The education sector is going through a paradigm shift. The future of education is far from what it was even a decade before. And it is time we start foreseeing the trends, so that we are better equipped to turn this revolution to our advantage.
But before diving headfirst into the future, let us take a look at the past. After all, the future is to create, but the past is what we learn from. If you look closely, a very pertinent parallel can be drawn between the evolution of media and education. In the beginning, there was just broadcast media. Remember the early days of television broadcast, when the remote was not even a thing, because what would you even use it for! There were not many choices when it came to what to watch, where to watch or when to watch. Then came the multichannel format, and the fight for the remote. We had choices galore in terms of the content, but not much in terms of when to watch or how to watch. And finally, today we have the OTT format that is content-flexible, time-flexible and device-flexible.
That is exactly how our education system has also evolved. First, we had the Gurukul system, where the learner had no choice in what to learn, when to learn, whom to learn from. Everything was pre-decided for the learner, and he or she had to make do with it. That might have been a very efficient system for that point of time, but with globalisation and modernisation, that system gave way to schools and colleges, which came with a lot more choices. The prevalent system today is still in this stage, and while it has worked fine till now, the education sector is standing at the cusp of a major shift. We are taking steps towards a stage in education that will be equivalent to the OTT media format. The learner today is much more aware of what they want and how they want it. And it is this freedom of choice that is going to reshape the education sector. The emphasis today is more on gaining skills than just knowledge. ‘Hands-on learning’ is the keyword here, and it is going to be time, space and distance-independent. How? Let us figure out.
1. Campus boundaries will start fading
The world is on its way to becoming the classroom. Well, to speak in theological terms, it already is. But it is only now that the realisation is dawning upon us. And now it is up to us to explore this opportunity to the maximum, whether we do it by making online courses the norm, or by making gaming modules the primary method of instruction. Trend analysis by Research and Markets predict that global e-learning market will reach US$325 billion by 2025. In the sector of online education in India, we can expect a growth reaching US$ 1.96 billion and around 9.6 million users by 2021, predicts a 2017 survey by KPMG, in association with Google. The same survey also tells us that the three primary reasons learners will continue to adopt open resource learning materials are convenience of access, flexibility of time and variety of materials. All of these will contribute to making learning a truly time and space-independent process and education will cease to be restricted to brick-and-mortar spaces.
2. ‘Phygital’ will be the way to go
In the ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) way of learning, the digital solutions are overlaid on top of the physical assets of education. This approach helps bridge the distance between the learner and the teacher, with the help of digital channels. However, in an Indian context, to make digital channels truly inclusive and impactful, we need to complement them with physical touch points. Imagine a student learning how to drive. In a ‘phygital’ mode of learning, the physical process of the student driving will be integrated with the instructor providing guidance over digital channels, so that learning happens in real time, and it is pertinent, to-the-point, and applicable in real life.
3. Tomorrow, professionals will be the teachers
Trends show that the goal is not just acquiring knowledge anymore, but acquiring skills. And to facilitate that, not just the learner, but the teacher must also be someone with hands-on experience in the subject domain. In the years to come, practical classes will not be limited to the last two periods of a school day, but will be the heart and soul of a learner’s curriculum. If a student wants to learn about welding, he/she will not just read about the properties of different kinds of steel, but will work with an experienced welder to imbibe how the properties of different kinds of steel affect their usability in welding works.
4. Students will learn without being aware that they are learning
The environment will be conducive to a homogenous format of learning, which will translate into learners ‘learning’ while they are ‘doing’. Think video games. Think augmented reality. Imagine a scenario where you are a character in an adventure game, every time it falls, exclaims, “Hey there Gravity, say ‘hello’ to Newton!” This way, the learner’s engagement level will be high, learning will be more immediate and retention will be easier.
5. Exams will test application skills, not knowledge
According to the survey by KPMG, re-skilling and online certification courses is currently the largest category in the Indian online education industry, with a preference towards online trainings for skill development/certification. In May 2017, it dominated 38% of the total online education market in India. Industry-aligned training courses in industry-trending topics and domains are in high demand. And it is this demand for hands-on skills that will dictate the exam sector’s shift in focus from testing of knowledge to testing of skills. Let us take a very basic example to delineate the advantages of this. Do you know that nitrogen is denser than carbon dioxide? What do you do with that knowledge?
This is what tomorrow’s examinations will test. Because as long as you do not apply that knowledge to the use of a fire extinguisher, you will never know that, that is the reason why carbon dioxide is the chosen medium in a fire extinguisher and not nitrogen — because the low density of carbon dioxide helps in the medium’s easy maneuverability.
6. Not just learning, even evaluation will become space, distance and time-independent
There are systems in place through which examinations taking place in Japan are being marked by evaluators in Vadodara, sitting in an Indian office. It utilises the human capital, a resource that India abounds in. No constraint of time and space ensures that the best minds are engaged in evaluating exactly the subject they excel in, which, in turn, results in a faster and fairer evaluation system guided by well-defined marking scheme.
Now, the question remains, when and how will these changes take place? But what is certain is that the challenge of embracing this evolution is more on the teachers and the administration, than on the learners. While the learners are already on their way, teachers need to put in the extra hours to manage the technology-overload. But global data shows that the inevitability of an overhaul of the education system is universally accepted, and what remains to be done is taking the bold steps towards it.
Author – Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON