Education's Big Leap

Business Today|June 14, 2020

Education's Big Leap
Institutions of higher learning are graduating to new delivery models to engage with students online
E. Kumar Sharma

On April 4, Professor Anil V. Vaidya, Head, Information Management, SP Jain Institute of Management Research, Mumbai, delivered an entire machine learning session online. “Students were sent reading material, including short videos, and during the online class, we could actually get down to modelling the entire data set already shared with students,” he says. At the end of the class, students were actually able to do predictions, be it around customer churn, consumer demand or supply chain. The session was part of a course for an executive management programme, but according to Vaidya, similar exercises were taking place across the institute.

Elements of the new education delivery model, he says, will have to be a mix of online sessions backed by short videos explaining concepts and webinars and assessing lecture absorption by students based on chat and voice responses. Even examinations will get redesigned. In fact, Vaidya even devised a new evaluation method – students were asked to submit a video presentation of the project and a URL for project evaluation instead of the usual paper presentation. In the process, they managed to exhibit their tech skills as well, since the project required video-streaming services and even artificial intelligence (AI) to create subtitles.

The Big Picture

Educational institutions, mainly those into higher education, are gearing up for fundamental changes. India has 800 universities and about 40,000 colleges. Given that the gross enrolment ratio (GER) into colleges is 26.3 per cent (about 36 million students) and considering the average cost per student at ₹ 50,000 per annum, it works out to close to a ₹2-lakh crore market, or about 1 per cent of GDP. Now, Vijay Govindarajan, Coxe Distinguished Professor, Tuck at Darmouth, argues that if India’s GER is to get to 70 per cent, as in many advanced countries, this could mean doubling or tripling the number of colleges. This means inadequate qualified faculty. The online medium could, therefore, open up a potential to bridge this “huge educational gap”. It is still early days, but the IIMs and IITs are clearly seeing a shift towards online delivery of content, though the degree and the ways in which it will be offered is still being discussed.

Some of the IIMs have set up training groups to help faculty members migrate to newer forms of delivery. Others are experimenting with a hybrid model where an instructor-led class is held along with a Coursera course. Some are even redesigning class activities and assessing students differently. IIT Madras, for instance, is getting its faculty to use the time now to connect with students online and develop content for online delivery.

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June 14, 2020