21 November 2017 13:58:56 IST

Redefining higher education in the digital era

With technology improving our lives daily, there is no reason for education to be left behind

The significance of the internet today, and the subsequent digital innovations that affect us almost every day, is undeniable. In this VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world of business, there are hardly any functions that have remained isolated from a digital revolution that has disrupted almost all legacy processes. One must question how our higher education institutions have reacted or acted to reflect this change in society.

Both students and teachers are familiar with the usage of tablets, electronic boards and online platforms these days. Universities and education policy planners must rethink their operating models and redefine the outcomes of higher education in this digital era.

From ‘education’ to ‘learning’

Our current educational models seem limiting when viewed from this lens. Students adapt to the teaching styles of the faculty and their learning objectives are pre-determined by the faculty. Thus, to an extent, are restricted by the scope of the prescribed books. Any new learning from the world beyond is limited. Incorporation of technology in our teaching methodology stands to remove such limitations. But this would call for changes not only in our teaching practices, but also in our current examination systems.

Going from ‘education’ to ‘learning’ would require a re-design of the curriculum and the pedagogy to suit an examination system that focuses on the ability of a student to synthesize information for a desired outcome, rather than on their ability to recall their course work during the examination.

Open resource examinations

 

Would it be entirely undesirable to provide an extended open-book exam, maybe even allowing students to access the internet? Is it impractical to set an ‘all-resource-access’ exam to encourage students to support their answer with solid examples? Answering such questions would provide us insights for going from ‘education’ to ‘learning’.

The implementation of such an ‘open resource’ examination system stands to re-mould the entire education system. Faculty should be ready to face a new digital pedagogical model; the model would require the teachers to come up with newteaching methods and evaluation standards. Also, in this case, question-generation becomes a larger issue. In trying to prevent students from finding already existing solutions, the examiner would have to set more complex and challenging papers.

Cheat codes

A major problem that exists in the current ‘closed-book’ examination system is the plethora of hi-tech cheating options available to those seeking unfair means in educational pursuits. As newer clandestine technologies emerge, educational institutions will have to challenge them with better plans to arrest the new ways of cheating and devise solutions to run examinations in a fair manner.

All these challenges aside, the rewards from such an open system seem to benefit what is the ultimate centre of our educational system — the student, who would not only gain from reduced stress during the exam due to an increased sense of control, but would also be involved in a more research-oriented and thought-based learning process.

With the business world rapidly moving towards newer technologies like block chain and IoT, can business-education be far behind? We are now even talking about ‘flipping the class’!