Digital Disruption of Education !!

By S. Vaitheeswaran, MD & CEO, Manipal Global Education Services

From the times of “Gurukool’- Guru/Shishya the subject of education has transformed significantly. Technology has been the biggest disruptor- because of Mobility, Internet penetration, increase in bandwidth & improvement in video technologies; there has been a dramatic re-thinking of how education can be delivered and consumed.

In my view, there is a big & meaningful difference in what I call “New” Education.

Today, there are many examples of “New” Education. There has been a lot written about the MOOCs like Coursera, EdX etc. where thousands of people can do courses online offered by educational institutions across the world. However, “New” education is not just putting the learning content online and facilitating the interaction between faculty and students. It is important to rethink how the pedagogy should change. For example, Online allows students to learn at their own pace – however, there is one big disadvantage – that it will not facilitate the ability for students to learn through physical interaction with other students. So it is important to replicate those interactions either online through concepts like Social or bring in a physical element along with the digital element – in other words – “Click and Mortar”.

In a vast country like India, given its infrastructural constraints, availability of local faculty and capital to put up large Institutions- the online form of Education will seamlessly supplement the physical campuses.

For corporate employees, in this fast-changing world, the need for up gradation of skills and knowledge is critical. The “New” Education model allows for this to be delivered effectively for employees. Learn as you work becomes the new Mantra in the corporate world. Technology training to several corporate employees through Manipal Academy of Information Technology (MAIT) is offered through a combination of physical classrooms and technology based learning. Technology platform (LMS) called EduNxt continuously track the learning progress of the learners, the effectiveness of the content and the faculty.“Flipped” classroom where the lecture is heard by the learners before they come to the classroom and focus in the classroom discussions around the lecture- is becoming more and more relevant.

The “New” education model is also able to address another key need of either:

 a) working professionals who are looking to climb up the corporate ladder or

 b) people (mostly women) who have taken a break from their careers because of the birth of a child or to help out an aging parent.

In both these cases, doing a residential 2 year program – say an MBA may not be practical. For such people, it is today possible to acquire a degree through Distance Education mode from reputed Universities like Sikkim Manipal University Distance Education Program

Today, it is also becoming essential for working professionals to get short-term training on either new technologies or on new concepts which are important for their jobs. The “New” education model is allowing this to be delivered at scale. It is possible to get part-time faculty(working professionals) to create content that can be delivered online. The content can be authored very easily by the faculty – they can bring in different elements – their videos, documents from other sources, notes etc seamlessly. It is also possible to create course content which cuts across disciplines – for example digital marketing in banking – which may involve concepts ranging from Google SEO to Mortgage loans. At Manipal we offer certification courses delivered mostly online through Manipal Prolearn. Since we launched recently, we have had over 20,000 learners taking our certifications.

In conclusion, we are on the cusp of a transformation of education through technology.  This has the power to increase accessibility as well as affordability for millions of Indians to high quality education, which will arm them with the capabilities required to transform India – from an emerging economy to a super power. The debate is not and should not be – “is Technology replacing the Faculty?”- instead it should focus on – “how can Faculty leverage Technology to improve the Pedagogy and Learning outcomes to their students”! 

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