Universities and schools need to invent new ways of teaching and learning that can create a lucrative environment for the students, says Nitish Jain
For all those who believe ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, remember Kodak? The world’s biggest film company that went bankrupt in spite of developing the world’s first digital camera Mavica? And, at the other end of the spectrum, you have Adobe, a company that put its most successful product — Photoshop — on the cloud, moving from a product-based revenue model to a subscription —based one. Innovation is risky. Yes. But choosing to stay complacent is an even bigger risk.
When it comes to innovation, disruption and transformation, it is a sad but true fact that education is usually the last to catch up. Let me ask you — does a 400-year-old university system make sense in a world that is constantly being disrupted by technology? When the purpose of education itself is to produce change agents and leaders of tomorrow, how can our universities continue to adopt an ostrich-like mentality, continuing to pretend that conformity is better than change? Can’t technology be tasked with making education more engaging, personalised and cost-effective?
If the purpose of education is to provide talent for the jobs of tomorrow, it begs the question — what sort of talent do new-age companies need? The ones who have all the answers or the ones who would ask the right questions. Professor Google already has all the answers, so in reality, all they need are people to ask the right questions. And, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. Ask the wrong question and get the wrong answer. Students need to be able to critically analyse issues with ingenuity and creativity. Only then can they discover what the right question to ask is.
This gets us to the interesting question — so what really needs to change in education? The game has shifted from knowledge to skills. Passive learning is passé. Universities and schools need to pioneer new ways of teaching and learning that can create a lucrative environment for the students. Students should come to class every day prepared to practice and sharpen their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In-class assessments test their 21st-century skills; skills most sought by new-age companies. The traditional lecture-driven learning systems that most universities continue to use are now becoming redundant.
Change is being led by small product companies, not full-service universities. EdTech companies have introduced a lot of interesting tools to that end. Kahoot, for instance, enables the professor to ask questions to which all students reply using a tablet. This gets the full classroom to think critically versus a conventional system where a professor asks and only one student speaks. Coupled with gamification, it makes learning more fun and highly engaging.
Newsela is another app that seeks to help those with reading difficulties. Class Dojo provides teachers with a platform to track student behaviour and assign positive and negative remarks. Furthermore, professors can send instant messages to specific parents and share photos from the class. Students can choose their own avatar.
Schools are using some of the most cutting-edge emerging technologies today that replicate a real classroom-like experience at the homes and workspaces for students. This is particularly useful for working adults who need to sharpen their skills but don’t have the time to go to a physical campus.
These are examples of just a few EdTech products that could be used by schools and universities looking to create a 360-degree shift in the learning experience. There is a growing divergence between the right talent and obsolete talent. Universities who are quick to adapt would be the winners in the 21st century.
The writer is President, SP Jain School of Global Management