Today, as we think of the term evolution, we are bound to think of recent developments and changes caused by the pandemic along with the disruptions across industries. The education sector experienced a paradigm shift. One of the positive outcomes is – it gave us an opportunity to reimagine and change the existing learning landscapes. Universities had to embrace digital evolution. But, as the pandemic dismantled their traditional approach, they were unprepared to grapple with the rapid switch to virtual learning. This shift exposed the gaps that existed in the way we administer education. The situation demanded the right digital infrastructure, the creation of innovative practice-based learning, and effective assessment methods through seamless interaction.
With the emergence of virtual learning, institutions were pushed to digitally innovate their mode of education by creating digital infrastructure, new pedagogies, and adapting to the visual learning environment through various digital platforms. Given the vast digital experience from the pandemic, there is enough data available that can be utilized to learn and implement changes to create digital infrastructure suited to the special needs of a student. Research insights regarding learning patterns during Covid times could be a vital resource to build a stronger plan that serves both for short and long term.
Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams were instrumental in connecting the students with the teachers. Though these platforms served well, they were originally built to fulfill corporate needs. Therefore, while these platforms enabled a ‘virtual classroom,’ universities still faced the challenge to find the right platform for learning feedback, assessment, and evaluation processes. Furthermore, with increasing internet penetration, students also benefit from a plethora of video streaming platforms to learn.
Hence, there is a need for specialized platforms built collaboratively to cater to both offline and online educational needs. This will provide institutions a reliable platform for assessment and will also build new competencies among students, faculty, and the administration. Forward-thinking universities, that focus on aspects of procuring knowledge and digital offerings, can further use such platforms to scale the programs for better implementation of digital education. Such frameworks will serve as new pedagogies in the education sector to achieve academic excellence.
Teaching approaches have evolved with technological innovations. Earlier, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) was a trending practice among universities. Now, the emergence of digital-first institutions harnessing the appeal of learning through gamified content has managed to keep students engaged while learning. It leaves room for a “hybrid model” to shape the future where campuses have digital learning embedded in their offline curriculum.
This highlights the importance of creating real-world experiences to make the university campus a unique and effective knowledge ecosystem. Enabling mixed-use learning experiences will also help overcome challenges like social isolation that can be witnessed among students these days because of remote learning. Therefore, universities need to emphasize building such experiences with the intersection of technology and knowledge to deliver concepts impactfully. With the diverse experiences and learning catalyzed by the pandemic, there is no doubt that technology will be pivotal for universities’ transition to the post-pandemic realities and expectations.
By Prof. Vijayan Immanuel, Vice-Chancellor, Vidyashilp University