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Education in 2020 – The end of the classroom?

The coming decade will witness phenomenal change and disruption in the field of higher education. As academicians, while our focus has been intense on the quality and delivery aspects of education, I feel it is technology that will be the great disruptor of how we teach and measure the outcomes of that teaching. One clear area of evolution I see for schools will be a shift of focus from ‘marks based’ academic curriculum to ‘life based’ overall development. Institutions may talk a lot about it these days but do very little – however, this will change gradually but surely.
Focusing on life-skills and overall development starts with an admissions process that places value on the students non-academic qualities rather than just on their grades. In the coming years, I envision that ITM will start enrolling students through a thorough assessment of their personalities and soft skills.

At present, there is a large gap between what students study and what the industry and the world require from them. We are on the verge of collapsing the wall that exisits between academia and industry. Industry must engage institutions at the very root stages and drive the development of curricula, teaching methodologies and applied learning experiences. Especially in STEM (Science, Technology, and Engineering & Mathematics) fields, I find that the curriculum and teaching methods are archaic, considering the pace of change in these disciplines.

ITM-Group has taken the first big steps towards industry driven programs by partnering with global leaders in technology such as Larsen & Toubro and Siemens to co-develop engineering programs that integrate current industry knowledge requirements with direct hands-on experience through traineeships. The first of these programs will be launched in 2015 at ITM Vocational University, Vadodara.

The venerable MBA program is also being shaken at its foundations. World over, institutions and students are beginning to question the ROI of the MBA and casting doubt on its viability. MBA programs are ideal ground for industry collaboration, and while there are many examples of such collaborations, the majority of MBA programs continue to teach outdated curriculum and antiquated theories. ITM Business Schools, in 2012, launched a reboot of their PGDM (MBA) programs, bringing in 5 month long internships, intense soft skills and communications teaching and modernised courses.

Technology is attacking the classroom

When kindergarten teachers are clicking through videos and interactive games and college students are turning in their assignments online, you know that technology has pervaded every aspect of education. By 2020, even in India, I expect that students of traditional engineering and MBA will be learning through a combination of virtual, digital and classroom.

While distance education has been around for over 400 years, the ubiquity of internet access has revolutionised the way teachers and students interact. Students can now choose subjects and courses from across the world and virtually attend lectures by top professors and experts. Peer-to-peer learning, flipped classrooms, virtual worlds are the keywords today. Are we seeing the death of the traditional classroom? While the debate rages on about the pros and cons of e-learning vs face-to-face learning, the classroom is changing its design and purpose irrevocably. Students are now increasingly able to learn from leading faculty beyond the four walls of their classrooms. Professors are collaborating across universities to collectively create and distribute for-credit curriculum for an online semester. Hundreds of thousands of students now pursue degrees entirely online. Even students at traditional colleges and universities make use of digital platforms and materials to supplement classroom lectures.

ITM has developed an eLearning platform that leverages the aspects of digital learning, social collaboration and student generated content to create a live community around each course and subject. Students are encouraged to add and modify the content of a course, through their research and original contributions, which are ‘voted in or out of the curriculum by their peers. This makes the learning experience dynamic and ever-changing, and highly focused on students needs and levels of knowledge. By making the eLearning platform mobile, students are constantly engaged with the course through their smartphones.

There are many exciting changes fueled by the adoption of technology in higher education:

Digitisation of Books: The book becomes clickable. Enriched with interactivity, video, and more – eBooks are no longer static text and images but living gateways into a subject.

mLearning & Micro Learning: New technology is making learning mobile and consumable in a variety of formats. With new eLearning APIs such as Tin Can, learning can be delivered in micro-slices for quick and frequent consumption by learners.

Open Education Resources: Open Educational Resource (OER) is content developed and offered freely for the purpose of teaching and learning. The digitised material allows for open development and reuse. OER’s include education course content and materials, digitized textbooks, streaming videos, software and other materials used to support and convey knowledge

Social Learning: Peer-to-peer learning, which has been popularised by MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) is making way for Social Learning, where rich communities are formed around subjects and courses, with learners discussing and sharing from across the world and faculties playing roles of facilitation and content curation.

Technology is no doubt disrupting traditional education, and academicians and school administrators need to realise that we need to adapt to these changes and adopt new practices and competencies to stay relevant in the years to come.

The author is Nitin Putcha – executive vice president, ITM Group of Institutions.

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