Anmol Mathur is an entrepreneurial-spirited, pioneering technologist with business acumen and 20+ years of experience of working in the domain of Information Technology (IT) encompassing roles of a CTO, an IT business head, VP IT Development working in IT operations, IT transformation, change management and program management in Media and Banking Industry. He has a domain expertise in IT, System Architecture/Infrastructure design, full project life cycle management, client/vendor relationship management, and financial/operational management, P&L responsibilities of 25+ Crore Revenue and working across geographies and multiple departments.
The pandemic proved to be a watershed moment for education, as the sector witnessed increasing digitalisation of learning across institutions. The lockdown prompted increased acceptance of online learning as primary schools and higher education institutes (HEIs) transitioned to the online domain to ensure continuity of learning for students. Even colleges and universities that did not allow more than 20 percent of a degree courses online subsequently lifted the restriction when the pandemic struck. The acceptability of e-learning has increased along with content consumption on all digital platforms.
The rapid growth of edtech platforms is also a testament to the rising popularity of technology-integrated education alternatives where across two years, four edtech startups have attained unicorn status, and one turned into a decacorn. Embedded technology, including cloud computing, can have far-reaching consequences in India with the potential to address some of our biggest challenges in enhancing teaching capacity and accessibility of quality learning.
It can also play a key role in addressing skill-based education needs, thereby increasing the employability of the emerging workforce. While the long-term impact of emerging technologies on the education sector is still playing out, some changes have emerged in the last few years.
Emergence of blended learning
Blended learning combines online learning with in-class teaching, supplemented by tech-based multimedia and social tools such as polls, chats, and embedded videos. Cloud-based learning platforms have evolved to mimic the collaborative and interactive classroom environment that typically differentiated in-class learning from online classes. Cloud-based online learning tools like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform as a service (PaaS) have been instrumental in democratising education, helping educators and with hands-on lab experience in online learning programmes. However, blended learning is more than just supplementing the classroom with technology. Under the blended learning approach, a significant portion of the curriculum is delivered through digital learning including homework assignments, lab work, and even lectures.
Gamification of education
Learner engagement is one of the biggest challenges of online learning. Gamification makes learning interesting by increasing the student’s engagement levels and improving lesson retention. Cloud-based platforms use gaming templates like quizzes, quests, and puzzles to reinforce microlearning, deploying feedback techniques such as leaderboards, awards, and recognition to motivate learners. Gamification also facilitates competition among participants, further enhancing it with positive motivating tools like ‘badges of recognition’. In the absence of adequate teaching capacity, gamification of learning platforms can help to bridge the divide between limited resources and high demand.
Availability of excellence at scale
The advantage of cloud computing applications in education helps scale operations at a fraction of the cost compared to brick-and-mortar setups. The expansion of edtech platforms during the pandemic proved the ability of cloud-based applications to handle sudden surges. Online deployment also overcomes geographical limitations – in a country where accessibility to excellence in teaching remains one of the biggest roadblocks in capacity building among students, technology can be a powerful tool in redressing the problem. Technology can help us jumpstart access to more teaching resources, helping HEIs to find alternatives to limited teaching resources.
Despite developing one of the largest networks of HEIs in the world, the gross enrolment ratio in India remains just a little over 27 per cent as of FY20. One of the reasons behind this shortage is the inadequate number of HEIs for the millions of Indian students, with an average of 28 colleges per 100,000 eligible population, ranging from a dismal seven in Bihar to 53 in Karnataka.
Technology can be game-changing in widening access to higher education, which showed its prowess during the pandemic. When faced with the closure of campuses, HEIs leveraged technology to continue classes, thereby ensuring continuity of learning for millions of students. We can expect learning to evolve with embedded technologies like cloud computing creating wider accessibility in remote areas. As the competition in this space picks up, services such as IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) can help in augmenting learning-based hardware challenges such as ensuring access to networks, servers, and data storage capacities.
Technology has also enabled accessibility to international education content and degrees at lower cost. This has provided HEIs students an opportunity to attend colleges post office hours across different time zones and learn and earn at the same time.
The pandemic was pivotal as HEIs focussed on teacher training to ensure the smooth integration of technology in the learning environment. The changing ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) environment marks a significant shift to ensure capacity building among educators and maintain the current level of expertise and skills in permanent as well as ad-hoc faculty. ICT can also help in standardising our curriculum and learning delivery in line with market needs.
The digitisation of the classroom is now inevitable and highly welcome. It can help us overcome the barriers to ensure universal access to higher education while further facilitating skill-building in the emerging workforce. However, challenges such as the digital divide and data security concerns can slow down its trajectory. Strengthening the digital education ecosystem by investing in specialist vendors, hardware availability, and building capacity can be critical in addressing these challenges.
Reduction in infrastructure cost
Cloud computing has allowed the pay-per-use module to evolve as an infrastructure and empowered smaller start-ups to thrive. This has enabled businesses to stay flexible, forthright, and futuristic in utilising the cloud infrastructure in proportion to their requirements. Additionally, it has enabled them to utilise several clouding systems simultaneously based on applicability thus preventing them from choosing an entire umbrella system with several components going unutilised. This also ensures easy portability across clouding systems especially when organisations opt for upgrades.