How competency-based learning powered by edtech helps close learning gaps

Graham Glass, CEO at Cypher Learning, talks about finding the best solutions to help pupils thrive

The pandemic has drastically changed teaching and learning all over the world. As schools had to deal with so many challenges almost overnight, they didn’t have time to look for the best approaches and solutions. It was a matter of survival for many of them.

Consequently, saying that learning gaps are a significant problem is an understatement. For example, at the end of the first half of the 2021/2022 autumn term, primary school students were 0.8 months behind in reading and 1.9 months behind in maths, on average. And, not to mention that schools are still facing uncertainty about potential variants that could disrupt face-to-face learning.

Taking all of this into account, the most reliable course of action is being better prepared for any situation. It also means choosing the right solutions to help students thrive (not just keep up with their learning).

Closing learning gaps at scale

Edtech has a wide variety of applications and it’s also perfect for hybrid and face-to-face learning. Moreover, edtech helps teachers close learning gaps through competency-based learning, an approach through which pupils demonstrate that they have learned the necessary skills and knowledge included in the curriculum. In this way, identifying and taking action to address learning gaps is more accessible than ever.

… edtech doesn’t allow students to move on to a more complex lesson if they don’t demonstrate mastery of a subject in a less difficult one


Here are the main ways in which educators use edtech to close learning gaps and offer much-needed support to their pupils:

Identifies learning gaps

Generally speaking, it’s a challenge for teachers to understand where students are in their learning journey. Educators need assistance, especially as they don’t have the time to work individually with each pupil.

Here comes edtech, which helps teachers identify learning gaps. Take, for example, a learning platform where teachers add their lessons and assignments. They can also associate each lesson with a specific competency, such as ‘identifies the three states of water’. Then, each student goes through the reading at home or with the whole class, does their homework, and takes a quiz related to the relevant competency.

Finally, the platform will show teachers how well each student understood each competency. Teachers can see their students’ progress and know exactly where students get stuck, which is the process of identifying learning gaps.

Allows teachers to intervene immediately

Once learning gaps are identified, there are many ways in which edtech can help. Normally, whenever a teacher is in front of the class and notices a learning gap, they might try to explain something one more time or assign more reading material. This is all great, but how well can teachers do that for a class of more than 20 pupils?

Instead of waiting for an opportunity to detect learning gaps, edtech platforms instantly let teachers know it’s time to intervene. For example, an educator might notice that a student has performed poorly on their online homework assignment. Subsequently, they can assign more materials to read or have a face-to-face discussion with the pupil.

Most importantly, edtech doesn’t allow students to move on to a more complex lesson if they don’t demonstrate mastery of a subject in a less difficult one. This is important since learning happens in a sequence, and learning gaps widen if students jump from skill to skill without mastering the basics first.

Offers automatic support for closing learning gaps

As mentioned above, teachers can intervene by having a one-on-one discussion with a student. However, given the average classroom size, they might not have the time to do this before moving on to the next lesson.

So, instead of more manual work for teachers, edtech makes it easy by bringing in automated actions that aim to close learning gaps. For example:

  • Recommending resources directly to the student to fill a learning gap as soon as it detects one. The student can watch a tutorial on how to solve a maths problem or how to use a grammar rule
  • Sending resources to students who have exceeded expectations, rewarding them with slightly more challenging content to develop their self-efficacy skills. Since student progress isn’t a linear path – they might perform excellently in some areas and not so well in others – it’s good to encourage great results and challenge them to do slightly more each time
  • Adding students to an online study group where classmates help each other catch up.

These are just a few examples of what edtech can do to close learning gaps automatically. Of course, after each recommendation, the student can retake a quiz or redo an essay, so teachers can make sure that they’ve mastered the relevant competency.

Instead of waiting for an opportunity to detect learning gaps, edtech platforms instantly let teachers know it’s time to intervene


Helps teachers dedicate more time and attention to their pupils

So far, we’ve seen how edtech can identify learning gaps, let teachers know when to intervene, and even recommend learning resources to students. However, there is more to the story; edtech helps teachers personalise learning and takes care of tedious administrative tasks so they can dedicate more time to students.

For instance, auto-graded quizzes immediately show students their results. Edtech also centralises student grades into a classroom grade book that is easy to use and modify. It also gives teachers the ability to reuse lessons for multiple classes, automatically enrol students in classes and remind students to submit their assignments, among other actions. Of course, automatic learning recommendations in classes, videos, ebooks, etc, are also a great way to save time, since students become more independent and use the classroom time for deep learning.

Competency-based learning powered by edtech

Edtech is the best assistant for teachers. When combined with a great approach, such as competency-based learning, it helps teachers zero in on the results they want students to have and the issues they need to solve. Consequently, teachers have more opportunities to fill learning gaps, but also offer more of their attention and time to students.

Graham is the CEO of Cypher Learning, a company specialising in providing e-learning platforms for organisations around the world.

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