Technology transforming education

Tags: Op-ed
Technology transforming education
NEW APPROACH: In this 2004 file photo, a student faces the rest of his computer science class at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Proliferation of emerging communication technologies has led to new education paradigms
The late 1970s ma­rked the beginning of the educational technology revolution. Apple Computer released the highly successful Apple II computer, MIT’s Seymour Paper introduced the programming language LOGO for young children, and educators talked about the power of technology to expand and enhance teaching and learning. Yet, over the past four decades, though technology has gotten more powerful and sophisticated, very little has changed, particularly in the field of higher education. In fact, the structure and methodology of today’s universities still follow a model established nearly a thousand years ago in Bologna, Italy, with the founding of University of Bologna, the world’s oldest university.

According to many education experts, however, this historic model of education is finally about to change. “Never before has there been such an eruption of education innovation from institutions and companies of all sizes,” says St­ephen Gilfus, president and CEO of a research and advisory group focused on global education innovation. “I sincerely believe that we have now entered the ‘dot edu’ era, which will stimulate and transform students, instructors, institutions and the global economy to reach new horizons.” It is interesting to observe that two independent information sources almost talk on the same lines when it comes to the impact of technology on education.

The Pew Research Centre, which is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the US and the world, found in their study, that 60 per cent of the large number of respondents — experts and stakeholders in higher education, including research scientists, higher education leaders, technology developers, futurists and consultants — felt that by 2020, higher education will witness substantial change, including mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning, more individualised, just-in-time learning approaches, and a transition to blended learning environments that combine online learning with less-frequent in-class meetings. In a 2012 US senate briefing on education and technology, a group of education experts concurred, noting that, “…we are finally at a time where many factors are converging to overcome historic barriers: increasingly ubiquitous broadband, cheaper devices, digital content, cloud computing, big data, and generally higher levels of comfort with technology among the general population.” Even several academic experts in European universities and industries also express that online education is making a big change particularly because of increasing cost of education. In fact, it is seen that both in the US and Europe, more than 30 per cent of higher education students now take at least one online course during their college career. As a result, many colleges and universities are experimenting with hybrid learning environments that include both online and offline instruction, realising that the transmission of knowledge need no longer be tethered to a college or university campus.

The proliferation of emerging communication technologies has led to new education paradigms, including blended learning, flipped classrooms, distance learning and the growing use of technology to deliver supplemental material. The idea of blended learning is not new. Also called ‘hybrid’ or ‘mixed-mode’ learning, blended learning is a pedagogical approach that combines face-to-face (F2F) teaching and learning with technology-based activities. In 2000, Wesley Baker, professor of communication arts at Cedarville University, Ced­arville, Ohio, introduced the concept of the flipped classroom and in the past decade, it has gained enormous popularity among both students and teachers across Canada, the US and Europe. In its essence, the flipped classroom is a pedagogical model that switches class work with homework and vice versa. In a flipped classroom, teachers record their lecture material for students to view or listen outside of class, as homework. Class time is then used for discussion, working through problems, developing team projects or other collaborative activities. Another technology for the delivery of supplemental material is podcasting — the creation of digital media files for use on iPods and other mp3 players. Podcasting allows students to listen to teacher-created instructional files wherever and whenever desired. Similarly, vodcasting allows students to view teacher-created videos outside of class time on a computer, tablet or other handheld device. There are many benefits in the use of digital media files for the delivery of supplemental instruction. First, and the most obvious, students are already accustomed to using the technology. Second, people learn better when they experience information with multiple senses. Each of these new instructional scenarios is having a direct impact on institutions of higher learning around the world. They are enhancing student engagement and retention, allowing more direct interaction between student and teacher.

For us in India, technology is still an entity to be respected, but never to be brought in operation. Our colleges and universities should blaze new trails in education by implementing technologies that support new and traditional pedagogical approaches and organisational models. We are certainly doing some efforts but making use of technology in education has to become a non-arguable option and this can happen if we focus our efforts in to a mission mode. The 12th plan proposes more than one lakh crore on higher education and a major part of it should be put in ‘technology driven education’ mission.

(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)


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