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Digital to blended learning in post-COVID world

Digital to blended learning in post-COVID world

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The covid-19 pandemic in the early 2020 is affecting edtech and health tech worldwide much like demonetization did to fintech in India in late 2016.

Presently we are witnessing a forced migration to digital learning and this process has exposed the reality of the heavily endorsed Digital India campaign that was launched five years ago.

2. THE SCALE OF DISRUPTION

2.1 The intensity of disruption

  • Over 770 million students have been disrupted globally by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent worldwide lockdowns.
  • The United Nations has already warned of an unprecedented level and speed of disruption in education in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Presently there are over 37 million students enrolled in higher education in ndia and an interruption in the delivery of education has already caused a disruption that might continue for long.

2.2 What has been impacted?

  • Broadly speaking, education has three functions.
    • creation of learning content through research and writing;
    • packaging with visuals, dissemination of learning through classes, lectures, notes, self-study, discussions
    • assessment and evaluation of what the student has learned
  • All these functions have been majorly impacted and disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic due to precautionary measures of self-isolation and lockdowns.

3. DIGITAL HAVES AND HAVE NOTS' DICHOTOMY

3.1 Amplified struggles

  • Covid-19 has amplified the struggles that children were already facing globally to receive quality education.
  • Even before the pandemic, there were 258 million out-of-school children globally due to:
    • principally due to poverty
    • poor governance
    • living in or having fled an emergency or conflict

3.2 Lack of digital resources

  • There are many programs to address the global education crisis but the dramatic escalation of covid-19 pandemic has brought new challenges for 550 million children who had access to physical education but not to digital learning systems.
  • A majority of people globally are deprived of access to digital resources as
    • good internet connectivity
    • digital gadgets like laptop and tablets
    • electricity
  • Such people are forced to waste productive learning time.

3.3 Digital Education in India

  • Despite coverage of 70% of Indian population with mobile telephony, more than 25% of the population lacks the resources needed for digital learning from home.
  • Talks around digital education have been there in India for over a decade now, but nothing has substantial has taken place.
  • Even the premier institutes in India have issued digital content only sporadically.
  • Except for distance learning universities, the majority ofeducational institutions in India have neither digitized their contentnor made online learning an integral part of their teaching-learning process.

3.4 Digital Haves and have nots

  • Digital penetration beyond tier 1 and 2 cities and towns in India is still too abysmally low to replace face-to-face learning even remotely and the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare this pitiful condition.
  • Therefore, there are two digital classes in India:
    • the digital haves, who use online webinar platforms like zoom, google class etc. to learn, discuss and complete assignments
    • and the digital have nots, who depend on occasional phone calls from their mentors and Facebook posts or a WhatsApp group chat with videos often not downloading

4. GOVERNMENT SPENDING

4.1 Present Government Spending

  • In all probability, digital access will be a human right in the future and the government needs to realise this as soon as possible.
  • Government spending in India is lower than Tanzania, Angola and Ghana with only less than 3% of national budget for public education.
  • Such a nation cannot ensure digital education for the masses.

4.2 Required Government Spending

  • Nothing short of 7% of national budget for public education can achieve the following:
    • upgradation on public education infra-structure both physical and digital
    • large scale re-training of the teachers at every level
  • The enforced social distancing norms and nationwide lockdown has quickened the transition to complete digital learning pedagogy for those with partial or full digital resources. 
  • However, the next phase of the transition process requires policy changes.
  • Such steps can bring unprecedented changes in public education in India like:
    • learners will seek education voluntarily and collaboratively
    • every skill or chapter taught will lead to an defined and desired outcome
    • instead of being instructed, education will be explored organically
    • instead of an imposition, education will be a collective experience fostering diversity, teamwork and mutual respect

4.3 Contribution from non-governmental entities

  • Apart from government spending, 2% of the profits of corporate India needs to be allocated for investing in creating digital access to India at large
  • Telcom companies should come out with packages designed especially for students and teachers regarding internet access.
  • Furthermore, non-government organizations should roll out voluntary support to digital access for all Indians through campaigns like donation of discarded but functioning cell phones, laptops etc. to the less privileged.

