The pandemic has blended the physical with digital education to suit all. I would like to call it a ‘PhyGital’ model. There are challenges of digital access and entire South Asia needs a major connectivity movement for the same. Education, especially higher education in the university, is set to alter due to the New Education Policy announced by the government.
So what major changes do we expect to redefine higher education? Here is a list being attempted in brief.
1. Breakdown Of Walls
Most universities will be moving towards doing away with hitherto tight compartmentalised education, divided into streams and disciplines, like arts, sciences, commerce, law and engineering. They would bring in the concept of minor specialisation from micro-biology to music to photography. Young learners will have the option to pick a domain as their major, say engineering, and twin it up with a minor specialisation (not just an elective), which can be as diverse as photography or music from the heart, or management to go well with technology learning.
2. PhyGital Way Ahead
Education would now use content creation, content delivery, learners’ engagement and learners’ evaluation. Now this will have proprietary content (mentor’s 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. The mentor’s job is to aggregate all these diverse but relevant content in advance before discussed online or face-to-face. Delivery of content is done in diverse ways: face to face, digitally in advance, or through platforms. 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, through which diverse skills and comprehension are evaluated. Every university education will move towards this blended diverse layered approach.
3. Internships And Field Projects
The next big change coming in higher education at the university level is getting internships in government or non-government organisations, MSMEs or large corporate houses, along with live projects with a client, as a compulsory part of the degrees, with credits and scores. Students have to do projects and internships, even if they are in liberal arts, literature, natural sciences, commerce and submit reports to complete their specific semesters.
4. World Is A 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 will soon be on a steady decline. The online education is allowing access to content and live sessions by top scholars of 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, and adding another dimension to their usual and traditional teaching-learning pedagogy on campus.
5. One Life, Many Careers
Earlier generations were equipped for one career as a lifetime mission: being an engineer, business manager, doctor, communication professional, designer. 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. One has to learn ways and means to self-learn. Hence, the concept of a flipped classroom, where universities are creating components and exposure to ensure learning to learn.
6. Rise Of Skills
Some of the top new-age global corporate majors, like Facebook, Google had already announced they would recruit not by degrees, but by skills-sets, portfolio and competencies. Employers need usable skills and competencies and jobs moving out of the government departments, the trend is getting stronger by the day. Universities are realising that their degree-centricity in operations has a limited shelf-life, and hence focusing more on hands-on competencies based skill-learning.
7. Creativity And Problem-Solving
Since all repetitive work in the new VUCA world shall be taken away by automation and robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning would easily predict steps or activities in a production chain. Hence, the youth will 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 utilised.
8. Outcome-Based Education (OBE)
Quite often we hear about scores, grades, degrees, marks as the primary outcomes of education. Every university program and course now are finalising the learning objectives and outcomes of the specific programs and courses. They are mapping the content of the modules and the projects and assignments all to these objectives and outcomes. Such outcomes are qualitatively and quantitatively first formulated and after the delivery, 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.
9. Most Preferred
With automation and AI coming in and repetitive manufacturing or routine service jobs getting mechanised, 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 per cent in 2020 by a recent estimate, while engineering in most places has been hit hard.
10. Must-For-All Masters
All good masters courses, irrespective of the major or minor specialisations, 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