A well-crafted solution can reduce the cost of learning substantially and also help to overcome problem of faculty shortage, says Dr Debasis Sanyal
The education ecosystem has been going through major transformation for quite some time. Virtual education platforms have been making good inroads. It’s not only complementing and supplementing classroom teaching, it independently has become an important platform for synchronise and asynchronies learning across wide range of users, from primary to higher education and training. This transformation is primarily due to (a) experimentation in virtual learning space and (b) change in demographic profile.
After 2007-08, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) became popular and many thought MOOCS will replace physical class room learning to a great extent. That did not happen though many of these courses have extremely rich content. The failure of MOOCs courses to maintain connect and excitement with the users over a sustained period have being held as the primary reasons behind the limited success.
Most students, after going through some initial modules, lost interest. Further users were less committed as it was free to those who did not opt for certificate or degree.
Things have changed with advent of AI, ML and other exponential technology. Continued experimentations in recent years have made learning using virtual platform more interactive, simple, flexible, easy to comprehend and cost effective. Disregarding age the asynchronies learning modes have become very popular, from primary to higher education and training. As these modes also helps self-learners in problem solving and creative solutions, people are less dependent on physical sessions. Many short term physical training needs have thus reduced.
The new generations, Y and beyond, are much more technology savvy and also very independent in their thinking and behaviour. They demand more flexibility. Virtual learning platforms, specially asynchronies mode fits well to their behavioural framework.
These platforms, supported by AI, ML and other emerging technology helps users to get answer to their quarries instantly. It allows users to go back and forth while they are learning, providing both fast and slow learners the much needed flexibility.
Education institutions by and large are involved in three things; transfer of knowledge, peer to peer learning, and teacher-student one to one knowledge transfer.
A significant part of ‘transfer of knowledge’ aspect will move to digital platform, specially in higher education. In primary and tertiary too synchronise and asynchronies learning will keep becoming more popular as it provides the much needed flexibly. It fits perfectly to the desire of the new generation to learn ‘at any time’ and ‘at one own pace’. Popularity of BYJU, Unacademy are cases in point.
However, peer to peer learning, which significantly contributes towards enhancing soft skills (team spirit, conflict resolution, leadership skills, etc.) will require physical contact. ‘One to one interaction’ between faculty and student, that helps in creative solutions and research outcome, will also need physical connect, though some part will take place online.
NEP 2020 envisage growth from 26 per cent to 50 per cent in Gross Enrolment Ratio(GER) in higher education. India have around 40,000 "brick-and-mortar" institution imparting undergraduate education. To double GER, a very layman calculation suggests establishing 40000 more undergraduate institutions! One may argue, that we could encourage existing institutions to expand, but would that extend our reach to every remote place across the country!
Land, faculty, finance and other resources to build required infrastructure, is fraught with challenges. India must use digital technologies to completely revolutionise traditional education content and delivery process. Going forward, we have to implement tech driven learning environment. Meaningful, innovative hybrid learning solutions of learning is what students will look forward.
For better learning and research, institutions will surely thrive to explore meaningful blend of digital and physical learning synergy. A well crafted hybrid- solution can reduce the cost of learning substantially and also help to overcome the problem of faculty shortage. Policy makers and institutions will see the merit of reducing, say engineering programme, from four years of physical contact sessions to three years by allowing students to complete the theoretical core courses online thereby reducing cost of imparting education. Many experimentation is already happening. We will experience more creative solution coming up. These solutions will go a long way in bringing into the learning ambit several more deprived students and at a much lower cost.
COVID acted as catalyst. It forced everyone to switch from physical classroom teaching to online teaching overnight. Reluctant students and teachers switched to virtual platform, quickly adopted and started appreciating certain values of online teaching and learning.
Thus, post-COVID will surely see a hybrid environment of coexistence of physical and virtual teaching learning platforms, reinforcing one another, to provide quality education and making learning more enjoyable. Thus traditional universities will have to transform into new kinds of entities, optimise their existing operations in a search to increased capability to impart quality education also and to achieve NEP target.
The writer is Director, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurugram