Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Higher education through digital transformation the only way forward in Young India

World over universities are disrupting and innovating on teaching and learning pedagogues. But in India, universities are still characterized by impractical learning, out-of-touch faculty, exorbitant fees (in private universities) and diminishing employment as job seekers outnumber opportunities.

According to Harvard's Prof Clayton M. Christensen, Disruptive Innovation brings to the market a product or service that isn't as good as traditional but is less expensive and user friendly. Online learning is such a technology-enabled option that is making the world reconsider higher education models. Indian universities have talented faculty and good students, but suffer from slow processes, non-digital pedagogues, and theoretical rather than experiential learning.

Disruptive innovation requires education to be in a self-paced mode which can be only available through online "flipped" class rooms, MOOCs, SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses) and still shorter micro-credentials. MITx and EDx run a very popular and affordable Micro-Master's program in management for students who are edged out of admissions or find the costs high. However, completing the course online can get you a job which pays $80-100,000 annually and further allows direct admission to a Masters in MIT with reduced course fees and credits. In fact, Nano-Degrees by Udacity and Badges online are of much shorter duration and teach soft, social and professional skills, much sought after by companies.

According to Ryan Craig ('College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education') students may one day find they don't need a Bachelor's degree to become employable. Thus, self-paced and re-bundling of short courses could soon make the traditional degree college experience sound as "old-fashioned and elitist." While no one is sure of a date by which this unbundling of higher education will happen, clues are available to show an inevitable arrival by 2020's. The 4th Industrial Revolution technologies are blurring lines between the physical and digital. Big Data and digital technology will be game changers such as Li fi in place of Wi Fi (speed of Internet in Gigabytes), Internet of Things, Wearable for Virtual reality, DNA mapping and 3D printing.

It is now important to move towards blended online learning or 'flipping class room' where we have more e-material, audio and video lectures on line and more case studies, projects and practical experiential learning. Nano-degrees by Udacity make you a graduate in 12 months in courses like Artificial Intelligence, VR developer, Self-Driving Car Engineer, IOS or Android Developer etc. in partnership with Amazon Alexa, Google, Mercedes Benz etc. These companies foresee demand through big data analysis for e.g. in 2020, 10 million self-driving cars will be manufactured and would be in use.

We must remember that we have less than 24% Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education while spending approximately Rs 15,000-20,000 per annum for each student. Out of this, more than 50 % are failures and dropouts producing a dismal 53% of unemployed graduates and 89% unemployed engineering graduates in a population of more than 350 million young in the age bracket of 18-35. It means that we have already wasted 85% of the higher education budget since independence. We must be more cautious about our education strategy for social and ethical harmony of the country as these young must be educated for the welfare and prosperity of India.

MHRD should start working on a common LMS (Dashboards) and Enterprise Resource Programs for ready infrastructure for user friendly assistance to students and faculty for blended learning and for managing 'Big Data'. It should plan to procure mobile learning solutions and tablets with the above so that economically weaker sections in Digital India become technology savvy and get their digital learning assistance in a costumed mode.
The government should back universities and online startups to create curricula for JUST-IN-TIME education (make the optional syllabus according to market needs) and allow short-term diplomas and Nano-Degrees so that Digital India, Skill India and Make in India, the three programs of Prime Minister Modi has advocated, get a boost.

(The author is the director of Campus of Open Learning)

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