Transformative power of technology in education sector
The maiden edition of Education Technology Summit, held in New Delhi recently, highlighted the potential for technology-enabled transformation in the education sector, and witnessed an august gathering of leading educationists from across the country
By Sandhya Michu and Mohd Ujaley
Express Computer recently hosted the first edition of Education Technology Summit with the theme ‘The Next India(R) Evolution’. Held at Crowne Plaza, New Delhi, the Education Technology Summit witnessed leaders, experts, and veterans of the Indian education industry come together to discuss the trends and transformation in the industry. It kicked-off with an auspicious lamp lighting ceremony, followed by a welcome address by Srikanth RP, Editor, Express Computer.
Gaurav Kapoor, Senior Head – Industry Partnership, CSR Engagements, Media & Advocacy, NSDC gave a keynote address on how NSDC is blending education with technology and vocational training for encashing the demographic dividend of India. Pointing out that the Indian education system has come a long way to become an education hub, he spoke about why it is important that the working labour force has a creative and productive focus.
“As the population grows, if employment opportunities become limited and people are not getting jobs, it will lead to social unrest and we don’t want to create this situation in India. The integration of education along with skill development, which we call the vocational education system, is a very important factor. We want to see how education and technology blend together and I don’t consider vocational education different from education. In fact, it has to be well blended within our school systems like it is there in many countries.”
Giving examples of how countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway practice a well integrated vocational system, which starts from class sixth, Kapoor said that these students start getting a flavour of what it means to have an alternate vocational education. They may or may not use it, going forward, but most of them are trained carpenters and mechanics. Germany has an effective system of dual education so people enroll with the companies, work as apprentices and they also go to higher education institutes and do their engineering degrees / diploma parallelly.
He further mentioned that India too has started focusing on building a skill university, in Haryana, Pune, Jaipur and Bhubaneshwar, where NSDC is looking at blended learning concept of dual education – studying at the institute from Monday to Thursday, and Friday and Saturday go out and working on the shop floor in a factory. This combined learning is crucial.
Kapoor also apprised the audience about the recent amendment of the Apprenticeship Act. “Apprenticeship is an important concept. Unfortunately, in our country, besides few large corporates and PSUs, this never took off. Apprenticeship has to be in this country and NSDC is trying to promote it in a big way. People who are doing engineering or diploma have to come into the labour force in a factory, on a shop floor, through an apprentice route. Currently, we are looking at apprenticeship which should be of a three-year kind of concept, which is blended with classroom learning and shop floor training. Though in India, the conditions and factors don’t allow us to have four days of formal education and two days on the shop floor, it is vice-versa. Four days of shop floor and two days of formal education is what we are looking at under the new Apprenticeship Act.”
Sharing the work being done by NSDC for improving skill sets, Kapoor highlighted, “We are working with 7,000 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Haryana where we are trying to see how in class 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, vocational education can be built into the school curriculum – it has been quite successful. A student who starts learning through vocational education in class can get level 3 and level 4 certificate by the time he completes his 12th class, having an NSQF level 4 certificate to get into a job directly.”
Concluding his address, he stated, “B-Voc and Polytechnics trying to promote technical and vocational education as part of formal education is something which will take us right to the doorstep of the opportunity, which we are trying to unlock. If we play it well, we are poised well to take over most of Europe and reach close to China in terms of GDP and employment.”
Universal basic income for prosperity
In a special address, Rajesh Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, said that the future of jobs will undergo major transformation and technologies like AI, robotics may impact the semi-skilled jobs. The idea of having Universal Basic Income will help in bringing prosperity in the next five-seven years.
Emphasising on re-skilling, Aggarwal stated, “Education institutes should give more focus on building the ability to reskill. I believe humans’ basic needs will remain the same, be it Roti, Kapda, and Makan. But with changing job scenario and projects like Digital India and Make in India, we would not only need the likes of MTechs, PHDs, and MBAs, but at the same time, we also need a skilled and semi-skilled workforce to deliver the services.”
Showing concern over the lack of industry engagement and the pathways between skill and educational, in India, he shared that it needed to be looked at from a bigger lens.
Enabling the future workforce
This session began with a presentation by Manav Sehgal, Head of Solutions Architecture, Public Sector at Amazon Internet Services Private Limited. In his address, Sehgal emphasised the role of technology in making the future workforce smart. By comparing different modes of communication, he said that future is going to be more collaborative.
“The challenge of creating a resilient workforce for an ever-changing workplace requires new forms of public-private collaboration,” he said, adding that both private companies and educational institutes can come together to provide digital skills that can create market-ready talent.
