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Higher Education: A Changing Paradigm

Introduction

The world of education has been ever changing and evolving. The unprecedented situation created by the global pandemic , Covid 19 has prompted higher education institutes to rethink yet again. Educators have been researching on the best ways to inculcate the appropriate skills in students and also making efforts towards bringing the best of talent to teach students. It is a difficult task to design a program that meets the needs of students who are from diverse backgrounds and ensure that they get the kind of education that fulfills their purpose and ambitions.

Teaching Pedagogy

Teaching pedagogies are being developed to include interactive and engaging experiences rather than simple dissemination of information. Earlier research suggests that the essence of teaching lies in the faculty’s ability to reflect on their style of teaching. Critically evaluating one’s own method of teaching by making notes and constant reflection may help faculty to improve the student’s “meta-cognitive awareness” and thus help him become a better decision maker (Cook-Sather, 2012). Education is being seen as a means to enable the student to be ready for the real world. Hence it needs to include more of practical application of concepts that provide students experiential learning rather than theoretical knowledge. Teaching methods have been changing from lecture method to flipped classroom, case studies, and blended learning. Technological advancements have enabled blended learning mechanisms where students can learn theoretical concepts through online lectures and use face-to-face class room interactions more effectively. Organisations like Adobe, Cisco and Microsoft, for their growth and high valuations, are investing in building education as a focused vertical and devising ways to help bring technology to the classroom. The idea is to use the classroom time for meaningful interactions. Many educational institutions advertise their tech- savvy classrooms with pride and showcase the flexibility given to students in completing the requirements of their curriculum.

Student Engagement

Student engagement was highly linked to campus life until now. This included all kinds of engagement – class room interaction, clubs and societies, participation in activities and contests, process of internship and placement services, sports and many more. All these are various ways by which a student’s personality takes shape, makes a student more competitive and responsible and helps in development of leadership skills. The process of engaging students is again being re-thought now to include same services online. Institutions have to use technology and deliver the same course and curriculum to the students through various available platforms provided by Microsoft, Google,  Zoom etc. However there is a constant evaluation of whether the students are truly feeling “engaged” or is it a one sided discourse which ends after a session.  The guidelines provided by Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Kuh, 2001) are still relevant from the perspective of being assessed on learnings, value time factor and applying the learnings in their lives.

This continued uncertainty of Covid-19 has made educational institutions look at ways to “manage” the situation rather than reflect on the purpose of education.  In the absence of campus driven activities, student engagement is being looked at differently. The very nature of teaching and learning may undergo a transformational change.  Private colleges like IILM have created Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Engagement teams working towards understanding the perspective of students and creating a schedule for engaging students. Focused group discussions are being done with students across campuses to understand what students are excited about and what are their barriers to learning and feeling engaged. Several inputs were shared by students which have been referred to here. Instagram pages run and managed by students wherein they can showcase their talents, writing blogs on previous trips made and their experiences, interactive webinars to hone up specific skills and inspiring lectures by industry experts are few of the ways that can promote learning apart from the focus on the program curriculum. The evergreen alternatives of having fun sessions that promote positive interaction, buddy programs for those students who have freshly enrolled in the system, and the joy of being rewarded by peers and teachers for various initiatives are always welcome. Students with writing skills can be prompted to run editorial columns/blogs/newsletters whereas students who are more adventurous can be asked to lead Instagram pages. Social media contests like innovative cooking, gaming and talent hunt are few which can grab their interests and make them feel engaged.

 

 

The Dilemma

There is a marked difference found in the offerings of distance learning and on campus learning’s’ which institutions were earlier using to differentiate as premium learning. Face to face interaction induces better comprehension and teachers can pull students into discussions, design activities for them and provide real time presentation opportunities thereby helping develop the complete personality of the student. A very obvious fact with the on-campus option has been the experience of the student life and its lifelong influence and networks. The thought and the fear of online education impacting the campus/classroom based training has been in existence for many years however it is only the current crisis that has made it look strong. The need for value delivered through sustainable student engagement in various facets and not just limited to academics will have a huge role to play.

