Prem Das Maheshwari of D2L says blended learning is here to stay
The two key educational themes that surfaced in 2020 are the National Education Policy (NEP) that delves around the shift from traditional rote learning to applications or skills-based learning, allowing students to have more flexibility in the way they want to develop their education path; and the encouragement from the UGC and the AICTE on the use of digital solutions that meet the requirements for quality education delivered online.
Globally also many institutions have transitioned away from focusing on just rote learning, typically in a class setting, and are now focusing on skills-based training and personalised learning.
“While educational institutions in India are trying to innovate as far as dissemination of education is concerned, the question many are facing now is how do they make that smooth transition from their existing course syllabus and material in a manner that does not deviate too much from what they are used to for decades? As they explore ways to change the way they teach, naturally more will turn to digitising education,” says Prem Das Maheshwari, business director, South Asia, D2L (the company that offers the Brightspace online learning platform to educational institutions). “Learning management systems such as the Brightspace enable institutions to structure learning according to the needs based on their skill-levels and preferences of individual students.”
Learning management systems, in general, create an environment that is centred around student learning outcomes, student and faculty engagement, whilst the automation capabilities relieve faculty of mundane tasks, enabling them to focus on delivering effective learning.
Moving forward, Maheshwari says, there will be an uptake of blended learning because it offers the benefit of both digitisation and in-person communication. “Faculty members will also need the right training support, hardware and software to enable them to teach and evolve their roles in education,” he adds.
He also says that text notes are a passé. “Animated videos, interactive content, bite-sized videos and gamified content—these are the means that students employ to consume content today. The engagement in online learning goes far beyond just content upload and download, and video delivery to replicate the face-to-face classroom.”
Learning is already becoming more collaborative especially in the virtual environment, between peers and between teachers and learners, moving away from lecture-style one-way delivery. Online learning, Maheshwari says, makes students more empowered as they can set their own learning paths. “With technology, students in the same course can choose what they want to learn as a sub-course—if it’s something they like, it’s more likely that they will excel in it,” he says.
As far as the major factors that are accelerating the growth of the e-learning industry are concerned, Maheshwari says that in 2020 many educational institutions in India had to urgently react to the pandemic, by a flurry of video calls and distribution of soft copy materials, just to keep the classes on. In the process, he says, a lot of them discovered the right tools for education continuity. “We have seen that the level of understanding of online teaching and learning tools has increased.”
D2L’s Brightspace learning management system, Maheshwari adds, is a UGC-compliant platform with unique features and functionalities that enable Indian universities to provide state-of-the-art learning and teaching experiences to their students and faculty. “Having worked with more than 1,500 customers, supporting more than 15 million learners globally, we (D2L) are an education-centred company,” he says. “Moving classes from the traditional classroom-based structure to an online space was not an easy task, but we have helped schools and higher education institutions make that switch successfully, with guidance throughout.”