Despite education going digital fast at K-12 level, there’s a section that still favours the traditional mode of teaching. Nonetheless, heads at various universities still believe that live interactive sessions between students and teachers plays a crucial role in polishing the pupil’s mind.
The ICT integration supports number of policies in education but there is still variation in implementation of these policies. The access to ICT is still limited in Indian education plethora. Dr. Ajit Kumar N. Shukla, Director and Dean, School of Engineering, RK University believes, “Tablets for the curriculum is not much important but it could be linked to some courses as doable in practice. Our institution has more than hundred of that and using it for the same.”
The changing dynamics in education sector and shifting expectations for the learning environment require universities to examine teaching and learning practices. The forces of change in higher education system seem to be need of the hour. Believing the thought of using tablets as a medium of study Dr. M.K. Abdul Khader, Vice Chancellor, Kannur University, Kerala says, “With the widespread use of e-resources, irrespective of faculty/ topic of study, by teachers, students, research scholars tablets would be of great significance. Tablets are less expensive in its cost and maintenance which has replaced Laptops with lightening speed. It could be easily handled by everyone in class rooms and during presentation.”
Tablet being one of the portable knowledge base, students can retrieve information as and when needed from internet. It acts as a connecting medium with fellow students as well as the professors. So once the problem popped, it can be shared with all and can get an immediate feedback or solution.
The total number of schools in India is estimated to be 1.3 million out of which 20% of schools are privately run and only 10% of these schools have adopted multimedia. The market size for digitized school products is predicted to grow to $2 billion by 2020. The market for ICT is promising if government schools are considered too.
But is it the only way for the colleges and universities to help their students understand the concept better? Of course not, opined by Dr. Dharmender Saini, Principal, Bhartiya Vidyapeeth’s College of Engineering. He asserts, “Tablet is not the only means to make students better understand the concept, Interaction with teacher/expert is must.”
Promoting his thoughts, Shukla adds, “There are many other ways it could be done and it is done extensively by using interaction mode in the class through various activities which gives better experience.” Coming from a different school of thought, Dr. Sraban Mukherjee, Director, Krishna Institute of Engineering & Technology shares, “Brains were nurtured and they did wonders even in the era of no electricity and modern basic amenities of living. So tablets are not mandatory, however, they do provide an ease of learning, understanding, connecting, discussing and communicating.”
An important aspect of M-learning, the technology is convenient which is accessible virtually from anywhere. But M-learning brings portability by replacing books and traditional methods of teaching with small devices filled with learning contents? “Definitely a tablet cannot replace the professor of the institution. It can serve the purpose of a physical book. As we know that different streams (medical, engineering etc.) of studies not only need textual reading but also pictorial understanding of the system. So in these cases we need a copy and pen to memorize and understand them,” shares Mukherjee.
E-book, e-content etc. are mostly passive in nature. They cannot provide learning experience that students get from interactive methods like class room teaching, group discussions, interactive video lectures etc. Tablets cannot propagate values which are lacking in the modern world. Knowledge disseminated from teachers would have lasting impression in the minds of the learner. Tablets provide knowledge indiscriminately. There are no barriers between good or bad. Conventional form of teaching builds unbreakable bond between teacher and the taught.
Universities are addressing this shifting landscape but still there seems to be little adoption. Online courses are growing in number and some universities are making it available free to everyone. To evaluate, assess a tablet before selecting for curricula the universities emphasize on its key features like portability, free OS (Android) to get the desired apps with an ease, WiFi support, 3G/4G support, capable of storing teaching learning material, processing speed, memory, support for external devices, power consumption, weight, durability, warranty and after sales support.
Use of technology to simulate everything has allowed students anywhere in the world to interact with professors and one another in real time rather than requiring physical presence. The introduction of digital tools in the classrooms has brought the narratives alive. They play a major role in the classroom teaching but the effectiveness of such tools depends on how they are incorporated into the learning process. Traditional teaching tools are to be modified so as to use along with digital tools. Though conventional teaching has its own relevance yet the optimum situation could be created by effecting a judicial balance between the two.
“This is era of digitization. So when we talk about our learning curriculum, ease to get information is the key. Every curiosity needs to be addressed quickly as well as correctly and our digital world supports it with abundance of information on internet and a tablet to harness it. However we cannot deny the importance of white chalk and black board based traditional form of education.The primary education system should always be traditional because writing alphabets is an art too which can be imbibed and enhanced in the budding mind only by a pencil in hand and not a key under the finger tip,” says Mukherjee.
The digital education is gaining momentum in education sector as the new Modi Led government has taken steps to bridge the digital divide and had launched new Digital India Campaign. Fortunately the institutions still believes that government should ensure that the in-house practices of public institutions should be improved and Government should ensure quality in teaching learning methodologies. Lack of fund is a barrier to the public institution. Specific initiatives should be taken by the government to strengthen the internet and other digital resources in public funded institutions.
“It is wrong to say that always private institution are far ahead public institution. Yes it is correct new government is committed to bridging the digital deficit and it is required also mostly using the mobile set or through android one. More so for financial transaction in this regard through PRADHAN MANTRI JAN DHAN YOJNA appears to be a turning point,” informs Shukla.
The digital road to smart education has its own share of potholes and infrastructure continues to be the bottleneck. The classrooms require modifications like installation of network link, large screen installations. To overcome this bottleneck, educational institutes should invest more on infrastructure and also ensure proper functioning of facilities so that students get services on time. The below formula can work to bridge this gap:
- First strengthen the basic educational amenities in the depriving institutions
- Educate the professors and the teachers about the positives of the digitisations
- Support students for getting the modern educational aid (laptops, palmtopsetc).
The advancement of e-learning might have been good for the education institutes but it also comes with risk. E-learning do run the risk of overexposure doing harm than good. “Based on the temperament of the learner if he is exposed to the sensitive topics indefinitely than this might result in harming the society then actually benefitting it,” believes Mukherjee.
However, digital technology has the potential to change the phase of education in India and with the new model built around massive open online courses (MOOCS), it has brought closer the dream of digital equality in the country. But this dream can only take the shape into reality only if the infrastructure is placed judiciously. The shallow internet density is making a crisis out of an opportunity. Government should take steps to provide 3G/4G internet services not only in cities but in other rural places as well. Government can come to seize this opportunity by providing the dedicated lease line of internet facility as an outreach program to all the university, colleges and school throughout the state.