Hospitality Education In India Calls For A Redesign: Is COVID The Propeller?

Most hospitality institutions have been following a curriculum that hasn’t seen a revision in decades.

More than 85% of hospitality professionals cite that they joined the industry by fluke/accident. Ask any hotel professional who has graduated two years ago, to even name the list of all subjects taught in the three years of hotel management degree and it can be bet they would miss out on most other than the four core subjects. Let alone the details of the subjects and sub-topics. Clearly something is amiss here.    

For an education system to be meaningfully successful, requires conceptualization and successful execution from the curriculum point of view, the teaching methodology, invigorating learner interest, applicability of learning and the accessibility to learning. The following pointers highlight where it is flawed today.  

Most hospitality institutions have been following a curriculum that hasn’t seen a revision in decades. Full marks given to the fact that it nurtures and grooms certain essential life skills meant for long term success in any industry, but clearly the curriculum fails to imbibe the changing trends and needs required by the industry. Add to it, there have been distinctive gap between the academia and the industry. 

The curriculum teaches basic concepts and fundamentals, but it fails to capture the applicability of those learnings to real world scenarios. The teaching doesn’t necessarily invigorate curiosity amongst learners or involve them in the process.  

The teaching methodology has primarily been the conventional classroom lecture-based one.  A typical notes delivery session mildly interspersed with assignments, projects and role plays without a constructive framework for grading or feedback of such activities. Result being a half hearted or lackluster approach by students to completion of these sessions and assignments only to secure minimal grades. Barring few exceptions, it would be right to say that teaching methodology is primarily a one-way interaction in most hospitality educational institutions.  

If the hospitality industry was slow to technology adaptions, lets say the educational institutions had been averse and literally cut off from the technology advancements surrounding them, leading to a big digital divide amongst hospitality educators today.  

This perhaps would have been the scenario for few more years to come…..but Covid19 had different plans. Globally, the hospitality industry has suffered the most in this pandemic and it will take a couple of years to stand back tall. On the brighter side, Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to pause and reflect upon. It has provided us time to make corrections. It also prompted us to rethink strategies and make the best of the situation. With social distancing as topmost priority, Covid has pushed hospitality industry to adopt technology in a big way, ways that it had never earlier considered or imagined.   

The hospitality education too is undergoing a paradigm shift.  

Since lockdown, we all have noticed the numerous collaboration webinars that were conducted on multiple topics of interest. Such sessions bring at par the knowledge shared amongst industry, institution and individuals.  

Hospitality being a high skill-based course, did experience initial mind blocks towards teaching hospitality courses online. However, few institutions spearheaded in bringing about a blended way of learning. A mix of theoretical (65%) classes delivered through live online sessions and practical sessions (35%) delivered offline/onsite in campus. The offline sessions which are more experiential would only begin in a gradual phase when the pandemic subsides in the next few months. Now most institutions have adopted this blended way of learning.  

The new learning environment has also triggered the need to redesign the academic curriculum. What part of the curriculum can be taught online and how? What inclusions in the curriculum can add more value from a student perspective in the post-covid world? Covid has prompted educators to rethink on the curriculum and the best way to teach online, keeping the learner engaged in the learning process. And thus, the need for a two-way interactive session comes into prominence, in a virtual classroom. From a teacher centered approach, the focus now shifts to a more student-centered approach.  

Videos and presentations are now the new books. It is proven to have higher engagement amongst the new generation learners whose attention spans are limited. Micro-learning in repetitive formats is a better way to retain the knowledge gained. 

The student-centered approach also means a thrust towards graded projects, assignments built into the curriculum to test the learner attention & retention of the topics covered. It is also to understand how well the learner applies the learning concept to different real-world situations that crops in hospitality. The goal is to empower the online learner to take responsibility for managing their own learning experience and free the instructor to concentrate their time in crafting a truly engaged learning experience. 

A bigger question one may ask here would be, “Is all this being adopted by institutions as a quick fix to Covid or as a long-term solution?  Majority of them may still choose the former option, of a quick fix solution.  

A bigger hurdle in this process could be the mindset and lack of digital proficiency amongst educators towards technology aided hospitality education. It has been proven time and again, that convenience associated with a product/service, has eventually led us to adopt the same despite the initial resistance. What may be overlooked by educators today, is the fact that the longer the situation prevails, the higher the chances of adopting a particular practice as a habit. And once the convenience associated with blended learning curriculum is realized it may be hard to let go of. 

Much as well, it would be right to say that Covid has propelled us to adopt a newer format of technology led learning, one that brings forth applicability of new learning, current trends & topics, repeatable relatable, result driven and interactive formats in learning experience. This is a much required step to usher in a truly global hospitality education. Whether it stays for long term in the post covid era or not, would require an open mindset and knowledge by educators to use the new format to its optimum advantage.  

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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