Technology is playing a critical role in the dissemination of content and is turning the tide in the COVID-19 affected educational landscape
These are trying times for not just the education sector but also the entire human race. The unprecedented pandemic that hit the world towards the fag end of 2019 has altered all our lives and forced us to take drastic measures. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus within weeks across Europe, South Asia, Australia, West Asia, the US and India forced governments to take swift and decisive action to mitigate the impact of a full-blown pandemic and avoid its community transmission. Thus shutdowns became a startling reality and changed the course of action in the public sphere. In order to keep students safe and stem the spread of the Coronavirus among the young, schools and higher education institutions were shut down as a precautionary measure. This challenged the education sector and broadened the horizon of learning and teaching. It became a catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time. According to a recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the education of over 290 million students across 13 countries is expected to get interrupted because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Thankfully, technology is playing a critical role in the creation and dissemination of educational content and is turning the tide in the COVID-19 affected global educational landscape. Amid the unprecedented ongoing lockdowns, schools, colleges and universities across the world have started a bouquet of online offerings to continue coursework. Due to these online learning organisations, big or small, the impact on the education of students can be minimised globally and ensure that learning never stops. In fact, technology has the potential to completely alter the education sector even after COVID-19 is long gone.
In fact, in recent years, universities like Stanford, Yale and Oxford have been providing online courses accessible all over the world through platforms such as EdX, Coursera and Udemy. However, online education and educational technology (edutech) in India are still not a part of the mainstream education system. Hence, it is vital to introduce investments in this sector to integrate edutech with mainstream education, because a report by KPMG says that the Indian online education industry will grow from 1.6 million users in 2016 to a whopping 9.6 million users by 2021.
In a move in the right direction, the Central Government’s Department of Higher Education has undertaken the ‘National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology’ (ICT) to leverage the potential of ICT in providing information to learners free of cost.
Similarly the Amity Future Academy (AFA) has come up with solutions for both corporates as well as colleges and the edutech player is now running a “Free Learning Month” where one can get free access to all the programs designed by industry specialists in partnership with Ivy League universities like Harvard Business School Online for Product Management Program, Wharton Online for Digital Marketing Program and so on. Many edutech players are providing Industry 4.0 online courses in areas like Data Science, Blockchain Technology, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cyber Security, HR Analytics, Product Management and Fintech to help students improve their skill-sets and become prepared in disciplines that will shape the economy of tomorrow. Such offerings aim to plug the gap of learning experienced by institutions or working professionals amid the shutdowns caused by COVID-19. With a slew of institutions being present online and powered with courses in collaboration with foreign universities of repute, these educational solutions will bridge the gap in the education and corporate landscape being created by the global pandemic.
India Skills Report 2018 reflected that about 47 per cent of future jobs in India will be in the areas of Analytics, AI and Robotics. Educational institutions in India have embraced Education 4.0 and designed courses to rationalise the concept of knowledge for tomorrow. Such programmes aim to get the future leaders ready, making them contribute to the vision of seeing India as the knowledge superpower. From digital classrooms to collaborative learning, these programmes are offering a platform and exposure to students and industry professionals to skill-based learning. The need of the hour and of the future is to create programmes in collaboration with premier global institutions and industry experts and follow the concept of “to, by and for the industry” to create a workforce of tomorrow. Subject domains including Data Science, Business Analytics and Intelligence, Digital Marketing Strategies, ML and AI, Blockchain Technology and Management, Big Data Architecture, HR Management and Analytics, Cyber Security, Fundamentals of Python, Search Engine Optimisation, Deep Learning, Content Marketing, Ethereum, Basics of Java, Mobile App Marketing, Social media Marketing are needed to grow with the changing realm of education.
With education on the go becoming a new reality, subject domains like AI can make learning adaptive and personalised while Augmented Reality (AR) can help in contextual learning along with AI-aided chatbots that enhance the student’s learning experience. Messaging services like WhatsApp and popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are also being used for interactive and informal learning by education institutions. Online learning will certainly help the education sector tide over the current crisis and also prepare the next generation to become tech-enabled global citizens.
(The writer is Chairman, Amity Future Academy)