The overall impact of technological innovations in the education sector remains limited. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee reports the benefits of digital learning.
The use of technology in different sectors of policy formulation and implementation has reaped rich dividends. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on the Digital India campaign looks to increase the scope of technology across the country, ensure better connectivity and maximise the potential of India’s much talked about demographic dividend. Since the education policy becomes crucial in this process, ‘Digital India’ must lay strong foundations in this sector.
“Flipped classroom is a form of pedagogy which inverts the learning process. The content is on web and can be seen by students before coming to class. This makes the classroom an interactive platform,” says Sanjay Dhande, Former Director, IIT – Kanpur. Also, since students enjoy a familiarity and affinity with technology, this method will help reduce monotony and make the learning process more interesting.
However, according to Dhande, this model is dependent on a few prerequisites which may not always be forthcoming. These include media labs to record lectures well in advance as well as teachers who are comfortable with technology.
“Flipped models are successful when the size of the classroom is small and the students go through the content before coming to class. Both these parameters are difficult to achieve in India,” he adds.
As Dhande mentions, in order for the flipped model to work, the planning of academic classrooms have to change considerably.
Almost as if on cue, several private organisations are attempting to explore this technology-education amalgamation arena in innovative ways. For example, ‘Smartclass’, an Educomp Solutions project, looks to install a digital board in classrooms that is supplied with educational content.
“Nowadays classrooms are crowded and teachers are often mediocre. So students don’t always understand things properly,” says Shantanu Prakash, Chairman, Educomp Solutions.
So instead of the usual ‘chalk and talk’ method, these digital boards, which are now present in every district of the country, enable learning through engaging content. While such infrastructure in urban areas is relatively easier to set up, government steps-in to assist these organisations in rural areas.
“We have partnered with a number of State Governments to provide local language content. Instead of a board; we often use computer labs in villages,” adds Prakash.
Although the ‘Smartclass’ facility requires an initial investment of Rs 1.35 lakh for the hardware, the monthly content is charged at Rs 2500 per class per month.
Ultimately, one of the main aims of education is to promote employment. While much has been spoken about the skill gap in India, the use of technology to bridge this gap is a solution that is only beginning to find solid footing now. Millions of workers across the country lack the platform for standardised assessment and certification of skills, in order to attract employers on a national platform.
Aspiring Minds, an employability solutions company works in collaboration with National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) to provide a digital platform to assess skills from different sectors and then allow employers across the country to select adequately skilled candidates.
“For example, we can certify tea plantation workers in Tripura and ensure that a potential employer in Mumbai can contact them for work,” says Himanshu Aggarwal, COO, Aspiring Minds. Since, this process uses technology on a large scale, corruption becomes easier to control.
“In our country, there are a lot of skilled people looking for jobs and a number of organisations offering them. We just have to connect both groups using an efficient platform,” adds Aggarwal.
Using technology on a large scale in the education sector comes with its share of problems. One problem is preconceived notions. “Our country is much more digitally literate than we think. Recently, on a visit to a school in Panipat, I discovered that all the students consumed digital content,” says Prakash.
He agrees that rigid mindsets need to change. “Some people don’t understand technology. We need a significant number of people in government and quasi – government bodies who trust in technology and are not intolerant to change,” he adds.
In addition, improvement of basic digital infrastructure also needs to improve at a faster rate. A decent broadband connection across the length and breadth of the country would go in a long way in revamping the educational space digitally.
“We don’t have enough schools in the country. If we can put all the school content on a cloud accessible to everyone, it would solve the problem to a great extent,” adds Prakash.
Despite the obstacles, the rewards of a digital education sector merit greater initiative from the academic institutions, government and private organisations. “Technology issues are solvable. But administrators need to overcome their lethargy first,” signs off Dhande.