Democratization of higher education

For learners, the flexibility, adaptability and personalization fueled by digitalization make learning a joyful enterprise, both in traditional classroom learning and online, says Raghavendra P. Tiwari

The United States Secretary of Education in the 1960s, John Gardner, once wondered if we could be equal and excellent at the same time. Since then, coexistent frameworks of access, equity, quality and affordability of education have been widely debated. Such a comprehensive education system must ensure access to quality education for all knowledge seekers at their doorstep and at an affordable cost to create a large pool of effective learners with subject matter knowledge, soft and hard skills. and the ability to communicate across cultures. , time and space. The student community, particularly in India, is a heterogeneous group with a wide diversity of needs and requires a variety of learning formats, pace, learning style choices and other associated forms of flexibility.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) can help us a lot in this regard, as they are rapidly emerging as catalysts to bring innovative disruptions in higher education and create new learning narratives. Technological advancements in the modern world are so rapid and relevant that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that are unable to take advantage of technological disruptions in higher education to prepare for the changes occurring in the processes teaching and learning will lose their relevance.

Digitization of higher education is a crucial factor in this context as it helps to create responsive administration, multi-disciplinary curriculum, appropriate pedagogies (experiential learning) and real-time performance assessment based on learning outcomes. learning, effective communication, interconnectedness, seamless availability of e-learning resources even in the most remote rural areas, innovations and entrepreneurship, collaboration and outreach. Additionally, digitization will help learners who cannot be in the classroom and those with different abilities.

Digitization in Indian higher education has started with the production of quality electronic content and courseware by the Electronic and Multimedia Resource Centers (EMRC) under the Educational Communication Consortium and its dissemination through the Vyas Higher Education TV channel 24×7 and thirty two SWAYAMPRABHA DTH channels. This digitization process has been accelerated over the past decade by the Ministry of Education through several initiatives related to access to online courses, quality digital academic content, academic research and administrative practices. institutional.

For online courses and access to online content, Massive Open Online Courses through the SWAYAM platform, National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning, e-PG Pathshala (curriculum-based interactive electronic content), e-Acharya (a portal to host all electronic content developed through projects under NME-ICT), FOSSE (free/free and open source software for education) and SAKSHAT (a one-stop educational portal) are available.

e-Shodh Sindhu (Consortia for Higher Education Electronic Resources), e-ShodhGangotri (a digital repository of theses and dissertations), Shodh Shudhhi (plagiarism detection software), National Digital Library (a digital repository of vast content academic) are databases and tools made available to further academic research.

Similarly, to facilitate skills development and innovation through a virtual learning environment in science, engineering, technology and design development, e-Yantra (training labs to embedded systems), e-Kalpa (digital learning environment for design), Virtual Labs (Web-enabled experiments designed for remote operation), spoken tutorial (tutorials in computer application), SOS tools (firmware and simulation), text transcription of video content, OSCAR (open source tutorial animation repository) are available. In addition, VIDWAN (a digital database of experts) is made available to promote expertise sharing and collaboration between academics and institutions.

Digital academic management is provided by the National Academic Depository through DigiLocker (to ensure 24×7 availability of all student awards in digital form) and Baadal (NME-ICT cloud development and deployment of eGov applications for academic needs), and the SAMARTH project improves the efficiency of administrative, financial and evaluation-related activities by reducing response time and promoting ease of education. All of these efforts have provided a solid foundation needed to create a digitization ecosystem in higher education. These initiatives will also be of immense use for the proposed digital university which should be established on the model of University 4.0.

Digitization of higher education has seen a surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing HEIs to resort to online teaching using LMS. It is now evident that higher education will see extensive use of digitalization in course design, practice-oriented teaching, research, assessment and all other aspects of teaching and learning. to create a next-generation learning environment.

For learners, the flexibility, adaptability and personalization fueled by digitization make learning a joyful enterprise, both in online and traditional classroom learning. Through technology-based flipped classrooms, virtual reality sessions, virtual labs, digital models and simulations, gamification, electronic documents, electronic texts and reference books, online assignments, learning and extensive open educational resources, students can have engaging learning experiences.

To facilitate the impending transition, HEIs must use appropriate technology to create a credible ecosystem that improves learning outcomes and offers personalization. This can be accomplished by using ICT, adopting blended learning models, creating industry associations and developing skills and competencies for 21st century life. HEIs must continually improve their curricula, course content, pedagogy, assessment, integrate problem-solving research with academics, conduct research in the digital environment with peers around the world, and adapt models modular. HEIs also need to turn to learner-centred, soft-skills-focused and domain-specific approaches that are key to improving learners’ employability. They should embrace hybrid learning models comprising offline, online, lab and on-site platforms and include industry, skill centers and unorganized learning centers in rural India by creating collaborative and outreach activities between industry and academia.

The implementation of the National Education Policy-2020 cannot be considered without the digitization of higher education. Capacity building of faculty members in digitization technologies should be done to empower them to embrace the advancement that the teaching-learning process is witnessing. However, funding will be a major barrier to effective digitization of higher education, as large-scale investments in hardware, software and the provision of high-speed internet connectivity in remote and rural areas are needed to create a robust digital architecture necessary for a global approach. , comprehensive and flexible learning ecosystem. Overcoming these obstacles should be paramount to the long-term success of the ongoing process of digitizing higher education. This success will ensure that the screen trend of gen-next is taken seriously and their decreasing memory duration is also improved. Education planners and leaders need to be aware of this and take responsibility for the digitalization of their respective institutions. HEIs that are not an integral part of this process and therefore do not stand ready for digital will actually be doing a great disservice to the nation’s learning system.

The author is Prof Raghavendra P Tiwari, Vice Chancellor of Central Punjab University, Bathinda

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