While showcasing how AWS is enabling education institutes across the country in imparting industry required training and technology, Sehgal stated that technologies like cloud, AI and machine learning are the future, so educational institutes must invest in the same. He said that AWS offers an end-to-end solution that can make educational institutes ready for future technology. “Technology adoption is a driver of inclusive growth. It helps people upskill and companies become more productive,” mentioned Sehgal.
In his session, Budhaditya Mukherjee, Country Manager – System Engineering, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, focused on the importance of networking for setting up Wi-Fi in the campus. With the help of presentation and use cases, Mukherjee elaborated that universities and educational institutes need to look into the overall design and architecture before setting up campus Wi-Fi facility. According to him, this will enable optimal use and best experience for users.
He said that users expect an always-on experience. He informed that with Aruba’s ClientMatch technology, students, faculty, and guests can connect to the best access point, while AirMatch leverages machine learning to automate Wi-Fi network tuning for the highest performance. The new cluster capabilities in ArubaOS 8 makes sure everyone stays connected, even during network updates.
Mukherjee stated that increase in the number of devices due to mobility and IoT can be difficult to manage, especially in crowded campuses. Aruba’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi network and HPE Smart Rate Gigabit switching supports demanding teaching and learning apps, which is important especially in high density environments.
Simple and easy digital banking solutions for education institutions
Krishnakumar Dharmaraj (KK), Managing Director & Head, Transaction Banking – Commercial Banking, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, in an interesting presentation, shared a perspective on how education institutes can opt for digital banking solutions such as flexible modes of payments, account rationalisation, single account for all payments and many others which are essential for every education institution to make it more convenient for parents and students to pay and overall improve their banking transactions.
The education sector needs to be ready to serve the changing consumer demands and payment preferences. KK presented a bouquet of digital banking services from the house of Standard Chartered, customised for educational institutions.The bank also highlighted the financial challenges faced by schools and shared the solutions to address them. KK highlighted that UPI is one of the largest payment systems in India and this system is helpful for education institutes in numerous ways.
“Standard Chartered Bank has expanded its solutions within the education ecosystem and has created a value proposition that can facilitate a smooth transition to the digital space; for example, the bank has real-time reconciliation of regular receipts from multiple students by assigning each student a unique virtual account number,” informed KK.
He further stated, “When India launched the UPI, we were one of the early organisations which started offering UPI. We have also launched an API store to ease connectivity. Our front-end online platform, Straight2Bank, is well accepted by clients and we are now taking it to the next level – S2B NextGen. We are constantly engaged in innovation and our endeavour is to add the best value to our clients.”
Evolving role of technology in improving quality of education
The panel discussion on the topic, “Evolving role of technology in improving quality of education”, was moderated by Srikanth RP, Group Editor, Express Computer & CRN. The panelists were, K G Suresh, Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication; Hrridaysh Deshpande, Director, Ajeenkya DY Patil University; Prof. Pradeep Pendse, Dean Academics and CTO, Welingkar Institute of Management; Prof. P D Jose, Chair, Digital Learning and Faculty – Strategy, IIM Bangalore; and Budhaditya Mukherjee, Country Manager – System Engineering, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. The panelists focused on how technology can improve the quality of education. They were unanimous that there has been significant improvement in enrollments across the country, in both schools and higher education, but quality needs to be improved.
They were of the view that most of the graduates lack skills required by the industry and hence they are unable to get jobs. Prof Jose said that both academia and industry need to collaborate to improve the learning outcomes. Participating in the discussion, Suresh mentioned that time has come for convergence, wherein different mediums and technologies are converging, and only those students who are conversant with digital, print and broadcast are able to get placed. He said that his institute is focusing on inculcating these skills among students. Sharing his views, Deshpande stated that understanding and imbibing of emerging technologies will help both students and universities in improving the quality of education.
Role of technology in higher education
Addressing the august gathering, Dr NK Ahuja, Vice Chancellor, Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, stated that technology is a great enabler for the education sector. Explaining how his university is using technology, he said that most of the processes of the university has been digitised and has resulted in improved efficiency.
Ahuja shared that Swami Vivekanand Subharti University’s main campus is in the National Capital Region, spread over a sprawling area of about 250 acres of land. The university has several constituent colleges which provide higher education in almost all the disciplines like medical, dental, nursing, physiotherapy, paramedical, pharmacy, naturopathy, Yogic sciences, engineering, management, law, journalism, education, library, arts and science, hotel management, faculty of science, etc, thus engaged in creating academically and technically proficient professionals. He said that the uniqueness ofthe university lies in providing an environment fully conducive to the overall development of students, thus maintaining a balance between academic excellence and moral perfection. The university has also started a number of courses through distance education, approved by joint committee of UGC, AICTE, and DEC.
