higher education

Technology and innovation in higher education

Dataquest Higher Education Conference & Awards organised a full day brainstorming with the top minds in Education segment on November 26, 2021. 

The conference with the theme “Empowering The Next Gen” was focused on the key developments that are reshaping the education sector today

• Shift from offline to online.

• Hybrid teaching.

• Technology shaping the future of education.

• Digital learning and talent gaps.

• Learning & development for Industry 4.0.

The session on Technology Innovation in Higher Education consisted of a stellar panel from academia and industry: Dr J.V. Desai, Vice Chancellor, MVN University; Mr Raunak Singh, Founder University18; Rajesh Kumar, Technology Head, Enterprise and Government, India & SAARC, Juniper Networks; Nitesh Rohatgi, COO, ImaginXP and Narayan Mahadevan, Founder, BridgeLabz.

Dr. Desai, who has spent upwards of 30 years of his work life in mission learning and AI in his opening remarks acknowledged that technology innovation had crept in suddenly due to the pandemic. Online webinars, classes and live teaching created a lot of challenges because it was a new experience. Universities were connected on leased lines, but most students did not have high speed access devices. Of course, the rural and remote infrastructure still remains a challenge.

At the same time there were many opportunities that arose. “We developed content for YouTube teaching,” he said. This was a new thing for academia – especially the traditional campus. And it had its own set of challenges – content in English presented a problem, so many moved to vernacular classes. Surprisingly there were over 5000 subscribers in a short time – an unheard of number in the university. Dr. Desai thus felt for innovation to really have an impact, a key requirement is to bring on more local/vernacular teachers for online courses.

Rajesh Kumar said Juniper Networks has built the infrastructure across many educational institutes and also partnered with networks for delivering content to Students. “As an OEM and tech provider to the Educational sector, we find that students are now actually keen to come back to the campus, but they want that learning should be self-paced and they should be able to get the same online experience,” he said.

Seamless hybrid education is a key outcome of this, where a Knowledge Network will allow all universities to hook up on the network, perhaps referring to the National Knowledge Network that is already a work in progress. 

Dr Raunak Singh, a veteran in academia and founder of his university echoed the thoughts of Dr Desai, “There is not enough content available in vernacular. But our ingenuity and great faculty will be able to innovate and adapt to this challenge.” The intent has always been to provide access, connect, and empower.

“Our country has always been ahead in developing and adopting technology. From ISRO to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and from the latest telecom networks (fiber and mobile) to the rapid growth of online platforms like Swayam.” 

According to Dr Raunak Singh, we are moving to the concept of One Nation One Campus in the future.

Teachers are delivering lectures from anywhere in the world. And students can access courses from anywhere in the world. “This is the Meta Education framework.” It is imperative to expand the horizons and enable students from different universities to attend lectures of great teachers from other universities. And credits, grades etc need to incorporate this into their framework.

Another recurring theme in the discussion revolved around — How to ensure students were more employable (ready for industry with the latest skills that are needed). How to leverage technology and innovation to ensure a model where academia and industry shake hands.

ImaginXP is playing a critical role in closing this gap and Nitesh Rohatgi felt that the curriculum needs to be designed in partnership with industry. All panellists agreed with this thought. ImaginXP is curating programs that enables upgradation of skills of students in sync with Industry experts (be it blockchain or UI/UX designers) and works with virtual labs and platforms for offering students equal access to these courses in all universities across the country.

The courses offer an embedded degree in partnership with the campus and faculty of existing universities. These are future skill degree programs. “We wanted to reduce the mismatch. Students come out with apples but industry wants oranges,” said Nitesh.

Narayan Mahadevan who is founder of BridgeLabz, an  employment focused platform for the fresh graduates to be ready for their jobs, said “By 2030 we will produce 130 million employable students. For them skilling is not the only factor, but ensuring employability and right fit to Job is the key.” BridgeLabz gets a mandate from the industry/enterprises for the required skills and marries the job seeker to the requirements of the job giver/employer.

In his view, Covid has done some good things. It has enabled and allowed industry workforce to be a live participant in Education. 100% experiential learning is possible today online.

By Gajendra Upadhyay

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