Educational institutes will need to think beyond clubs and societies and show their creative side to win and sustain themselves in these uncertain times.  The question is whether institutes will go back to their earlier way of teaching, post Covid -19 or will be able to bring about a more permanent change in their approach to imparting knowledge and look at higher education as a changing paradigm. A lot will depend on how the situation shapes up, however we have to be prepared now.

 

Remedial Plan

Educational Institutes might consider restructuring their current curriculum in order to plan for blended learning.  A combination of online education along with class room teaching would gradually gain importance wherein students can learn the theoretical concepts online, but still have face to face classroom experience wherever necessary. Choosing the right online platform from among the list of options available is also an important factor that will help the institute connect with students and provide different and interesting modes of course delivery and thereby engagement with students.   Maintaining high standards of quality education under all circumstances along with an element of differentiation is a must to create a platform for the institute and to attract students. Overall, institutes will require to rethink their current strategy and approach in order to sustain in this uncertain environment.

References

George D.Kuh (2001) Assessing What Really Matters to Student Learning Inside The National Survey of Student Engagement, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 33(3), 10-17, DOI: 10.1080/00091380109601795

Cook-Sather, A. (2012). Lessons in higher education: Five pedagogical practices that promote active learning for faculty and students. Journal of Faculty Development, 26(1), 33–39.

Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to change the way every industry works. It involves creating machines that can work intelligently like humans. The use of data is increasingly driving major decisions in different industries. This data when fed and used by machines give machines the wisdom to think like humans. Hence there is huge dependency on integrity of data. The need of the hour is data centric technologies and institutions will need to upgrade their curriculum to remain competitive. The key to getting employment in future is to upgrade skills of people and work towards specialization. The necessary skills required for data centric technologies are being identified to align educational institutions.

While changes are being introduced in the companies, one has to find a way to continue sustaining an income until the skills get upgraded.The limitations of humans will no longer be a concern with advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. With the use of Robots, the number of errors will reduce and the speed and quality of work will improve. Many countries that face limitations due to lack of youth in large numbers will no longer be behind in the race towards advancement. Labour intensive work will be automated and humans will take the activities that require critical thinking and analysis. The cost of performance in the long run will reduce though initial years will require huge investment towards automation. As per Mckinsey’s report, by 2055, half of the work activities could be automated. Humans would need to start getting used to working with machines. New skills will need to be acquired and the policies created by the government will have to be innovative to accommodate this major impact in type of employment.

AI has started delivering value in various sectors. Retail sector is using AI robots to check inventory and place orders automatically when the inventory levels are low. With the analysis of big data, retailers are able to predict sales and are able to manage inventory and make profits. Robots can work alongside humans in retailers warehouses and increase productivity. Delivery to customers can be done by drones like Flirtey. Check in and issuing of boarding passes have started without the requirement of human intervention in the airline industry. Manufacturing industry is seeing a drastic change. Optimization of processes across the value chain from refinement in product design to using AI based tools throughout the supply chain is possible.  In healthcare, AI can lead to better diagnosis with the use of big data analysis of patient history, other similar cases and treatment details. The insurance companies can use big data to improve their business model. Routine patient interactions can be done by AI enabled robots which have all the basic information.

Educational institutes will also have to rethink their strategy for sustainability. In Education, there are going to be virtual tutors who can tailor the curriculum for students. The education system will see a dramatic shift as AI will be able to forecast the need of future employers. Institutes are exploring how AI applications can be used to improve retention problems in students. Programs teaching computer applications are using a personal tutor which gives questions to students along with hints as well as increases complexity level of questions based on performance. Big data and analytics can be used to reduce drop-out rates in students. Educational institutes will have to promote adaptive learning and teaching, looking at student data and use personalized and effective teaching methods.Value add work will continue to remain with humans and thus teachers will be expected to mentor and coach students. The primary areas would be creativity, emotional intelligence and communication which maybe beyond machine’s capability. Machines will cater to the routine queries of students can be automated to save time and effort. The technology is pervasive and has also entered grading. A company GradeScope uses machine learning to grade students on the basis of teachers instructions and students handwriting, though it is more for objective type of questions. Thus the focus of the teacher can be on higher level value add areas rather than routine queries, administrative work and basic lecturing.

