This pandemic has made all the educational schools across the world to adopt teaching online. Courses, examinations are conducted online, assignments are submitted through email. For countries like India, this is a good opportunity to strengthen the internet connectivity across rural India. Every village and towns in India should be digitally connected for better interaction between the students and teachers. Institutes like IITs have “a sort” of infrastructure to connect students but the experience shows that not all students had good interaction due to various reasons. Some of the students are quick to adapt to this system and some take little longer time to acquaint with this system. India should establish a good infrastructure for online education like some of the advanced countries. The greatest advantage of such a system is that education can become international. Advance institutes like IITs and NITs can globalize online education while Universities, initially, nationalize online education. Fundamental structural changes should be made in the curriculum/syllabus and programmes should be popularized to attract students across the countries. Skill development should be part of the curriculum in Engineering and Science degree programmes. This will create future entrepreneurs. This is one way to beat unemployment and increase business skills amongst the youth. The business community should play a leading role in this new educational system.
The strength lies in the faculty and institute nurture. Faculty need to change their mundane teaching methods and adapt to evolving technology-centred teaching. The faculty should establish themselves as “competent” individuals who can deliver what the students expect. To establish faulty should be active in research and research publications and gain experience /skills in online teaching. In a way, the learning institutes become virtual institutes. Every student’s home becomes his institute. This will reduce the demand for the infrastructure of the institute. However, research labs should function as usual to support research. Research collaboration can go online and can be internationalized.
Higher education in India needs to be more flexible, more innovative, more international but more locally connected and socially responsible, more collaborative and less risk-averse. Innovative models should be introduced. Universities/institutes could be online- providing internet-based flexible offerings (open universities); traditional learning with hand-on work; collaboration with other schools. Of course, there are challenges one has to face at the initial stages: e.g. leveraging technology to deliver better and more inclusive education, contributing to digital economy and society and responding to global demand but shifting demographics. Faculty play the most important role in such a system. True international engagement comes with curriculum integration and active participation by the faculty. Faculty need to be motivated and actively involved in curriculum integration.
Online education does not mean without laboratory experience to students. Skill development needs laboratories/workshops. There could be centers across the countries to support skill development activities. These centers could be institutes, colleges, universities. On the research front: it is all collaboration and not competition. Projects needs to be designed through collaboration so that laboratory/research facilities could be shared. This will lead to strong centers of research laboratories on the scale of a region.
Post Covid-19 is an opportunity to transform the higher education system. Institutes/ universities should utilize this opportunity to transform system. Curriculum design, collaborations, skill development and faculty involvement —all should focus on internationalizing higher education. Today it is Covid-19, however, we don’t know what lies ahead in future for the million youngsters.
The New Education System will incorporate following changes post Covid-19:-
The first change is, of course, that we have become more digital. In education, the technological dimension will become much stronger than before and this will force us to rethink our methodologies. The masterclass will make less and less sense (although it won’t disappear completely), and will derive into asynchronous formats. Students will expect that, if the teacher is going to give them a monologue, they will be able to pause, move forward and backward in the class as they wish, just as they already do with videos on Youtube or other platforms. What’s more, in a world where we are increasingly busy and bombarded with stimuli, it will be common to see the most tedious lessons being played at 1.5x or 2x the playback speed.
The first few months after confinement, classes may not be 100% full, so teachers will need to be prepared to teach both face-to-face and online. Therefore, digitalization will also lead to a more fluid education, alternating and combining face-to-face phases with non-presential phases and synchronous methods with asynchronous methods. Flipped classrooms will become even more important and, hopefully, increase their adoption. This will require teachers to adapt to new methodologies to which they were not accustomed. First, they will have to become digital content generators, and second, able to create and manage dynamic activity sessions in the classroom. Students who attend classes in person will expect these to be memorable moments with experiences that are worth investing their time in.
Open and collaborative
Education will be more open and collaborative. Before the Internet, the book and the teacher were the only source of knowledge. Now students have to learn to filter information from a sea of abundant, not always reliable, sources. But the Internet has not only brought more sources of information. It also has allowed us to be permanently connected with colleagues, friends and family. So, let’s be realistic, in a hyper-connected society we don’t expect students to be happy when their teachers ask them to disconnect from the world to “learn”. Ask any teenager you know how they “stay virtual” on Whatsapp and other instant messaging applications to solve exercises together. It is strange that we expect students to solve their work and exercises individually when the world of work greatly values the abilities of collaboration and teamwork. Instead of banning these practices, we should encourage them!
The test will lose its strength as an evaluation tool. In a fluid, highly asynchronous and deeply collaborative educational environment, the test loses its meaning and will give way to other assessment methodologies. Among others, peer review and automated assessment systems, capable of giving feedback in real time to the student, will become increasingly important.
To this end, tutors and trainers will have to design educational experiences whose evaluations will allow the student to correct and improve almost at the same time as he or she is learning. Other more qualitative and, depending on the type of education, self-evaluation aspects will also gain strength.
Many teachers are skeptical, but I guarantee that there is life beyond exams. Not using exams doesn’t mean not evaluating or not knowing how well students are doing but doing it differently. And in the post-covid world this should no longer be the exception.
Challenges to be addressed
The digital divide is real in many countries and governments will have to fight to ensure that it does not affect the equal right to basic education. This will have less weight in tertiary and corporate education, but primary and secondary education will be especially important. It has already happened during confinement and will be one of the challenges to be resolved. Providing technology and connectivity to classrooms is key, but it is also necessary to guarantee access to connectivity and technological means for all students in their homes.
In any process of digital transformation (and the process of transformation of education is one) it is of vital importance to ensure that the workforce acquires the appropriate skills to be able to carry out this transformation. Digital literacy will be more important than ever, requiring teachers to become experts in multimedia content creation, web publishing and administration, digital community management, etc.
In the educational field, teachers will not only have to learn new tools, but more importantly, they will have to learn new methodologies. Technology is the basis, but we should not think that we can solve a problem by just throwing technology at it. When electricity came into the factories, one of the first criticisms it received was that it did not provide any benefit over steam. It was not until several years later that it was understood that this technology allowed the layout and arrangement of machines in the factory to be reconfigured, allowing huge gains in productivity and efficiency. With education the same thing will happen, the best teachers will not be those who have the best technologies, but those who discover what new methodologies can be applied in this new educational model. The time has come for us to modernize it by jumping from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution. We have an unparalleled opportunity and the time is right. Those who think that everything will remain the same, know that your clients, your students, have changed their habits, have discovered a new world, the digital world, and have already migrated towards it. Rest assured that they will not return. It is time to decide whether we migrate with them or stay in the old world, for another century.