Higher education institutes have made a huge start with digital-led learning formats, now it is time to build on these new learning models
Most institutions of higher learning have responded to the urgencies created by Covid-19 and have adapted to the new mode of learning delivery via digital platforms. Thanks to the user-friendly collaboration and communication platforms many of which are available free of cost, they have been able to maintain the connect between faculty and students – the essential conduit for education.
However, what will be the contours of the future of education? Some are of the view that instead of standalone digital-based learning, blended learning would become the new norm. Some others are of the view that this is the time to reengineer the learning process by adopting flipped classroom approach with gathering information and getting familiar with the concepts to be left to the digital means, and the classroom to be used for clarifying key concepts and reaffirming understanding of the subject. Thus the role of the teacher would get transformed—from being the source of all information and knowledge to a facilitator who could guide the students with their expert knowledge and put them on a thinking path. And then there some others who are of the view that there is also an opportunity to explore personalisation of learning pathways and mastery of subjects within the overall boundaries of common minimum goals to be achieved.
Whatever path the institution wishes to adopt, it is important to outline the new normal and work towards it rather than be unprepared and be led by external factors alone.
While digital adoption has been smooth for some and rough for others, there is another important dimension underlying this shift which concerns the norms of functioning of the institutions. With the boundaries of learning having got dismantled, no longer constrained by geographical restrictions for delivering the education services, it would hereon be possible for institutions to access teachers from anywhere in the world to augment their current teaching staff and for students to have a wider set of options to select from for pursuing their education.
Taking advantage of the transparent and seamless exchange of information that digital platforms provide, another possibility that could be explored is to enable students to pursue learning from more than one institution based on their interest areas and upon successful completion of these courses, stitch their certifications together to receive the final qualification. Further, the much awaited possibility of integrating vocational skills with mainstream academic qualification could also become a reality as the digital led learning formats could bring in flexibility and dynamism to make learning and certification address the employability factor emphatically.
The biggest gain from the Covid-19 situation is that institutions have made a huge start with digital—the scale and impact of which would have been unthinkable in normal times. It is now important to seize this opportunity and leap frog to envision the post-Covid status and make a conscious choice of the future pathways to remain competitive and create a niche for themselves. Winners in the post-Covid era would be those with the compelling vision to design the future on the strength of new thinking on learning models and the will to act towards that goal.
Originally appeared in Financial Express