There are 600 million people in India under the age of 25. At 25 million, our student population is the world’s second largest after China. With a burgeoning middle class, there is an increasing ability to “pay” for education among Indians. Today the country boasts nearly 700 Universities, ~ 33,000 colleges and more than 12,500 diploma-awarding institutions in India, according to an Ernst & Young report.

Despite these huge numbers, or perhaps because of them, the education system is under tremendous pressure to expand and improve the quality of graduating students

From my own discussions with key stakeholders in the education sector including our clients such as IIM-B and ISB, tectonic shifts in India’s higher-education sector are already underway driven by the need to meet expanding future student demand and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

As this British Council report on India’s higher education sector states, “Every aspect of higher education is being reorganised and remodelled: funding, leadership and management, quality assurance, accountability, relationships with industry, international collaboration, and the way research and teaching are conducted. If these reforms succeed, the breadth and depth of the change will be transformational”.

Internet connectivity and accessibility will not remain barriers for much longer. It is the lack of quality teachers and teachers that are poorly trained in the effective use of technology and in pedagogy, that will hinder growth. This definitely needs to change.  

How these reforms are carried out can make a huge difference in the success of these initiatives. Funding or availability of technology are not the real issues anymore. But a narrow short term view or assumptions of easy solutions will NOT solve the problem. Free laptops to students and computer facilities in campuses are examples of such narrow thinking. Money is spent, no one really uses them effectively and outcomes are not monitored or measured. A holistic approach including training of teachers, access to experts, new learning models and monitoring of outcomes are important for real results.

Blended learning is one model that is set to emerge as the dominant approach while e-learning also enjoys strong growth. Some leading institutions and universities are using the following approach:

  1. Professors conducting virtual sessions for students attending classes remotely;
  2. Video recording the lecture for those not present / students who want to access content later;
  3. Availability of lecture notes online for reference;
  4. Assessments, feedback and other data collection that is being conducted online;

This approach is especially relevant in a scenario where there is a shortage of good teachers or in cases where the knowledge and skills of a brilliant teacher can benefit several thousand students across campuses instead of just being restricted to few students within the four walls of a classroom.

Similarly, private course providers are leveraging technology to optimize resources and tap into the hunger for learning that exists across the length and breadth of the country by sharing lectures, conducting assessments and practice tests, giving students the opportunity to log-in remotely, etc.

Next-gen education providers such as iNurture and Manipal Global Education Services are using technology to not only address learning needs of college students but also offering supplemental learning opportunities such as courses in Retail Management, Data Analytics, Finance and, etc.

From connecting departments and classrooms within the same campus, Universities are looking at connecting hundreds of colleges that are under their wing; the opportunity to shift to the “cloud” means that little or no IT administration is required in these campuses.

University / College / Course Provide managements have to embrace the cloud and instead of deploying servers, they should invest in a bigger “Internet pipe” that provides more bandwidth to students and faculty – allowing them to communicate, collaborate and learn regardless of where they are located or the time of day when they can learn. Any institution not doing this will get left behind and miss the bus.

 

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