Prof Ramabhadran Thirumalai

Channels to enhance skills have widened

The focus has changed from degrees to skills because it is no longer the case that earning a degree is the only way to acquire skills. In conversation with Professor Ramabhadran Thirumalai, Deputy Dean – Academic Programmes, ISB.

What are all the changes that have taken place in academia as a result of the post-pandemic era? How have the syllabi changed and do you think hybrid education can work?

Broadly, people are more open to online meetings and online classes. That is a change in everyone’s attitude and mindset. During the pandemic, learners have realised the benefits of online learning (recordings being available, they can learn at their own pace). Syllabi haven’t changed much in reaction to the pandemic. They change in line with the changing business world. Hybrid education could work for certain fields and areas. But in the business education space, there is also an emphasis on networking and face-to-face interactions in the form of classroom case discussions. I believe that there is a space for both types of programmes. Some learners will prefer in-person classes, while others will prefer the flexibility and convenience of hybrid learning, which is learning from anywhere.

Some say that the focus in the new age has shifted from degrees to skills. Would you agree?

Skill has always been important. Even if someone had a degree from a reputed institution, if they were unable to display the necessary skills, they would not succeed professionally. Before the pandemic, the main way to gain skills was from traditional education institutions that granted degrees. But with online and hybrid learning opportunities, the channels through which learners can enhance their skills have widened beyond these educational institutions. These online learning opportunities may not always earn a degree for the learner. So, yes, I would agree that the focus has changed from degrees to skills because it is no longer the case that earning a degree is the only way to acquire skills.

Is there any change in the relevance of the management degree in the post-Covid world?

I do not think there is any change in the relevance of a management degree. Like I said above, learners have segmented themselves into two: those who prefer to learn from traditional institutions and those who prefer to learn online. At the end of the day, it is about acquiring skills. How they acquire it does not matter as long as they are able to demonstrate the necessary skills.

Education is a lifelong process. Do you think it is now easier to do that with the success of online education?

Yes. At different stages of one’s career, one can focus on acquiring different skills depending on their needs. They can customize their learning to match their growing professional needs.

What about the role of data science for the business of tomorrow? Will everyone need to learn this?

As the (cliched) saying goes, data is the new oil. There is a huge amount of value to be generated for businesses using data. Data science is already very important. Look at all your big tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple, Meta, etc. They are already using the power of the data they are collecting to drive larger business and profits. I do not think everyone should become a data scientist, but it will certainly be an lucrative career for many years.

Prof. Ramabhadran Thirumalai

Deputy Dean – Academic Programmes, ISB

By Sunil Rajguru

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