Covid-19 has jolted the global economy and sent ripples across various sectors, including education. The nationwide lockdown led to the closure of schools and colleges. The B-schools too have taken a major brunt of the situation, with their admission timelines, classes, and placements getting severely impacted. Most government and private B-schools postponed classes, semester examinations, convocations, and group discussion (GD) and personal interview (PI) rounds, following the guidelines that were laid down.
Many B-schools deferred their placement process, cancelled semesters, and suspended internships as they wait for some semblance of normalcy to be restored. Apart from the pedagogical and infrastructural challenges, the management institutions are faced with the task to reinvent themselves so that they can future-proof students for tomorrow.
The ongoing crisis has mandated a shift to the digital medium for every B-school so that any future disruptions do not hamper the education system, as it happened now due to poor preparedness. Going digital has been troublesome because nobody was ready for such a turn of events. The pandemic has raised a need to adopt more innovative ways to impart education services at all levels.
However, a few challenges are in order before a smooth transition to online takes place. First, uninterrupted access to the Internet is yet to be achieved in tier-2, tier-3, and remote cities in India. Second, we lack a comprehensive policy regulation that can lead to ambiguity and vagueness with regard to the operational framework. Also, online learning needs to take cognizance of the different learning patterns and pace of students so that customised solutions can be devised for them. Additionally, the concerns around increased screen time and stress and anxiety triggered due to the continuous use of electronic devices will also have to be addressed.
ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY
Given the current circumstances, online classes have become the most pragmatic solution to ensure continuous and seamless education. Various schools and universities have developed an intranet system due to which they could adopt video broadcasting tools like Zoom and Google Hangout. Such video solutions can help educators organize live stream classroom sessions for students. Video broadcasting enables learning through recording, live video, audio, real-time Q&A chat via mobile app or website.
Asynchronous learning programs can be leveraged to allow students to complete courses without any compulsions to be present at a particular time or place such as in discussion boards. These technologies are student-friendly and student-focused. In addition, social media channels and their feature of real-time messaging can be harnessed by leading B-schools to address remote learning challenges. This can help education reach every student’s doorstep. Social Media Channels are helping colleges and other institutions provide information with a legit multiplier impact so that the ‘learning anytime, anywhere’ ideology can be embraced effectively.
Emerging technologies that will play a critical role in the enhancement of the online education model include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR can provide smart and immersive interactive experiences to students. Video calls between students and professors with a real-time experience can give ground-breaking results in terms of engagement and knowledge retention.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) recreates the human intelligence procedure. It helps in the grading of tests as it can eliminate the risk of human errors and unjust biases. It can also assist educators in creating online tests in various formats such as multiple-choice questions (MCQ), skills, essays, aptitude-based questions, and typing. On the evaluation front, these automated solutions are in-built with an intuitive multi-section window where the evaluator can change to various settings to convey explicit evaluations. The AI-empowered video interviews help generate extensive and detailed student reports based on internal score and performance.
ROLE OF NEP 2020
The newly-enacted National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time. The policy is a positive re-imagination of India’s education system with an aim to overhaul it into a progressive, practical, and equitable regime. Effective execution of this policy requires the re-prioritization of budgetary resources. The policy envisions revolutionary structural reforms for higher education. It promotes a flexible three- or four-years degree programme structure at the undergraduate level, allowing multiple exits to learners even after 1 year with certification.
The departure from the current three-year model is meant to encourage and inculcate a research component at the undergraduate level, which in turn, will lead to a degree with research by the time of its completion. Students who are mid-term dropouts would be awarded credit for the term they completed and an option to complete their degree after the break. Colleges will not be affiliated to any university. The deemed university status will also be put to an end. Over the next 15 years, graded autonomy will be extended to colleges to provide degrees.
NEP 2020 has its eye set on designing a multi-disciplinary curriculum that is touted to be a game-changer. The top-rated global universities would be encouraged to come to India while top Indian universities will be motivated to go global. Creative combinations of subjects and vocational education will be the primary focus. The policy emphasises teaching ‘21st-century’ skills like mathematical thinking and creative temperament that will go a long way in preparing students for the competitive professional world.
The new education policy, in a nutshell, seeks to upskill management graduates in areas that will help them future-proof themselves and be relevant to the changing job market scenario.
In times of economic distress, sound education becomes more important than ever. Due to the disruption caused by Covid-19, there is a rise in the demand for tailored courses keeping in view the changing economic and social dynamics of a post-pandemic world. The coronavirus crisis has shown students many new employment possibilities.
As large amounts of the economy move online, technologies like big data and cloud have helped businesses manage data more efficiently, indicating the opening up of more lucrative job positions. The surge in data usage will lead to more demand for data engineers, data analysts, data scientists, and ML/AI engineers. Short-term programme by FORE of 5 Months is helping a lot on the same.
As remote working becomes popular, skilled IT students who can serve as security architects and ethical hackers will be more sought-after. More management graduates will be needed to manage such high-tech businesses, as well as more managerial positions across other verticals, are bound to open up.
SUMMING IT UP
We are living in tough times. Many of the students and graduates will be the first ones in a new generation to make the most of their recently-acquired education and skills in a post-coronavirus world. Therefore, it goes without saying that skilling, hard work, and targeting the right opportunities will be the key factors in the success and adapting to change.
The writer is director, FORE School of Management.