Article (MoneyControl.com): Top 10 Benefits of a Digital Classroom

Originally published on MoneyControl.com – http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/advertising/top-10-benefitsa-digital-classroom_1272746.html | Written by: Ankush Tiwari | 14 Jan 2015

A digital classroom concept works in tandem with their vision to adopt to world class education practices for their students and teachers. As the world becomes flat, open, and reachable with digital classroom, opportunities to interact with worldwide entrepreneurs, industry and foreign universities increase

I started dabbling in mobile technology in early 2000’s. We were releasing new devices in North America and network there was advancing many folds. There was a lot of technology innovation that was waiting to happen. It became more fun when this mobile technology entered India and changed the way Indians travel, hire taxis and purchase their fresh vegetables. Things that were unfathomable five years back, make complete sense – like Flipkart and OLX. I was amazed at which our daily lives got transformed through the use of simple mobile apps. We all became users. It was a fast recap for me – if North America had adopted to a technology and took 2 years with it, Indians were adopting and revolutionizing it within a couple of months.

The same happened with the education sector. Powered by success in North America and stories of early adoption of mobile tablets in K12 schools, under graduate and post graduate courses; device manufacturers, operators, app guys and cloud service providers made a beeline for private university owners to adopt to technology in education. This is where it became tricky. Not armed with the right knowledge and failure of early business models in the education sector in India – both private universities and entrepreneurs burnt their fingers with early editions of mobile technology in education. And as Don Norman puts it – “this incident brought a delay of adoption of mobile technology in education – because early users saw it problematic and unadoptable.”

Within a couple of years, things have changed. Companies like Microsoft with its office 365 cloud platform for education and we with our Mobiliya Edvelop platform have entered India with well thought out products, user experience and business model. And private university owners, many still under 35, are new age entrepreneurs and should be at the front of adoption of technology in education. For, the Indian education system can use mobile and cloud to enhance education pedagogy.

In addition to this, technology is also helpful in non-fringe problems in education and to move the whole sector towards outcome based learning. Learning outcomes should flow from needs assessment to determine current level and desired level of knowledge, skills or attitude of a student. Technology can enable instructors to focus on learner’s behavior that is to be improved by continuously keeping a track on what students are learning in the class, how are they implementing it practically, time taken by the student to complete the given task, number of times student has taken certain assignment or work. This will make learners performance observable and measurable.

Overhauling the Indian Education system
The process of giving and receiving systematic instruction at a school or a university is called as education. The method of education is called pedagogy. It is this pedagogy that needs to change in modern India. This new system should have these basic characteristics:-

1. Discussion rather than rote
Business and workplaces today are looking for people who can apply what they have learnt rather than those who can repeat their reference books. It would be strange to meet a person who knows the table of 15 and can rattle it in ten seconds but takes a minute to divide a cake among fifteen people! We need to encourage our students to discuss concepts with their teachers and understand the consequences of taking decisions and having a clear world-view based on information gathered in class rather than repeating information fed to them.

2. Application rather than learning
How many of you had parents who were after your life to learn particular concepts? I have observed this problem in many programmers I’ve met in startup events. They know their concepts of programming, having studied it from various standardized textbooks and can even explain them very well, but when it comes to applying it to build a useful piece of code they are not able to do it. This has been a result of our time-worn pedagogy where the focus has been on memorizing rather than application.

3. Learning outcomes rather than good marks
Good marks have been the key for students across the Indian subcontinent. It is pretty common in India for families and relatives to create a lot of pressure for students to perform exceedingly well academically. Learning as a concept is ignored, as the focus is on scoring ranks, marks and percentages that may not always justify the purpose of creating educated, aware individuals in society. I firmly believe that today education need to be consumed by the young generation. India needs to move towards implementing learned concepts, which clearly defines the skills, and knowledge that is needed to run an economy rather than be a country with all aces in students but no IP and patents to be proud of. We must look beyond Sir C.V. Raman as the only Nobel laureate in field of science from India!

4. Perspective rather than Plan
We need a new approach that helps students take decisions based on numerous data-points, the right information and a combination of knowledge and experience. The idea must be to allow students to think for themselves, make the right decisions and formulate opinions instead of merely finishing their syllabus and moving on with the class. When I interact with students in engineering colleges, only thing which I miss in the discussions is lack of knowledge about the things happenings in and around their field. Students are still unaware of what are they going to do after engineering. Which are the areas in the real world where they are going to apply all what they have learned so far. Connected learning is one thing which I believe is missing. These are the four main characteristics that we should evaluate a learning pedagogy on. A learning pedagogy is a well thought out process; and since it is a process, quality control and improvements can be introduced via adoption of technology. Moreover, lack of quality teachers at all the geographies pose a much larger problem. This can be solved by sharing of quality teachers i.e. making teachers available remotely. If the complex processes in manufacturing and distribution can be solved by the implementation of ERP technology and dashboard-based systems, why can’t similar models be used to improve the learning pedagogy in schools and colleges? This was the challenge that we took on.

