Digital Systems Of Learning May Soon Dominate Education

Digitalization eliminates many traditional barriers of access and geography for both teachers and students.

Photo Credit : Photo Courtesy: BW Disrupt,

One of the major impacts of COVID-19 has been an acceleration in the adoption of online and digital education at a pace that was unimaginable before. Initially many institutions wanted to start with small trials. Others wanted to allow the category to mature before adopting the methodology. However, the COVID-19 crisis has made digital learning imperative for almost all kinds of educational institutions. The luxury of choice has clearly been taken away by the situations created by the pandemic. In order to gear up for this situation, many higher education institutions have put up learning materials online and are running courses with a combination of digital tools. This has ensured learning continuity, and in some cases, also enhanced the effectiveness of teaching and learning for students and faculty. However, this has required considerable efforts in adapting course curriculum and materials so that a well-planned and structured course can be offered to students.  

In light of this situation, let's explore some ideas on what the future holds for digital learning systems in the current educational framework. The last few months, also give an idea of what will shape the future. 

There is no single or easy answer. However, the move towards digital adoption is inescapable given likely continuation of need for social distancing and other related restrictions. The physical infrastructure of many institutions cannot support the requirements of social distancing. This is especially true for many institutions of higher learning which do not have very large campuses.  

The key drivers of the move towards digital will be past preparedness in skills and technology and the ability to invest resources and the mindset of the educators and students. Adoption of digital technology will have several implications at all parts of the value chain in higher education. Admissions and mass testing will get affected, institutions will need more flexible and broad-based measures. Classes too will be impacted. Research has shown hybrid class models are more effective. There is a whole range of new and old tools and content formats available to educators. However, the significant challenge of using hybrid pedagogy is that it requires new skills and capabilities from teachers and administrators. Apart from this, the change of mindset is another formidable challenge for both administrators and teachers. 

Translating content and topics of laboratories brings a unique set of challenges into the picture. Many curriculum topics require specialized equipment and apparatus. Simulation labs do not work well across all courses. In this case, institutions must prioritize physical contact for such labs, experiments and exposures to ensure that the overall experience and learning is not impaired.  

Let's talk about the holy grail now. Assessments are one of the most contentious of topics. However, if we look at the example of competitive programming, we find a powerful way to assess and demonstrate competency without taking tests. In several areas, digitized evaluations may emerge where we use digital or social media platforms to conduct assessments. Increased emphasis on formative assessments based on projects, assignments can be expected. Proctored online assessment tools, both manual and AI-based, are emerging, however, these are not without limitations. They work well for elimination type tests like recruitment screening but where everyone needs to be graded, the bar is higher. 

As online and digital work becomes more pervasive, companies will be forced to require projects and internships to be done online, using digital media from home. Consequently, the importance of such experience will also grow for students. Therefore, online projects and work from home internships will grow, adding another digital layer to higher education. 

We are now standing at an important inflexion point that impacts students, educators, owners and regulators. Digitalization eliminates many traditional barriers of access and geography for both teachers and students. Certainly, there will be an implication on costs as the quality is not cheap. However, if it is delivered at scale, the costs for students can be lower, thus bringing it within the reach of many more. I am hopeful that we will see many interesting developments for higher education going forward.    

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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Digital Systems Of Learning education COVID-19

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