Has technology made a significant impact in the way our students learn? No.
Does it have the potential to change the learning landscape completely in the future? Yes.
Then why is it taking so much time? A number of possible reasons can be listed, including the cost, willingness, acceptance, fear of the unknown and regulatory challenges, among others.
Ironically, this is happening in a country like India which has, over the last two decades, received the unique distinction of being the information technology capital of the world.
Why digital learning?
Digital learning is defined as the effective use of technology to improve and strengthen a student’s learning experience.
The use of best-in-class content, real-time learning and feedback methods, and personalised instructions to propel academic success form the basis of this form of learning.
The resources, knowledge, tools and even access to the most celebrated teachers can now be shared with anyone rather than being a privilege of a selected few.
The key benefits
The benefits of technology adoption will be accrued to all the stakeholders.
Beginning with the student, numerous researches have confirmed that experiential learning—in which one gets to touch and feel concepts/theories—has a far-reaching learning impact than normal classroom training.
The recall and grasping power of a human being goes up significantly if one gets an opportunity to learn a concept through experiencing it even digitally.
Even the great Aristotle had observed: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Such type of learning increases engagement through personalisation of content.
Second, gamification of academic content has already started to make its presence felt across the globe.
We feel this tool can have a substantial impact on the mode of delivery of educational and vocational training.
Teachers can use technology to optimise their delivery, improve student retention, keep a channel of communication open with students, parents and the institution at all times, relearn and unlearn concepts, and strengthen peer network.
It is imperative that teachers adapt to digital learning or else it will remain elusive in the modern day world. Institutions, regulators and parents can benefit through improved academic results, better literacy rates and optimal learning results.
The progress so far
According to the 2015 report of UK-India Business Council, India’s e-learning market is the second largest market in the world, after the US.
It is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 17.4% till 2018.
The report adds that the sector is expected to receive a boost through the Rs 1.13 trillion Digital India initiative. Similarly, e-Basta is an initiative to make school books available in electronic form across the country.
A number of other initiatives such as virtual labs, talk to teacher, virtual classrooms have also been initiated. The real success of such programmes is yet to be ascertained.
One of the key challenges for the adoption of digital learning initiatives has been the lack of impetus and recognition accorded by the regulators and industry.
Even though a number of programmes have been announced by the government, there is no separate agency to monitor and evaluate their success.
Further, there is no mechanism for students to compare various offerings available in the market and analyse their fitment with their current requirements.
Therefore, given the potential of such offerings, the need of the hour is to develop an overarching regulatory mechanism to facilitate their growth and evolution.
A forward-looking and flexible regulator who works hand-in-hand with key stakeholders would be ideal.
The industry also needs to play an active role in their own interest as they would be the final consumers of the skilled and educated workforce.
They should have a say in the curriculum, evaluations, accreditation, etc. The important role played by technology providers and content developers can’t be overlooked and needs to be adequately addressed.
The new ecosystem
Digital learning can open doors to tremendous opportunities for everyone. Teachers, peers, parents, experts, technology providers and employers can join hands effectively to provide a holistic learning experience.
The interests and passions of the student are of prime importance; all other stakeholders act as facilitators.
The physical classrooms can expand their horizon to join hands with real-life experts aligned with student’s interests, with corporates through internships and innovation and training centres such as business incubators and accelerators.
Social learning platforms provide another avenue for students to expand their horizon beyond the boundaries of academic institutions.
Even a smartphone, which an average student touches over 2,000 times in a day, can become a mentor or coach.
One can improve her understanding of concepts, search for a professional tutor in her locality, study in a virtual classroom, conduct experiments, and undertake mock tests all through the touch of a button. Further, a student can up-skill herself by enrolling in various online courses.
We sincerely hope that all roadblocks are effectively tackled to ensure smooth transition into the new ecosystem. A number of challenges (quality, access and inclusive growth) which our current education system faces will be automatically addressed through such an evolution.
The author is director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP