By Monica Malhotra Kandhari, MD, MBD group
The coronavirus pandemic has seriously upended the education system. Along with the shift from classrooms to computer screens almost all aspects of learning are being tested. Format of instruction, attendance, evaluation, role of technology and human interaction are all being re-imagined and there is a growing possibility that some of these changes will last. The prolonged closure of schools and colleges has also highlighted some underlying vulnerabilities in the education system and as the various stakeholders strive to address challenges and plug the gap, education as we know is going to change forever. Blended learning will be a new norm, which has also been envisaged in our NEP 2020.
Learning by screen or remote learning will continue to play a major role even after schools areable to re-open post the pandemic. Digitisation of education is the future and we have been making significant strides in that direction even before the pandemic struck. For more than a year now, online classes and remote learning have been the medium through which learning is delivered to students. Teachers as well as students have adapted themselves to make the best of this mode of learning. This is not to say that remote learning is the best or the only way forward. Some schools in smaller town and cities were not in a position to hold classes remotely and a large number of students are suffering because of this. Steps must therefore be taken to make remote learning more accessible and everyone can benefit from this mode.
One key take away from the pandemic is that, conventional classroom teaching with human contact is still the best mode of learning.However, technology is a great enabler and hence has a significant role to play in the education system.With a majority of the educational institutions having experimented with digital learning and teachers having to learn to adapt to technology, teacher training will also need to be revamped to include practical aspects of technology in education. Along with updated pedagogy, impactful use of technology will be an important part of teacher training programs in the future.
Though significant advancements have already been made in digitising education and hence remote learning. Access to and quality of resources available for remote learning needs to be improved. Access to high speed internet and affordable gadgets to access online resources is a concern in smaller cities and towns. Even in major metropolitan cities, the quality and bandwidthof internet connection can vary from area to area. This is an issue that can be easily fixed and the government is taking steps to facilitate infrastructure development and framing policies to enhance the quality of internet in the country.
A major concern of parents as well as teachers is the imbalance in learning that arosein online classrooms.Teachers could hardly tell how well the students comprehend and understand the concepts of the subjects as they themselves are teaching from behind a screen. The imbalance in learning will be an issue once education institutes can re-open and this gap will have to be bridged to establish a median. The power of artificial intelligence in automating activities like grading will come in handy. Artificial intelligence also brings in the capacity to individualise learning,responding to the needs of a student, emphasising on certain topics and helping students to progress at their own speed. With every future advance in AI, the use case for adaptive programs like these in education will only improve and expand.
Assessing students and testing is another area where changes will have to be made to align with the new reality. Standardised testing which has been the norm will have to make way adaptive tests that delivers personalised results. As it is, schools have probably for the first time ever, promoted students en masse to the next level without any standardised testing. Also there are batches of students in the lower section who have been promoted to the next class without having once experienced a physical class room setting. And yet a significant number of students have spent the first day of their formal education at home, in-front of a screen. So testing students will have to be adaptive in nature where customised assessment is done for each individual students based on their competency level, based on learning outcomes and previous tests taken. With individualised testing using technology becoming the norm, proctoring tools will supplement traditional invigilation of exams as student’s access tests remotely.
The role of teachers have also seen a significant change due to the pandemic. Teachers have been forced to make pedagogical adaptations for online classes. PowerPoint and audio-visual presentations have become the norm and teachers including senior educationists are forced to learn the use of technology to be able to take classes during the pandemic. Also teachers have to be creative in how they tech and engage with students to gain the attention of their students. The traditional role of teachers has been disrupted and there is a need for teacher training in pedagogy as well as in the use of modern tools and aids to make teaching more effective and engaging. The private sector will have to play a major role in teacher training to cater to those in the private sector and government run teacher training centers will have to upgrade their curriculum and infrastructure as well.
Educational services providers in the private sector have for quite sometime now offered remote learning tools and materials. They have also developed and deployed app based tools for school management and teaching solutions. The adaptive assessment feature in MBD group’s Aasoka app for instance, offer customised assessments for each individual student based on their competency level derived from the latest test taken by them. This level of personalisation helps in detailed analysis of core strengths and weakness to realign learning approach accordingly. This level of personalisation is possible only because of the underlying strength of technology that enables educators to tailor lessons, assignments, reports and practice worksheets for their learners.