13 January 2021 11:51:11 IST

Vice-Chancellor, SRM Institute of Science and Technology Chennai, and past president, Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi

Technologies that can drive education in the future

An ever-growing range of tech applications are enhancing learning in every field

Transformations in technology have greatly impacted the way we live and learn. In 2020, in particular, given the peculiar challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic, education and technology have become pretty much two sides of a coin. Educational institutions and faculty have been forced to find newer ways of applying technology to ensure students continue learning away from campuses, often in far-flung locations.

Young minds now have the opportunity to chase their dreams and passions by accessing learning with a flexibility like never beforeAcademic bodies are giving students several options, most importantly, the choice to adapt and use technologies that one is comfortable with.

They can pick from an array of not only subjects but also technologies that augment learning. Futuristic technologies are bolstering such student-centric learning marked by a variable pace, active feedback, personalisation and better evaluation of strategies.

New-age learning

Several kinds of technology are responsible for advancing the education agenda. A couple of decades ago, the fashionable term was ‘smart classrooms’, or spaces that used gadgets such as cameras and microphones. Today, these elements have become smarter and more adaptable, leading to concepts such as flipped classrooms and online discussion forums. Open book exams and online tests are here to stay. Diverse learning forums supplemented by new pedagogies such as project-based lessons, question-based systems and open-source material are being widely adopted.

Peer-to-peer learning, multi-institutional collaborations and self-directed learning as alternatives to formal education are finding favour with new-age learners. Another important initiative is the virtual laboratory, which helps students gain practice and skills in lab work, and cuts cost for high-end or precision equipment.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword now. The education sector is a big beneficiary of this tech. For example, biometric eye tracking helps a teacher understand the extent to which a student has absorbed the study material and give personal attention even in a large class. During examinations, AI and biometric eye tracking are already used to provide proctoring both online and offline, easing the task of invigilation and establishing wrong-doing, if any.

Game-based teaching

Tech enthusiasts have embraced wearable technologies, starting with wristwatches that perform a host of functions including mapping vital body signs such as temperature and heartbeat, and monitoring the functioning of vital organs. Similar tech can capture key aspects of a classroom situation.

Importantly, during online classes, students and teachers are exposed to different aspects of reality, interspersed with digital elements of animation. New-generation technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality can take teaching-learning to greater heights by making them highly immersive. VR can make subjects like history lively and fascinating.

Game-based learning is making rapid strides. Placing the student at the centre of the process makes learning more enjoyable, and even effortless. Similarly, 3-D printing, a key aspect of distributed manufacturing, is now used in academics to bring to life design concepts through modelling, fabrication and prototyping.

Technology for information capture, storage, and processing is changing so fast that soon education will dispense with books, paper and pens altogether, replaced by a single device known as the foldable Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).

Technology empowerment

With the new education policy, India aspires to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) from 26 to 50 per cent over the next 15 years. Cloud technologies, which are highly scalable, will be indispensable in meeting this goal by delivering quality higher education at a lower cost.

The 5G mobile technology, with its powerful and seamless communication engine, can help deal with high data volumes through the internet and enable superior versions of real-time support.

The options are endless for the role of technology in education, but one school of thought insists that technology can never supplant human beings. But no matter which way you look at it, it is clear that teachers will remain indispensable to education provided they remain tech-savvy in step with the changing realities.