Higher education enhances the bandwidth of information and depth of processing the information for skillful application of the knowledge, writes Shishir Jaipuria, Chairman, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Education Society, for Elets News Network (ENN).
The word ‘education’ implies such a wide connotation and is perhaps not amenable to a single definition acceptable to all.
Oxford dictionary, however, gives a very concise and succinct version and that is ‘the process of teaching and learning’. We could take certain liberties with this word and expand the definition to include process of learning, understanding and applying new information for leading a better quality of life.
The objective is to bring a positive change for communicating with each other, and creating a better and more informed society.
The process at primary education level is meant to develop curiosity to explore and discover the material environment, and make sense out of it, first hand. The Secondary and Higher Secondary education is designed to expedite the process of discovery by feeding information on what has been already discovered by others, and yet leave a sense of inquisitiveness for further exploration and creative discovery. Vocational education for becoming economically independent is an integral part of School Education.
Higher education or what is popularly called college education is meant for probing into different branches of knowledge to gain deeper understanding of the subject of interest. At a higher level, the questions for exploration get deeper and become a source for creation of new knowledge by learning what is not known till then.
The learning goes beyond understanding the physical information to a philosophical realm. Higher education at the highest level is essentially a philosophical exploration of universal principles using mathematics or meditation. There is not much scope at this level for use of innovation for learning even in mathematics, for computers cannot generate new mathematics but can only process faster what is already known. That is why no computer on earth has been able to take us beyond the theorems developed by a Ramanujam or Einstein.
The content for Higher Education has two dimensions. At the core, there is dated Knowledge which is essentially information validated by philosophical research methods at certain point of time in history. The knowledge that has remained valid for a long time gets constantly challenged by new explorations and discoveries, and updated overages out of philosophical exploration and validation of new knowledge.
New technology has a limited impact on the content of Knowledge but can have a telling impact on the pace of learning the content as well as the application. Innovation in higher education will thus have to be understood with reference to the process of learning, or the process of acquiring existing knowledge and developing skill competence for using the knowledge for value creation.
The introduction of digital culture brought forth the first landmark innovation in the field of education. The invention of pocket calculator and personal computers heralded the first major innovation. The software revolution bringing spreadsheets and power point to classrooms was the next big innovation in learning.
A combination of hardware and software revolution started with the innovation in gaming technology and development of simulators for making learning easy for pilots and factory workers engaged in high-risk or hazardous work processes. Robots had come to replace men in factories, taking over monotonous and difficult manual labour requiring skill precision. But to think of application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics in Education was a little far-fetched. It is not so now.
The application of AI for making ball by ball analysis, synthesising the data, discovering patterns of behaviour of the player in Cricket, and making analysis and recommendations available on real-time basis for the next player going to the crease, is a classic example of what AI can do in education tomorrow.
The student and teacher’s behaviour in class can be analysed in minute detail to predict the outcome of the teaching-learning process, after each session. Questions in a quiz competition randomly generated by the computer, raises the difficulty levels through the process of screening upward, using artificial intelligence for learning and tasking.
“Out of all the emerging technologies, I believe that Artificial Intelligence is the one with the greatest potential for impact on the world of education…,” writes Lasse Rouhiainen, in a book titled, “The Future of Higher Education; How Emerging Technologies will Change Education Forever” (2016).
E-learning Apps and MOOCs are already flooding the Internet. The students’ addiction to mobile handsets have made it a ‘no brainer’ to push a substantial part of educational contents to the mobile phones and use the class room time for clarifications and greater student engagement using blended learning methods. Immersive technologies shall be increasingly useful for enhancing learning with virtual and augmented reality.
There is an interesting paradigm that is visible in the application of new technology that is quite useful for education. The new technology gets applied first for extremely high budget movies, and then gets into business application for making tons of money, and finally gets integrated with education.
Talking about Higher Education in the Age of AI, Joseph E. Aoun introduces a new word – HUMANICS, in his book “ROBOT-PROOF” (MIT 2017), as a new learning model. Writing about the positive side of ‘Machine Learning’, he says, “In many ways the new technologies are an astonishing boon for humanity, giving us the power to mitigate poverty, hunger, and disease”.
Aoun writes further, “The robot-proof model of higher education is not concerned solely with topping up student’s minds with high octane facts. Rather it refits their mental engines, calibrating them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or otherwise produce something society deems valuable”.
Lot of people are afraid of machines today. They think, machines are getting very intelligent and smart and would take away all the jobs from people, not just the manual hardworking jobs at the factory shop floor variety. Thinking jobs are also going away to robots as we are entering the most advanced generation of machines in history. Under these circumstances how can human beings preserve their unique identity and existence in the economic world? This will be possible by discovering and reinforcing some of the unique traits that human beings can only have and which no robot can emulate – traits like ‘creativity’ and ‘flexibility’, suggests Aoun.
Knowledge alone is not sufficient for the work tomorrow, but the cognitive capacities are necessary. Humanics is a future discipline for learning and it is not about content but is about cognitive aspects of learning from data, technology and humanities, all put together.
Lastly, machines can improve efficiency and productivity, but education covers a wide spectrum of transactional behaviour. Innovations in valueeducation, other important aspects of human development and interpersonal relationships are as important and deserve equal attention.