Harjiv Singh, Founder & CEO, BrainGain Global

Harjiv Singh is the Founder & CEO of BrainGain Global, a SaaS-enabled higher education marketplace for content, program and tools.  In an entrepreneurial career spanning over two decades, Harjiv, has built global companies and teams in digital media, technology and healthcare across the US, Europe and Asia. He is also the Founder of Gutenberg, a digital integrated marketing firm he founded in 2004. He began his career as a financial analyst in GE Capital’s Financial Management Program (FMP) and has worked at a New York City hedge fund and Priceline.com early in his career. In an exclusive interaction with the Higher Education Digest, Harjiv talks about the emergence of short-term courses, interest-based learning, digital education, and many more.

  • How has the concept of specialising in a field changed with the emergence of short-term courses?

Today, there are growing concerns about human workers being replaced by machines. Advancements in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are set to trigger a massive disruption in the job market across industries. In the future, machines will be able to perform menial tasks far more efficiently than their human counterparts. Humans need to acquire skills that transcend machine capabilities.

I believe the only way to keep up with the disruption is to continually acquire new skillsets by specialising in fields that could be relevant soon. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning for all. Lifelong learning has never been more critical than it is today. Our current education system must adapt to the evolving labour market and prepare the students accordingly.

Recent advances in IT have enabled new and more accessible routes to education. It isn’t always feasible to enrol for full-fledged one to two-year courses. Short-term courses can meet the changing demands of the future of work. They make it easier to facilitate lifelong learning and acquire specialised skills for professional growth.

  • Can you elaborate on the importance of conceptual development for tackling real-life situations?

Conceptual development is critical to ensure that students can tackle new situations effectively, not only at school but also in real life. A good foundation at the conceptual level is necessary to apply these concepts in new situations. Conceptual development includes strategies that teachers use to promote higher-order thinking skills and cognition. It goes beyond rote learning and instead focuses on appropriate solutions by thinking about the how and why of learning.

  • Sometimes, the way the curriculum is presented to students turns them off education. How important is it to inculcate interest-based learning in early childhood and high school?

Access to education has significantly risen across the globe. Education raises one’s self-esteem and expands opportunities for professional growth. But going to school is not always synonymous with learning. To inculcate interest-based learning right from early childhood and high school, I think it’s important that teachers are motivated to do their best. They must be equipped with appropriate teaching tools to impart soft skills and digital skills. Schools can also leverage technology to deliver quality education and teach fundamental skills.

Educational institutions prepare students for more than just basic reading and writing. Students must also learn to interpret information, form opinions, be creative, and collaborate effectively. Unfortunately, conventional education models don’t value interest-based learning but favour rote learning and testing. But this approach fails to ensure knowledge retention. Interest-based learning not only motivates students to learn better but also helps them retain information in the long run.

  • How do short-term courses offer students long-term benefits?

Short-term courses are a great way to fill the gaps in one’s knowledge and continually acquire new skill sets that will help in the long run. They provide a competitive edge when it comes to climbing the professional ladder. Moreover, these courses offer greater flexibility, which can particularly benefit full-time working professionals. Short-term courses also ensure lower opportunity costs. Most of them are only a few weeks or a few months long and have classes on weekends. Convenient timings make it easier for working professionals to attend classes without hampering their daily routine.

  • With the emergence of technology and the fourth industrial revolution, what is the current status of digital learning in India?

Over 50 per cent of India’s population is under 25 years of age, and more than 65 per cent is below 35 years. Given these demographics, India has launched digitisation and skilling initiatives as well as a comprehensive education programme to improve school education and ensure equal opportunity for everyone.

Industry 4.0 and its accompanying technological advancements will have an impact on the education sector. With knowledge in a state of constant flux, educational institutions must adapt their curricula accordingly. That said, having a 100 per cent digital education is certainly not an all-inclusive solution, nor can it be the only method of teaching. This is where hybrid learning and blended learning help. The recent surge in EdTech solutions provides a great opportunity to transform school environments into hybrid learning communities. But the success of these approaches depends on how well teachers can hone their digital skills, accustom themselves to unconventional teaching methods and embrace innovation.

  • With the digital age giving all the information you need in just a few clicks; how do you motivate and engage learners to know more?

Accessing information online takes you only so far. Students must educate themselves beyond this, and teaching strategies must be built accordingly. Young people would benefit from being taught through technologies that they are accustomed to. New forms of learning like experiential, blended and hybrid learning ensure that students are always engaged and learn not only from what professors teach but also through their peers and the environment. These are real-life experiences and skills that cannot be learnt digitally.

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