Skill Development and AICTE
In his presentation, Lt Col Kailash Bansal, Director, AICTE emphasised on the importance of skill sets needed for the future workforce. He said that with emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and blockchain taking centre stage, the future workforce will have to be ready with these technologies and to make them ready, educational institutes will have to play a key role.
While sharing about the focus of AICTE in this area, he informed that AICTE is running a mandatory industry readiness-cell that works in the area of preparing young engineering graduates ready for the market.
With the help of a presentation, Bansal explained that an employer looks for different sets of parameters including personal traits as a well as technical know-how to hire a person.
He pointed out that AICTE is promoting both technical and soft skills among students.
Sharing more details, he stated that AICTE focuses on promotion of quality in technical education, planning and co-ordinated development of technical education system and regulations, and maintenance of norms and standards.
Innovative use cases
The panel discussion on ‘Innovative use cases showcasing the future of education using technology’, was moderated by Dr Ishan Ranjan, Vice President Training & Interventions, Inspire Infotech.
The panelists included Dr D N Pandey, Director, Jaipuria Institute of Management; Prof M Balakrishnan, Deputy Director, IIT Delhi; Abhishek Pandit, Executive Vice President, AISECT Group; and Dr Ashok Mittal, Chairperson, IIITD Innovation and Incubation Center.
Giving the brief overview of the discussion, Ranjan said that technology penetration in the area of education has improved quality and enabled educational institutions to impart learning in a more engaging way.
The panelists were of the view that emerging technologies like AI, virtual reality and augmented reality can serve as a catalyst in improving the education sector.
Dr Mittal emphasised that despite technology intervention, it is highly needed that fundamentals of learning must be taught to students. “We should use technology to learn our traditional subjects in more engaging way but in no way technology should become our end-goal,” said Dr Mittal.
Success story: Competency-based Transcript System
Hrridaysh Deshpande, Director, Ajeenkya DY Patil University gave a presentation on the importance of democratisation of knowledge. He said, “As one of the largest universities in the country, the Ajeenkya DY Patil University (ADYPU) is increasingly focusing on technology-intensive, innovative education. The university is embracing the twin engines of globalisation – technology and innovation. Technology is a key for enabling infrastructure, besides the buildings and facilities. Annually, ADYPU spends approimately `5 crore on IT, including the subscriptions, software licenses and hardware addition. Year-on-year the university increases the allocation.”
He claimed that ADYPU is one of the pioneers in India to have adopted the Scale-Up Classroom, which stands for ‘Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies’. It is a structural and pedagogical approach to deliver technology driven learning, currently being used by over 250 universities across the US and Europe. The approach has been instrumental in increasing student participation and engagement.
Deshpande said that in the future, his university will focus on unique competency based matrix and digital portfolio, in which artificial intelligence will be used to connect an employer’s job description with the student’s capabilities, thus reducing the gap between expectations and delivery.
Naveen Goyal, Founder & CEO, NoPaperForms began his presentation by explaining about his company. He informed that NoPaperForms is a SaaS based enrolment management platform which handles complete admission cycle, from enquiry to enrolment, from generating forms, payment collection to measuring ROI; everything is automated and can be done on the fly.
Goyal said that compared to the old setup, where institutes spent a lot of time on setting up complex IT systems, NoPaperForms is shifting the focus on engaging students, measuring ROI and improving conversion. His company customises its modules to ensure that both offline and online processes can co-exist, and then slowly educate traditional customers and bring a shift in their mindset.
Goyal said that earlier the digitisation of admission process was happening through traditional ERP systems, which are costlier as well as complex to implement and maintain for the institutions. Also, the administrative staff was comfortable working on the traditional legacy systems, heavily relying on the offline medium, so it becomes difficult to convince such institutions. The way the Admission and Marketing departments have evolved in the last few years, a need was felt for a different style of system which the existing ERP was unable to cater to, the space that NoPaperForms is dealing in, is the new age plug-and-play SaaS model, where the strength lies in its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.
Education Technology Innovation Awards
Express Computer Education Technology Innovation Awards is an endeavour to boost education institutes who have been using technology for disrupting the education system. The institutes were awarded on the basis of innovative use of a particular technology or a combination of technologies for distinct benefits to the stakeholders. This includes deploying a completely new solution or innovative use of existing technology to gain a competitive edge, improve operations, become more responsive to customers and partners or, simply, to add to the top or bottom line.
The judging panel looked into the Indian education institutions/universities/ colleges that have broken new ground in using IT systems/ initiatives/projects in adding value or in solving pain issues.
This year’s winners are: IIM Bangalore, NSDC, Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Ajeenkya DY Patil University, Sharda University, and Institute of Technology & Science, Ghaziabad.