Transitioning from Blackboard to Tabs

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TransitioningThe e-learning has gained popularity in recent years where private schools have adopted its usage and public and government schools are in a mode to sync with the new age teaching technology. Carrying the trend of e-content to classroom is still at a nascent stage in India but Kalyani Rangarajan, Dean, VIT Business School, VIT University, believes that tablet is a powerful tool in a technologically advanced world today

How important do you think is a tablet for the curriculum in your institution?
As important as the ‘Fountain Pen’ was before it was demolished by the ‘Ball pen’! Tablet is a powerful tool in the technologically advanced world to impart learning to the students. Just as we have shifted from desktop to laptop we need to shift to tabs. Soon it would be all encompassing mobiles and sooner than later we might have google glasses and other wearables.

Is a tablet the only way for the colleges and the universities to help their students understand the concepts better?
If the question is, ‘can the tablet replace the teacher?’, the answer ‘might’ be ‘No!’ But it might even be better to have the tablet as a teacher, which can be non-judgmental, and definitely better than moody and sometimes inappropriate Teachers. Other methodologies in use such as role play, simulations, games etc. might be adapted to a tablet mode, in the days to come! Then, one might, justifiably say that there is no substitute for a tab.

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What can a tablet, e-book and e-content not do?
At present, physical contact with other human beings might still be a problem, provided it is a necessary component of learning. But if only information sharing is important, then one can easily do with a tablet, which can provide enough and more content, correct and relevant.

How do you evaluate, assess a tablet before selecting it for the curriculum in your institution?
Availability, price, quality, and ease of use would largely decide the particular brand or specs that are required for a specific group.

Soon MOOCs would alienate the teacher from the taught and Prof. Gautam Kaul has clearly stated that no student should try to contact the instructor directly by mail or phone as it is impossible for him to devote time to any of the thousands who register for a MOOC

Kalyani Rangarajan

Kalyani Rangarajan
Dean, VIT Business School, VIT University

Introduction of digital tools into the classrooms has brought the narratives alive. The traditional tools of teaching are slowly losing their relevance. Do you see any inherent contradiction between the two?
The ancient gurukul, where the teacher had personal contact with few students, he would condescend to teach, has given way to large class rooms and impersonal teaching through blackboards, whiteboards and smartboards. However, as long the objectives of the teaching – learning process are achieved, one cannot complain about the lack of personal touch, which was the very essence of teaching in days of yore.

Although the private institutions are far ahead of the public institutions, the new government appears committed to bridging the digital deficit. How do you think should the government move?
There is indeed a welcome change in the approach of the government to improve the quality of education in the public institutions. This would pose a greater challenge to the private institutions as they need to be ahead of the public institutions if they have to attract good quality students at the higher fees that they charge. If government does it this year, private should have already done it a couple of years earlier.

The digital roads to smart education have their own shares of potholes. Infrastructure continues to be the main bottleneck. How do you think can it be overcome?
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Nothing great is achieved without its share of pains and obstacles. Both the management and the faculty of these institutions need to strive hard to enable the smooth transition from the blackboard to the tablet mode of teaching – learning process. Power availability, internet connectivity, students’ techno-phobia, evaluation methodology, and the objectives of the learning process need to be addressed to break the bottlenecks. Having a large cap might help.

Do you think that e-learning runs the risk of over exposure and doing more harm than good in the end?
A knife can be used both to kill a person and also to save him from death, depending on who is wielding it. Similarly one has to have a trade-off between no information and overload of information. Guess, the amount of water drunk depends on how thirsty is the person.

The massive open online courses (MOOCS) have brought closer the dream of digital equality in our country. However, the shallow internet density in our country is making a crisis out of an opportunity. How do you think can the Government come to seize upon the opportunity?
The easier option would be to put a ban on all MOOC courses, so that the limited band width is used only for emails. It is like throwing the baby with the bathwater. Having made millions of rupees, it would be more appropriate for the government to ensure that the 3G and 4G bandwidths are implemented and the last mile issues in internet connectivity are resolved at the earliest. Having caught up with the mobile revolution, we should not lose out on the wide band video communication

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