Ms. Megha Sharma, Research Scholar,FMS,Haridwar,India
How will Covid-19 pandemic amend the future of teaching and learning? Before answering this question, we first need to recognize some difficult truths.
Every form of international education is currently affected by the crisis and will be for some time. Universities have been closed and-or are delivering all education online. Every international conference in higher education has been cancelled or turned into a series of webinars. In education, the shift to online was made at very short notice. It has accelerated new forms of pedagogy and tremendous initiatives from individual academics and institutions have emerged.
HEIs (Higher education institutes) are now fast adapting to alternative pedagogy to engage students distantly and to continue the teaching and learning process in a “Teach-From-Home-Students-At-Home" situation. This can now be termed as “pandemic pedagogy" in academic lexicon.
The lockdown has accelerated adoption of digital technology. Business houses, educational institutes, analytics, computer, data management methods and online education solutions have been forced to work in cycle and improve in quality and delivery time to handle such situations. This is a perfect time to experiment and organize new tools to make education delivery meaningful to students who can’t go to campuses. It’s a chance to be more efficient and productive while developing new and improved professional skills/knowledge through online learning and assessment.
Pedagogy in digital education is an important link between course content, educationists, technology and course-takers. Democratization of technology is now an important issue, comprising internet connectivity, telecom infrastructure, affordability of online system, availability of laptop/desktop, software, educational tools, online assessment tools, etc. But it is a fact that technology-based education is more transparent and does not make difference in front vs back benchers or girls vs boys. Virtual classrooms and various online tools today allow us to make the engagement between the teacher and students as close to a real, in classroom type experience, as possible. Going forward, these tools can also make the teachers and parent meetings as well as staff/management meetings more time and cost saving while providing the necessary interactivity.
Looking at this challenge of colleges and schools being shut, government of India, as well as state governments and private players have regularly been publishing information on various initiatives undertaken by ministries like MHRD, Department of Technical Education, NCERT and others to support and benefit youth/students. The government of India as well state governments, through their various ministries/departments, have created infrastructure to deliver e-education. These include National Knowledge Network (NKN), National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), National Mission on Education through information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), National Academic Depository (NAD), among others. All these enhance our ability to connect easily with institutions and enhance our access to learning resources. For instance, NKN provides high speed network backbone to educational institutes in India.
To ensure that management education is able to deal with global, technological and market changes, it is imperative for business schools to use appropriate curricula, course materials and teaching models that are not only up-to-date but also internationally competitive". Management education is a process of leading in thought and Action. The core competencies of a business school offering management education lies in its unique and innovative teaching pedagogy to enable meaningful learning and development of skill sets that the employers think deem fit to employ. Due to globalization and advancement in information technology the role played by management education in enhancing country knowledge base has been placed under a sharper focus thus it has become imperative to look at management education from the market oriented perspective and take a strategic view to better align business education with the requirement of the global market.
Education technologies enthusiasts have been predicting that technology will become the biggest intermediary of teaching-learning process. In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, millions of students across the globe have been driven out of their universities spaces, and professors are confines to their home. Through this, management studies stand disaggregated, and faculty and students are grappling with the sudden new norms with completely tech-mediated teaching and learning.
In light of COVID-19, face-to-face schooling could not continue. The announcements at Harvard and Yale are typical of the selection, and given their role as example-setting universities for higher education world-wide, it is worth to provide closer analysis.
About 60 million students across the globe, are limited to home during the crucial months of lockdown - which generally see a flurry of curricular and assessment activities. Institutions and students alike are under pressure to not lose academic time and re-invent their teaching-learning in the only possible way – go completely online. What does this mean for the institutions and academic leaders, administrators and students in the long run is getting clearer.
The new, total technology-mediated education can be termed as Education 4.0, after the first three waves of education systems that evolved over 2000 years of civilization - the Gurukula system (one master to a few pupils), the traditional university system (one to many learners) and distance learning (one to very many learners across the spectrum).