The Mobiliya Edvelop team worked on this motto – did a research on the existing scenario of education system and came up with technology enabled, value-added solutions for key stakeholders – university/school owners, teachers and students. Mobiliya Edvelop is deployed on and is powered by Microsoft Office 365 for education. But what are the advantages of the university leaders to adopt to a digital classroom. A digital classroom concept works in tandem with their vision to adopt to world class education practices for their students and teachers. As the world becomes flat, open, and reachable with digital classroom, opportunities to interact with worldwide entrepreneurs, industry and foreign universities increase.

So here is the list for you, university leaders: –

1. Encourage student projects with foreign universities:  I have seen many Indian universities have tied up with foreign universities, but Indian colleges are not able to take complete advantage of these foreign university tie ups, as visiting professors are only able to give time once or twice in a semester. Here, the colleges should encourage student for collaborative projects. Today most corporate projects are completed between virtual teams, who are virtually together but geographically apart. Technology like a virtual classroom or a virtual project room can enable Indian students collaborating with their foreign counterparts on special projects.

2. R&D with industries: The research and development is not a focus in universities across the country. There is no dearth of talent in campuses but a lack of collaboration effort with industries. As a point in case, Biotechnology students should collaborate with the healthcare and life sciences companies to create university-led R&D in specific fields. University and industry representatives can mentor these together. This can be made enabled through remote classrooms and conferences between university and industry.

3. Online events and competitions: There is no better education than interacting with other students and professors in your field. Universities holds competitions that students of nearby colleges can participate in. It also becomes a platform to showcase the talent of the students. Now with a digital classroom, university can hold online events and can even increase the frequency of these online events. IIM Indore Avhan’s Klueless is a very good example of online events becoming a brand vehicle for the college or the university.

4. Quality faculty available remotely: Technology has the capability to collaborate and communicate and hence university leaders can partner with leading professors and practicing professionals to train the students in their respective fields. This has become a very sustainable model where leading professional from the industry, login twice to thrice a week to answer the questions that students put. We are trying to open new IIT’s and IIM’s across the country, the major problem faced by us is to find quality faculties for the new establishments, which is not an easy task. A new innovative way that can be introduced by leveraging technology is ‘Sharing of Faculties’, which means every educational establishment can share their faculties with few other campuses and live lectures can be scheduled remotely. This in turn will improve the quality of the education and at the same time will reduce travelling costs of the faculties.

5. Experiential learning: Digital learning redefines the boundaries of a classroom. Sitting in a class, the professor can make the students experience the application of a concept through 3D content and photographs. Imagine history lessons on Mughal architecture using high-resolution pictures, graphic stories and recorded light and sound rather than boring notes dictated to the class.

6. Knowledge Management: One of the most important things that a university owner keeps having to do is showcase their college, pedagogy, curriculum to large number of inspectors and visitors that come to the college. Digital classroom will enable a large collection of assignments, tests, question bank, digital content and e-books and recorded lectures. This is knowledge management, which automatically happens as a result to adopting a good digital classroom technology.

7. Gamification of learning process: Today the student needs continuous Assessment in order to keep them engaged with the subjects.  This in turn can be made more interesting through Gamification of learning methods. The students could be given hurdles to cross in order to move to the next segment, adding a hint of fun & excitement while learning!

8. Teacher Training: To improve the quality of education, the quality of teachers has to be improved first, which can be done by leveraging technology in a way that a ‘Teacher Development Program’ can be started with some of the best teachers across the country and twice or thrice a month they can train young teachers from other participating establishments remotely via live sessions. Government is also coming up with many programs like this which can be utilized for the same purpose.

9. The Digital Library: The new generation is consuming maximum content on internet. Channels on websites like Youtube, discussion forums are becoming famous day by day. Digital classroom powered by Mobiliya Edvelop gives a content store which is backed by Microsoft Azure which offers a 99.9% availability SLA, 24×7 tech support, and round the clock service health monitoring. Everything can be made available on the cloud for students to access. There is no need to maintain a central repository of books, videos and lecture notes in libraries. The biggest advantage of adapting to digital learning is that it reduces the infrastructure & operational costs drastically.

10. Improved Administration efficiency: Every quarter many teachers waste more than 10 working days in preparing stuff like marks entry, collating reports, class plans etc. Use of digital tools can help them to reduce the time invested on such activities and the time thus saved can be utilized for other purposes like research and development.

(The author is MD and SVP Engineering Mobiliya, that designs and builds differentiated devices for variety of vertical industries, consumers and enterprises)

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