valuable teachers are.

But the way younger generations consume experiences, including learning experiences, are different compared to ours. They’re growing up swiping and are used to seeing parents stare at their phones 24/7. How can we expect them to sit in a classroom day in and out listening to a teacher, struggling to use a counter-intuitive interactive whiteboard?

Not to mention that university students won’t go back to the classrooms the way they did before the pandemic hit. Maybe it’s time for universities to consider swapping their expensive premises for top class digital experiences? Universities who embrace innovation, like the tentpole case study of Arizona State University, fare well in general and hold up in the current environment. Closer to home, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are both admirable for their many innovative projects and initiatives. Education needs to create what the youth wants and needs to elevate learning outcomes for all students.

Rely on Agility and Resilience to Understand Students’ Needs
Marketers are trained to truly understand their audiences and can help lay out what makes Gen Z and Alpha tick: how to reach, engage and capture their attention through gathering insights and acting on them. The company I work for, MediaMonks, has collaborated with the likes of UNSW, Flinders, and UQ for many years to help them virtualise education in ways that make learning more intuitive and effective for students. Agility is a tenet to our (and our clients’) succes, which gives us the ability to test and learn fast and adjust to meet the youth’s ever changing needs.

As an example, we have helped Education First recruit new students globally by offering a virtual tour around EF’s campuses in New York, London and Cambridge. We’ve also produced one of the most innovative education concepts to have ever been produced on planet Earth, SpaceBuzz. Presented by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, the programme revolves around a 15-minute VR experience that launches a classroom into orbit for a trip around the Earth. Through the VR spaceflight, children are able to experience the “Overview Effect” that changes your perspective of Earth forever. The spaceflight happens inside a 12-metre long spacecraft, complete with moving seats that are synchronized with the VR experience. The experience represents the epic climax of an integrated education programme that takes place in the classroom.

Transformation is difficult—especially for large organisations with many stakeholders like educational institutions. But it's so incredibly necessary if we don't want kids to fall through the cracks. Therefore, let educators and marketers join forces and create what the youth wants and needs together. Only by engaging with them can we truly educate them.