Example: Academics from the Indian Institutes of Management (Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Lucknow and Indore), XLRI and MDI Gurgaon are revising this year’s curriculum to incorporate learnings from the pandemic into nearly all subjects taught in an MBA programme, from economics and strategy to human resources and supply chains.
It is difficult to foretell what the management educational scene will look like after Covid-19 passes, because of the degree of community transmission threat posed by campus interaction. Indeed, discussions are ongoing at many institutions about extension of emergency eLearning through fall 2020 in order to avoid the Northern hemisphere’s possible second wave of COVID-19. But efforts to normalize emergency eLearning measures precisely because post-pandemic pedagogy seems unthinkable rob the management education sector of the opportunity for open discourse on how the sector can be liberal for all students. Bracketing the digital divide, the radical portability of eLearning may increase access to education in rural communities. For individuals who are unable to attend a traditional full-time face-to-face school due to personal or financial circumstances, the flexibility of asynchronous eLearning may provide wider access. And even within traditional management institutions, hybrid or blended forms may help improve the quality of face-to-face teaching by moving content delivery online and focusing in-person sessions on active learning.
The good news is – the mainstream institutions are willing to move to online, and there’s a possibility of habits changing to enable Education 4.0.
The long term and sustainable triumph of this tectonic shift will depend on seven major elements of online learning.
1. Online learning is not a library of video lectures and e-books that converts class-notes into PDFs. Creating high quality digitized learning content must be contextualized and ‘byte-sized’ to make learning interesting and engaging. Doing this takes a rare skill set which few organizations in the world can boast of. Universities need to collaborate with such organizations for their digital pivots to be successful.
2. Subject matter covered in classroom is to be delivered online, but with technology as the intermediary. Blind replication of the same is a bad idea; it requires a great deal of understanding & application of learning science and digital pedagogy. Every teaching faculty needs to be enabled with this knowledge, or else collaboration with experts is the way forward.
3. Classrooms have typically diverse learner groups. In classical pedagogy, the best of teachers and subject matter experts derive a content-context cluster as a mean of the class’ collective ability and prior knowledge. Then the teaching–learning transaction is crafted according to that constructed mean. This will not and cannot work in online learning. Institutions need to spend as much time on the context for the diverse learner profiles, as on the content, and weave it into the program design.
4. New technologies including the emerging sciences of artificial intelligence and deep learning models can help us create customized learning plans and methods. Management education institutions must embrace these quickly to overcome the ills of current digital management education.
5. Online learning is not about one pedagogical model but an aggregation of various models. And it is indeed a specialized learning science that combines learning psychology, behavioral analytics, content delivery, and assessments to gauge and measure individual learner’s journey and progress. Working with specialists and ‘hand-stitching’ a delivery mechanism is the key.
6. Put learning science, and not technology, in the forefront. Very many models being created today seek to use technology and tools as a panacea and equate online ‘delivery’ with online ‘learning’. The former is teacher-centric, and the latter is learner-centric. ‘Learning’ is about gradually inducing changes in learner’s actions and behavior. The learning process, in incremental steps, induces change in thinking and mental models of the learner through deep understanding and conceptual strengthening. After each learning episode, the learner will be able to apply the acquired knowledge in practical situations in life, profession, or workplace. Each teaching faculty needs to be massively re-trained and oriented for online teaching-learning mode. While they could be content experts or great classroom teachers, they need to place equal importance to ‘learning sciences in digital media’.
7. Of course, even in the post COVID-19 era, offline or conventional education models will not become obsolete. They will survive. However, blended learning (a combination of classroom and online modes) will be the norm. Management institutions and teachers will blend the two judiciously according to the context and the content.
In sum, the newly realized need for establishing mature online education models can be successfully met by making these “Queen sacrifices”!
Faculty to let go off their existing practices of transposing classroom to online medium without applying the ‘science of digital learning’
Universities to let go off their academic know-all stance and become willing to collaborate with digital learning specialists to train their teachers and re-design higher education for the newest online education world.
The next frontier to be faced is research – also monopolized by large, well-funded systems or organizations. How online learning will change the face of research will be an interesting crystal ball gazing exercise to do.