Time to leverage technology

By GovernanceToday
In Cover Story
July 7, 2016
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leverage-technology

Government needs to play an active role in encouraging educational institutions in adopting latest technology for teachings and delivering course content

It’s not too long back when a classroom meant assignments, blackboards and chalks, heavy duty lectures, etc. Online  education, on the contrary, was like Greek and Latin to most people. Things are a lot different now with the advent of technology each passing year. Be it in a school or college, the classrooms are gradually creeping towards infusion of modernity in the education system. Classy laptops, tablets, pen drives and e-learning, now a part of daily education are enough to demonstrate the transition from brick-and-mortar learning to technology-based education. While e-learning has become the need of the hour, technology ensures that data quality remains the topmost priority.

Although India couldn’t embrace technology too soon, it has finally come of age having learnt from its past mistakes. With access to high speed broadband internet and low cost computers and mobile devices, there has been growth in the use of technology for learning. The country today is one of the fastest growing markets for e-learning based products and services. This segment is expected to have a turnover of $40 billion by the next year. The technology can be used in various ways to bring about overhaul in the Indian education system. Even the government plans to enhance digital literacy of the country to 50 per cent from the current 15 per cent by bringing out encouraging policies to give push to technology based learning. Many entrepreneurs and startups have grabbed this opportunity  to develop technology based  educational  products for private and government schools, colleges and universities.

Among universities, Amity University, Manipal and Symbiosis were the trendsetters and now the fad has caught on with schools as well. There are a number of websites like Khan Academy and various YouTube channels that offer video lectures by eminent scholars and teachers in various subjects.

E-learning has also vastly facilitated the distance learning, which is a way of learning where the students or working professionals can learn the courses remotely through online access and interact with faculty via online classroom. It helps students to interact with their mentors or tutors directly through chat, e-mail or phone call. India is a developing country and for many students who are living in remote places or villages getting degree for higher education is still a distant dream. In such circumstances, technology enabled distance education can help them complete their studies, upgrade their skills and get a degree. This gives the students or working professionals the flexibility to learn at their own time without the compulsion of going to a class. According to All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2014-2015 conducted by Ministry of Human Resource Development, the total enrolment of students for distance education constitute 11.7 per cent out of which 46 per cent are female students. Accessibility of broadband and hi-speed internet along with low cost computers to tier 2 and tier 3 cities has made learning seamless without any blips.

students

Since technology has become an integral part of classroom based teachings in many schools, colleges and universities, projector screens are used instead of blackboard for teachings and hand writings of teachers are replaced by power point presentations. Students experience a different kind of set up in today’s technology based classrooms. Gadgets like tablets and laptops are used to take down notes. Animated contents are created on various subjects and in different languages so that students can have better understanding of a complex subject in a simple way.

Various colleges and universities in India are integrating online Learning Management System or LMS platform into their web portal. Students can remotely login to access course material and also attend live classes with teachers. Pre-recorded lectures, videos can be uploaded on the LMS platform making it easy for students to go through it multiple times. LMS adoption is still poor in many parts of the country where students do not have the access to computers or broadband internet. However, the government is providing computers to remote areas and creating content that consumes less data and can be easily accessed on internet.

As per a Counterpoint Research report, India has become the second biggest smart phone market in the world after China with more than 220 million active users. This presents a huge opportunity for delivering e-learning content through mobile apps. Today educational mobile apps are available on popular platforms like Android and iOS. Developers are creating educational apps based on particular subjects. They are simplifying complex concepts with easy to understand illustrations and animations, puzzles, games etc. There are apps available for grammar, physics, chemistry, mathematics and so on. With the prices of tablets and smart phone coming down, people from villages and remote areas can also make use of these apps to learn and update their skills.

google-education-toolsAlthough some of the institutions in India compare well with world’s best universities and colleges, bulk continues to languish in poor quality. A super-power hopeful India is thus gazing at a future generation of employment-unfit workers lacking in basic communication, arithmetic and cognitive skills. We lack quality teachers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme, which currently is more inclined to distributing tablets and technology in public schools, will fail if it disregards the most critical component in the wheel i.e. teachers. A campaign which has been welcomed as one of the pillars of governance has till now failed to build a roadmap, not just for connecting students with the best teachers, but also to provide an environment to create better teachers.

But while there is no denying the fact that digital education is the yardstick for the future, these technologies cannot replace teachers. They can only complement them. Therefore, what India requires today is digital technologies tailored around teachers to enhance education and ensure uniform quality of teaching across the country. Teachers need tools that help them create personalised assignments and tests or customise the curriculum to get the best out of every student. This would not only make learning more appealing for every student, but also help teachers do a better job consistently.

Online learning platforms have, till date, failed to make an influence on India’s broad educational environment, primarily because they are mostly just digitised textbooks and course content. What India needs today is all inclusive  education technology platforms that can connect all the dots – deliver good quality content in a secure environment, channelize communication and collaboration between students and teachers and more significantly provide tools for teachers to improve teaching methods. Digital classroom platforms like Mobiliya Edvelop are developing a new form of value based  digital education that goes beyond making course content available online. Mobiliya Edvelop recently helped the Chinese government drive rural education initiatives by connecting poor and remote schools in the rural areas  in western China to urban learning centres.

The boards and universities, which are responsible for promotion and development of education, should push specific teacher training programmes through online platforms that teachers can take up from anywhere, anytime, thus enhancing quality of teachers across regions and centres. Besides, the government needs to  play an active role in encouraging educational institutions in adopting latest technology for teachings and delivering course content.

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