From experimenting with new teaching and learning approaches, the Indian higher education sector is no focusing on enabling classroom experiences on digital platforms. Educational institutions and universities are exploring ways to offer interactive and immersive learning experiences, in a digital environment. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, data analytics play a pivotal role in providing these experiences.
The second day of the Education Track of Digital Technology Senate witnessed two insightful panel discussions around these lines.
The panel discussion on ‘how technology will pave way to a robust and effective learning environment’, witnessed decision makers from India’s leading educational institutions delve deep into the how they are leveraging technology and what are the use cases that can be explored as we progress further in a post Covid environment.
Moderated by Dr. Saurabh Mehta, Chief Academic Officer and Professor at Vidyalankar Institute of Technology, Mumbai, the discussion was participated by Dr. Ashok Mittal, Chairperson, IIIT Delhi; Aman Mittal, Associate Director, Lovely Professional University; Dr. S S Sehgal, Director Engineering and Registrar, Chandigarh University; Divesh Kamboj, VP – IT, Sharda University; Mathew Philip, Senior Director, Channels & GSI Business, LogMeIn India; and Rajender Bhandari, Director – Technology & Solutions Group, NetApp India & SAARC.
Sharing his views, Aman Mittal said, “Things have changed a lot in the last three to four months. Digital learning couldn’t have been possible, if we didn’t have the right technologies in place. We have been ICT-enabled university already, and we were prepared to adopt the blended learning approach. We are already conducting online examinations, with use of AI. We also have a strong learning management system, developed completely in house. Going forward, technology will continue to play a pivotal role and educational institutions must continue to invest in technology. In a post covid word, there will be a lot of consolidation and we need to adopt our approaches accordingly. Technology, data and a change in attitude will be the crucial factors in a post covid world.”
Commenting of the initiatives at Sharda University, Kamboj informed, “We realised the scale of this pandemic in advance, and we started preparing. Whereas, around three to four years ago, we started our IT journey and started scaling up our IT infrastructure. We need to be prepared and have a holistic approach. At Sharda University, our first focus was continuity of classes. Secondly, we stressed on LMS, wherein sharing of content can take place. Today, more than 95 per cent of our IT infrastructure is on cloud. Because of our preparedness, we were able to deliver on all the important parameters. One of the use cases that we are keen on, is AI based adaptive learning.”
Sharing insights from NetApp’s perspective, Bhandari commented, “IT infrastructure of organisations was not designed to enable 100 per cent of the workforce to work from home. NetApp has brought its customers on cloud, and scaled up their WFH practice. We are working with educational institutes, providing them storage as a service, which is extremely relevant for them in these times.”
Philip added, “WFH is now clearly coming out as a productive approach, unlike before; and technology will play a key role in enabling organisations. Remote teaching seems to be the way forward, and we have seen that Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities have had easy access to remote education in the last few months. Whereas, in a post Covid world, remote education will play a key role. Educational institutions will need simple and easy-to-use online training tools, and that’s where LogMeIn can play crucial role and complement institutes.”
Chandigarh University is known for its various innovations. Providing his views, Dr. Sehgal, shared, “We have moved from a physical to a blended world. In our efforts to ensure effective learning, gamification has been introduced, which has created interest in young learners, thereby boosting their performance and employability. The future of education has changed in the Covid times. Data and technology will play a key role. The best approach is to adapt to the new methodologies as soon as possible.”
Dr. Ashok Mittal opined, “We have been providing digital content for a long time now. Technology firms must focus on low bandwidth solutions, because a large part of the country is still faces connectivity challenges. Digital education was present in a pre-Covid world as well, but the Covid crisis has made digital compulsory now, which was earlier considered optional.”
Another panel discussion focused on the best practices in ensuring seamless education amid Covid-19, which saw leaders from India’s renowned educational institutions share their approaches and deliberate upon the way forward.
Moderated by Swoyan Satyendu, COO, ODM Educational Group, the panel featured Dr. SS Mantha, Former Chairman AICTE and Chancellor, KL University; Dr. Vikas Singh, Executive Director, ITS Education Group; Prof. Nandita Abraham, President, Pearl Academy; Rahul Puri, Head of Academics, Whistling Woods International; and Sitaram Venkat, Director & General Manager, Corporate business – South India, Dell.
Sharing views backed by his vast experience in the sector, Dr. Mantha said, “We must be innovative to overcome challenges. At KL University, six months ago, we had introduced hybrid learning in the curriculum, wherein certain courses were made mandatory to be done online, and every student had to go through one online course. We also subscribed to Coursera and every student was given its access. Covid may remain for a long term and we have to plan for the next few semesters accordingly. At KL University, technological interruptions have helped us move ahead. In a post Covid world, there will be a huge rise in a blended learning environment. A lot of smart learning will start happening. Personalised learning will also take place, backed by technologies like AI. We will move to a completely student-centric educational approach. There will also be a lot of automation and immersive learning with the help of technologies such as AR and VR.”
Dr. Singh added, “Students were already more prepared for an online environment. It was slightly difficult for the faculty, but now all faculty members have acquainted themselves with digital platforms. At ITS Education Group, before the lockdown, we transferred all the courses online. Culture is an important part of all organisations, and there will be a big change in culture in a post Covid world. Every faculty member and students have become comfortable with video platforms, and this practice should continue in the future. Blended learning will continue.”
Sharing Whistling Woods’ perspective, Puri stated, “The students were well equipped to adapt to the online teaching method. However, it is more challenging for us, because film making and media requires high-end equipment, which not all students can afford to have at home. Overall, we have tried very hard to replicate the activities that we did on our campus and deliver them online.”
Fashion education is another niche area, which often requires a face-to-face interactive approach. Giving a perspective of Pearl Academy, Prof. Abraham said, “Things are going to change in the long run. We already had a learning management platform at Pearl Academy. We have found that teachers are able to teach better online as well. I don’t think creative education can be completely moved online. We will have to have a physical approach for several things, but certain parts can be best taught online. In an online approach, we can also have faculty from around the world to teach our students. Safety and security will the highest priority in the short term. Whereas, in the long run, many delightful things will come our way. The industry will become more digital. Education will become more digital, both inside and outside the classrooms.”
Venkat added, “It is all about continuity. The entire situation is changing into a collaborative learning environment. Every institute should think about putting in place an ecosystem that is collaborative in nature.”
In another session titled, ‘From cloud to the Edge with MongoDB’, Suvig Sharma, Senior Director APAC, MongoDB, elaborated on the company’s offerings and how it is positioned to address the needs of the education sector. He said, “More than 30 coding languages are built in the the MongoDB platform and MongoDB Atlas is available in more than 70 regions. Last year MongoDB also acquired Realm, a mobile phone database platform. We allow our customers to comply with the most stringent of compliance. At MongoDB, we believe that great technology can free the genius in all of us.”
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