Several key factors will determine the level of automation and its adoption. The technical feasibility of automating the task at hand for every industry will need to be evaluated. Since automation will take time and investment, the adoption will be dependent on the cost of development and implementation. The economy will struggle with the shift from cheap labour to buying expensive machines and experimenting. Though the economy will benefit because of better quality and speed of work, the acceptance of this change will determine the speed of adoption. Thus the day to day activities are not forecasted to change fast. At the micro level, changes are expected, however at the macro level it will take decades before complete adoption is seen.

Book Review – Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice [Clayton M. Christensen, Karen Dillon , Taddy Hall, David S. Duncan]

Clayton M. Christensen, Karen Dillon , Taddy Hall, David S. Duncan : Competing Against Luck: THE STORY of INNOVATION and CUSTOMER CHOICE

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (October 4, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062435612
ISBN-13: 978-0062435613
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches

Being in the ‘Decade of Innovation’, this is yet another remarkable read on Innovation by Clayton Christensen and his co authors.  The name of the book ‘Competing Against Luck’ caught my eye, as that is the reality in which we all are living. It is an engaging blend of actual success stories and ways to implement the ‘Job theory’ given in a simple and easy to read language. It would be useful for both first time entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and established organizations struggling to survive in the current environment. The guiding theme of this book is on reducing the struggle for entrepreneurs and established businesses in today’s world by focusing on understanding where and how to find the right opportunities to innovate and capitalize on them.

Christensen defines a Job as ‘the progress that a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance’. Thus what a customer seeks through a product or service is a job. This will help understand the reason behind anyone making choices and that should be the guiding factor of an innovation. The focus of this book is not on how to make a good product, but how to help the customer make progress in the job one seeks.

The book has a very definitive structure, wherein the first section describes the Jobs Theory, the second section describes how the Jobs Theory can be applied, while the third section gives examples of Jobs to be done in organizations.

Christensen, defines ‘Jobs Theory’ to expound why asking the right questions is so essential for sustenance. The same management team which leads a company to success is blamed once the company stumbles. Companies have fallen owing to other competitors bringing out cheaper and more convenient options or sometimes luck. Job theory explains how a company can innovate and create products that customers would prefer to buy. Thus the emphasis is on understanding ‘why’ of their behavior and what job helped them make progress rather than the ‘what’ or ‘how’.  It cites various examples that include Uber and Unilever to highlight this point. It reiterates that though disruption leads to innovation, disruption does not suggest ‘how’ a company can innovate or find new opportunities or what customers prefer to buy.

In the second section of the book, Christensen and his co founders go on to present various techniques to hunt for ‘Jobs’ or rather hunt for clues about where to innovate.  These techniques are very intuitive and well researched with good examples. They give a good starting point for people with an entrepreneurial mind set looking for a viable opportunity. Once an opportunity has been recognized, Christensen also insists on understanding the ‘emotional dimension’ of the product/service. He carefully explains how Todd Dunn, director of innovation in a healthcare organization, who primarily works on innovating how patient care and experience can be improved, got a better understanding about the tools and their utility for a doctor and patient, when he himself got admitted as patient due to a bad knee. Christensen also emphasizes that the experience that the customer derives from the product or service should be part of the solution to the job to make it successful.

Finally, the book gives valuable insights about what organizations must do in context of the ‘Job to be Done’. Taking the emphasis on customer experience forward Christensen highlights the need for differentiation of the product and requirement of the right processes in an organization. He defines various benefits that organizations can enjoy if jobs are clearly defined by using various examples like Unilever’s color changing soap for children aimed to kill germs. Thus Christensen questions the assumption that luck plays a role in innovation.

Overall it is a good read with valuable insights for organizations struggling to understand their customers as well as first time entrepreneurs hunting for an opportunity. Most of the examples cited are those where Jobs theory has been tried and tested and has been successful. That makes this book a MUST READ for SUCCESS!!!