If there are two sectors which are all set to alter like never before post pandemic, they surely are healthcare and education.
The pandemic has brought in digital education for the moment, which is expected to evolve into blended education going ahead blending the physical with the digital which I would like to call a ‘PhyGital’ model. There are challenges of digital access and entire South Asia needs a major digital connectivity movement within and beyond the government efforts. Education, specially the higher education of the university, is set to alter even due to the New Education Policy announced by the government of India.
So what major changes do we expect to redefine higher education ahead? Here is a list being attempted in brief.
- Breakdown of walls among ‘streams’ and ‘disciplines’ of education with majors and minors coming in
Most universities now will be moving towards doing away with hitherto tight compartmentalized education divided among streams and disciplines, like arts, sciences, commerce, law, engineering, etc. They would bring in the concept of minor specialization from micro-biology to music to photography. Young learners will have option to pick a domain as their major, say engineering, and twin it up with a minor specialization (not just an elective) which can be as diverse as photography or music from the heart, or management to go well with technology learning. Even half a decade earlier, this was unthinkable in India.
- The PhyGital: Blended is the way ahead: online and offline seamlessly blending
Education would now these four to be relooked at: content creation, content delivery, learners’ engagement and learners’ evaluation. Content creation earlier was about power-point presentations and a text book along with a couple of reference books for a course. This in the blended world will have proprietary content (mentor’s own slideshow, videos, podcasts, notes, info-graphics) coupled with aggregated content from diverse open sources including various Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The open sources can be free MOOCs like Swayam, videos from YouTube and Vimeo, podcasts, slideshare, pdfs of chapters and books, case-studies, animation and info-graphics etc. Mentor’s job is to aggregate all these diverse but relevant content and place it before the learners in advance before discussed online of face-to-face based on flipped classroom approach in which learners learn one round themselves all of these asynchronously at their end and then they meet for a synchronous digital or physical discussion where it is interactive, learners speak more, and doubts are clarified. Delivery of content is done in diverse ways: face to face, digitally in advance, digital through platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, Webex etc. Blended also brings in multiple ways of digital and face to face methods of engaging the learners to make them internalize the learning: quiz, debate, online survey or poll, critical comments, make a presentation based on earlier self-study, use of interactive smart boards, etc. Even evaluation or assessment is changing from merely course-end written examination to a blended approach of multiple evaluations: open book exams, written analytical and applied exams face to face or from remote, interview, quiz, case-study, verbal presentation, project-completion, prototype making, etc, through which diverse skills and comprehension are evaluated, and on a continuous basis, and not merely at the end of a course. So evaluation becomes formative during the course and summative when the course ended. Every university will be moving towards this blended diverse layered approach ahead.
- Internships & Field Projects must, even in liberal arts & sciences
The next big change coming in higher education at the university level is having is getting internships in government or non-government organizations, MSME or large corporate houses, along with live projects with a client, as compulsory part of the degrees, with credits and scores for them. Young learners of the university have to do projects and internships, even if they are in liberal arts, literature, natural sciences, commerce education during the summers (at times in winters) and submit reports to complete their specific semesters. Such projects and internships were common in engineering, management, law, media and design courses, which now will be across board, and it is for better practical learning.
- Learning from Anywhere: The World is One Big University
The significance of enormous real estates of universities, the exclusivity of your faculty, the challenges of accessing learning resources from ivy league institutes or top class professors shall soon be on a steady decline in the PhyGital world of education ahead. The online is allowing accessing content and live sessions by top scholars from anywhere in the world. An MOU between two universities from two continents is now allowing faculty member of one address learners from both the universities. Also, almost all universities are tying up with online education providers like Coursera, Upgrad, Unacademy, etc, and adding another dimension to their usual and traditional teaching-learning pedagogy on campus.
- Learning to Learn: Preparing for One Life Many Careers
Earlier generations of learners equipped for one career as a lifetime mission: being an engineer, business manager, doctor, communication professional, designer, et al. Increasingly with longer life and job-place uncertainty, the new realization is coming that there is not much of a life-time career left. Post pandemic, in the new furthermore VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), the need for multiple careers and multi-skilling is on the rise. Hence, the concept of minor specialization as well. One has to learn ways and means to self-learn. Hence, the concept of flipped classroom as well. The universities are creating components and exposure to ensure learning to learn.
- Decline of the Degree, Rise of the Skills
Some of the top new age global corporate majors, like Facebook, Google, et al, had already announced that they would recruit not by degrees, but by skills-sets, portfolio and competencies. The significance of degrees in the post-pandemic brave new world shall be even lesser. Employers need usable skills and competencies and jobs moving out of the government departments, the trend is getting stronger by the day. Universities are realizing that their degree-centricity in operations has a limited shelf-life, and hence focusing more on hands-on competencies based skill-learning.
- Creativity & Problem-solving at the Core of Learning
Since all repetitive work in the new VUCA world shall be taken away by automation and robotics, and artificial intelligence and machine learning would easily predict steps or activities in a production chain, humans will have to strive to move to things that cannot be replicated. Hence, the new age youth shall be expected to solve hitherto unknown or less predicted problems, find creative solutions to questions, develop a new template or model or sample, innovate production process or product usage, manage crises, and do team-work and give leadership to collective initiatives that create wealth and add value in society. All of these need an education which bans rote learning, gives less premium to merely information or data, but nurtures innovative thinking and practice, creativity and problem-solving among the learners. Pedagogy that creates a design-thinking capability in the higher education learners is being increasingly utilized.
- Outcome Based Education (OBE)
Quite often we hear about scores, grades, degrees, marks as the primary outcomes of education. Not so much now and they are at best by-products or collateral gains of higher education, not the core ones. So every university program and course now are finalizing the learning objectives and outcomes of the specific programs and courses, and mapping the content of the modules and the projects and assignments all to these objectives and outcomes. Such outcomes are qualitatively and quantitatively being first formulated and later, after the delivery of the program or the course, they are being assessed through mentor’s and learners’ feedback and evaluation. It is a very different scenario emerging in higher education through this OBE approach which goes far beyond merely completing a course, taking a written examination, evaluating and giving a degree or diploma till the recent past.
- Life Sciences, Business & Liberal Arts-Communication most Preferred at PG
With automation and AI coming in and repetitive manufacturing or routine service jobs getting mechanized, the domains of life sciences research and development, business models and approaches, and liberal arts-communication skills and careers are becoming the focus of higher education in the universities. The demand in these subjects has gone up more than 23% in 2020 by a recent estimate, while engineering in most places has been hit hard.
- Soft & Life Skills, Added to Incubation, Must for all Masters
All good Masters courses, irrespective of the major or minor specializations, are now making soft and life skills as compulsory components of learning to make the learners equipped with better emotional intelligence and communication skills. They are also adding goal-focused career-planning, start-up culture and entrepreneurial skills more so because even those appointed as trainee managers or entry-level officers are expected to own up the tasks given and function with a custodian mind-set.
The author is the Pro Vice Chancellor of Kolkata based Adamas University.