WeLearning: Ubiquitous, Diversified and Inclusive ——China Digital Learning Index Report 2019
Time: December 2019
The world we live in today is already a network-filled and digital world. With the explosion of massive information, knowledge is multiplying and changing at an accelerated pace, pushing mankind into the knowledge society in an all-round way. Traditional labor is being continuously replaced by intelligent machines; “knowledge” is becoming more and more necessary for all walks of life and all kinds of work; learning ability has become the core competitiveness of as small as an individual, as large as a country. However, today’s mainstream education as a whole still belongs to the industrial age. Centralized schools, subdivided disciplines and unified standards can efficiently cultivate the talents defined by the education system, but they are increasingly unable to keep up with the society of accelerated knowledge iteration.
The digital age needs to redefine “teaching” and “learning” with the help of technology. In recent years, it is obvious that the whole world is increasingly exploring educational reforms. Although different countries and regions have their own characteristics, they show two key commonalities. First, the perspective of “education” is increasingly shifting to “learning”. The subtitle of the World Bank’s development report released in 2018 is “LEARNING to Realize Education’s Promise”, with a special emphasis on the need for education to be learner-centered. The second is to pay special attention to the deep integration of technology and education. The “2019 Skills Outlook” released by the OECD advocates that countries better use technology as a means of learning. Making full use of digital technology to build a new “learner-centric” education system, so that everyone can continue to absorb and innovate knowledge, can be integrated into the digital society and achieve themselves, has become the core of current and future education changes.
The transformation path of digital learning is mainly reflected in three dimensions, the ubiquitous learning environment, the diversified learning of content and methods and the inclusive learning of subjects. Ubiquitization will break through the time and space limitations of the traditional “education system” and “school” and will use technology to build a perfect learning system in the society, so that learners can learn anytime, anywhere, and for life. In addition, the technology provides diverse and optional learning content and methods and develops personalized learning programs for learners, so that learners can obtain the best learning results. Inclusive learning will try its best to break through the limitations of education resources and the uneven distribution. With the help of technology, learning resources, especially high-quality learning resources, are widely available, so that everyone can get fair learning opportunities.
Thanks to the two waves of Internet and artificial intelligence, new types of educational institutions and forms are constantly emerging and developing in China. Technology companies are the backbone of the digital learning revolution, especially in the three key capabilities: connection, content and commonweal. First, extend ubiquitous learning with connection. Social networks such as WeChat, which have reached one billion users, are superimposed with low-threshold service on-line technologies such as “mini-programs”, which can quickly connect massive teaching elements and services and realize a ubiquitous learning environment. Second, enrich diversified learning with content. The Internet has accumulated rich resources and experience in digital content operations such as games, audiovisual and live broadcasts. Coupled with the ability to lead and iterate on new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the open platform ecological operation model, the Internet can be effectively applied to the rapid aggregation and innovation of diverse learning content to provide the most suitable learning model for different school segments and learning groups. Finally, promote inclusive learning with Commonweal. The “gap” between regions caused by uneven distribution of resources is a major challenge that modern education has always faced. The trans-spatial and temporal capabilities of the Internet, through corporate social responsibility to play the role of ” Tech for Social Good”, can effectively bridge the gap to a certain extent and promote new learning resource capabilities, thereby benefiting all people, especially remote, poor and handicapped groups.
Based on the three paths of digital learning revolution, the report further studies and constructs the digital learning index, which provides a big data visualization reference for understanding the development of digital learning in countries and regions. The specific indicators are: ubiquitous learning index, including the total number of WeChat public accounts related to education and learning, the main application installment of education and learning in the app store, and the number of monthly active users of the main application; the diversified learning index, including the number of online institutions in Tencent Classroom, the number of online courses, the number of classes, the length of classes, the amount of education and learning paid by WeChat, and the number of articles published by the WeChat education and learning public monthly group; the inclusive learning index, including the number of educational public welfare projects on the Tencent Charity Platform, the amount of donations and the number of donations.
Through the evaluation of the Digital Learning Index, the report analyzes the development of digital learning across the country, regions, provinces, and cities. It has the following core findings: 1) Digital learning is basically consistent with macroeconomic development, that is, at present, digital learning is still in an uneven regional development situation. The economically developed East China and South China are clearly leading, while the Northeast and Northwest are relatively backward; 2) Currently, digital learning in various cities shows a clear head effect, and the top 20% of cities account for 70% of the overall digital learning; 3) Digital learning is significantly positively related to the macro-environment, including economy, population, cultural activities, and Internet infrastructure; 4) Digital learning is positively related to individuals ’ability to pay, education, and digital literacy, but has nothing to do with basic reading and writing skills. Digital audiovisual video may lower the threshold for learning; 5) Digital learning is significantly positively related to educational investment, including public education expenditure, teaching equipment investment and education informatization construction.
As Tencent’s first panoramic report in the field of education and learning, our research is just the first step. In the face of a vast industry and complex changes, there are more trends and problems worth exploring in depth. In the future, we hope to work with more domestic and foreign industry experts to carry out further research on some of these important issues and contribute more to the healthy development of the education industry and the construction of the world’s “Social Good” model. Future research directions include 1) collaborative research on the Digital Learning Index, enriching data and improving the evaluation system; 2) research on talent and employment in the digital society, exploring future talent models; 3) research on the trend of innovative application of education technology and exploring digital learning functions and the direction of model innovation; 4) research on the ethical issues of education technology and exploring a reasonable solution mechanism for a series of issues such as data privacy and security in the education industry.