Tablets Battling Faculty Shortage in India

MJ XavierMJ Xavier, Director, IIM Ranchi, tells how tablets are bringing value into India’s education system

Technology in education is not a new phenomenon. Most MBA programmes have made it mandatory for students to carry a laptop to the classrooms. Many institutes use a learning management system (LMS), such as Moodle, Open Class or Blackboard, for posting reading materials, assignments, announcements and grades. LMS is used to collect feedback on courses, and to also administer quizzes and examinations. All good colleges use overhead projectors to screen PPTs and educational films. Some colleges also use smartboards in their classrooms. Others have some form of automation of their academic modules that manage class schedules and provide a 360-degree view of their students. Few others use satellites and broadband facilities to offer courses through e-Learning platforms.

So what is so special about tablets? Is it overhyped or is there really some true value in brining tablets into the education space?

Primarily, people should understand the additional functionality that a tablet brings in as compared to a traditionalPC. Tablet PCs are essentially laptop computers that have the added functionality of touchscreen. This makes it possible to simulate paper and pencil: the user can use a stylus to write directly on the computer screen and create electronic documents. These pictures can be easily edited using traditional computer applications and also shared between the student and the teachers. This functionality to draw diagrams or write mathematical formulae is not available on PCs.

For a country like India, tablets can be a great boon as they can also help us combat the problem of faculty shortage

Providing one tablet each to studentsand the teachers will make it possible to create a collaborative learning environment using networking technology. Though tablets are used in the regular classroom setting, they are also ideal for e-Learning. Students can attend classes from their hostels, homes or offices. What the teacher writes on his tablet’s screen will be visible to all the students who have logged into a particular class session. The teacher can selectively pass on control of his screen to a student and ask him to complete a mathematical derivation he was doing in the class. The modifications made by the student will be visible to the entire class.

Effectiveness of learning can be maximised through tools for conducting immediate and meaningful assessment of student learning, and by providing realtime feedback and assistance. The effectiveness of this model comes from the ability of the instructor to monitor and interact with individual students while they analyse problems on the computer using an input device that allows them to write and manipulate formulas, and make sketches and diagrams. Tablets are handy for taking lecture notes, reading e-Books, conducting surveys and also giving feedback to the teachers.

Additionally, social media platform can also be built on tablets to allow students to engage in debates and discussions about the topics covered in the class. The participation can be enhanced by awarding marks for the posts and starting new threads based on how long they went and what new insights they brought to the class. This is a good way to enhance interaction and collaboration among students.

For a country like India, tablets can be a great boon as it can also help us combat the problem of faculty shortage. Recorded lectures can be delivered to a large number of students as packaged courses. Also, this will enable the best faculty to reach out to a large number of students in the country.

Studies have shown that tablet-enabled teaching leads to better learning and more interest in the subject taught. It also produces a favourable attitude towards the use of technology in learning. However, the mere adoption of technology does not guarantee improved learning outcomes or an enhanced educational experience. The key to successfully adopting tablets is to ensure that the devices are integrated into both the academic and social aspects of the course.

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