5. DIGITAL LEARNING TOOLS TODAY

5.1 Requirements of Digital Learning

  • The covid-19 has necessitated educational institutionsto rapidly offer online learning to their students and fortunately, both, technology and content are available to help universities for this quick transition to digital.
  • Digital learning requires digital transmission of contentsinmultiple forms like audio, video and documents. 
  • Digital learning can involve face-to-face live audio-visual discussions like Zoom or without face-to-face learning as in Google Class.

5.2 Other strategiesto enhance the digital learning experience

  • The Flipped classroom method is an effective instructional strategy in this regard.
  • Here the study resources are provided in advance, and the actual classroom session begins with a quick quiz, then doubts clearance, and then moves to discussions.
  • This internalized, collaborative, experiential and bottom-up learning is more effective than traditional teaching that is instructional, hierarchic and top-down.

5.3 Other avenues of digital learning

  • Some other tools of digital learning are
    • Massive open online course
    • Collaborative distance learning, wikis, blogs etc.
    • Learning Management Systems like BlackBoard learn and TCSion LMS to develop customized, secured and IPR protected content.
    • Online learning avenues like Swayam online lessons from UGC.

5.4 Use of innovations in digital learning

  • Digital learning can be further assisted with Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) to enhance the learning experience.
  • These immersive and contextual experiences combined with artificial intelligence driven chatbots can further enhance the digital interface of the learner and the mentor.

6. DIGITAL LEARNING VALUE-ADDS

6.1 Developing personalised curriculum

  • Development of even a personalised curriculum is possible by incorporating big data analytics and content management like in WiseWire where the content changes for each student.
  • There is also an increasing demand for developing educational content with style and language that suits the learners like use of millennials' language and style.

6.2 Using Smartphone applications

  • Smartphone applications can also help teachers interact with students and keep a track of their progress.
  • They can also collaborate via cloud-based applications on projects. Teachers can also publish quizzes and polls to keep the students engaged.
  • Other applications also use video as a learning resource.

6.3 Use of Social Media

Social Media applications also being creatively integrated with school education.

  • Facebook Pagesare being usedto broadcast updates and alerts.
  • Facebook Group and Google Hangout are being used to stream live lectures and host discussions.
  • Twitter is being used as class message board.
  • Platforms as Word Pressare being used to create class blogs for discussions.

7. DIGITAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION

7.1 Assessment

  • It refers to the performance of the learner.
  • It helps the teacher to decide is the student is learning and what improvements are required and where.

7.2 Evaluation

  • It is a systematic process of determining the merit value or worth of the instruction or programme.
  • It helps to determine the effectiveness of the course.

7.3 Digital Assessment and evaluation

  • There are plenty of options available for digital assessment and evaluation of the learning. Some of them are:
    • Online quiz
    • online open book examination with time-managed and proctored question paper
    • applied questions based on comprehension and not memorization
    • Telephonic interview etc.
    • Feedbacks can be put to use for evaluation

8. POSSIBILITIES IN EDUCATION BEYOND COVID

8.1 Era of blended learning

  • The covid-19 pandemic has been a boon for online learning across all education levels and now the focus should be on providing quality content.
  • The post-covid era will be one of blended learning as the COVID-19 experience in education has taught us that digital tools are mere complements and not substitutes to the intimacy provided by face-to-face learning.
  • However, as the contents are increasingly moved online, it leaves the precious classroom time for more productive utilisation like discussion, debate and guided practice.

8.2 Teachers as mentors

  • In the post-covid new normal, teachers will act as mentors since information and knowledge will be available at the fingertips of the learners.
  • These mentors will be needed to inspire, motivate and direct students to a new domain of learning.

8.3 Students as true learners

  • Likewise, students will now be true learners since there is a greater onus of learning on the students.
  • Students study for exams, marks and degrees, under the tutelage of teachers, with a structured syllabus.
  • Learners learn within and beyond the classroom, from mentors and others, for lifetime use of knowledge for a career and life, within and beyond the syllabus.

9. CONCLUSION

In the post-covid education, engagement is at the center with an equal share of entertainment. Absence from classrooms and disinterest in learning have been the two most serious grievances of learning for a long time.

Digital learning allows the learner, the flexibility of being engaged with the learning process at his time, place and pace.

The future education will qualitatively be different from present. In the future, marks and degree certificates will not decide the quality of education.

The quality of the content will instead be decided by the level of academic and related online and social media engagement of the learners, the quality of content shared by mentors, and the value and volume of content generated by engaged learners.