FIRST ANGLE: THE TEACHER’S ANGLE
During one of my big data analytics class a few weeks back (before lockdown started, when we were having regular classes), I asked a question to a class packed with about 80 students. None of the students were able to give a proper answer till an unexpected one replied. I could immediately comprehend that the student had used google to find out the right answer. At that instance, I was testing perhaps the ability to remember facts among my students.
Today, when I recall the incident while conducting online classes and tutorials, what I feel is that classroom might not be an essential place for learning anymore. Some of us may think that, nothing’s going to change in these few months of lockdown and we are going to get back to our conventional teaching methodology but the students are getting into a habit of learning from us online, surfing content and clearing doubt online. While a teacher is delivering lecture, she/he cannot be sure that the student will be glued to their laptop/mobile phone/tab/PC screen dedicatedly to listen to them. Rather she/he may be busy surfing the internet to find some stuff of their interest or may be judging the lecture by finding out content on the same topic online. Thus, the way we deliver a lecture, controlling the class, establishing our authority over the students, may cease to exist.
This in turn will result into a situation wherein our intellect and innovation in delivering a lecture online will decide whether a student wants to attend to our lecture or not. The more views our lectures get in youtube would decide who is the “Jeetu Bhaiya” (the famous physics teacher of web series “Kota Factor”) and who is “Batla Sir” (the infamous chemistry teacher in the same web series). Digital prowess or shall I say online prowess will be a necessary skillset to be present in a teacher’s sleeve of skills. While online learning was already there affecting adversely the conventional classroom contact teaching, the growth rate was not considerable enough. But coronavirus effect has changed the scenario completely for online mode of learning to a great extent.
LET THE TECH TALK
Landing of technology start-ups and legends in the education space has brought out a new terminology, Edtech. Simultaneously, our responsibility as a teacher has also increased to a great extent in becoming savvy with these newer technology products. It is important to remember that technology is a tool, not a subject and thus the way we handle them/learn them is different than the way we traditionally learn a subject. Many of us fail to understand this aspect of technology. The biggest weapon in our sleeves is the intent behind trying new things. A teacher of the future will be like a CEO of a start-up tech firm who is willing to try and learn new technology and once the prowess is established she/he will be able to implement the same in creating a better learning environment for the students of future.
THE “JASON BOURNE” SYNDROME
Jason Bourne is a famous espionage series originally written by Robert Ludlum and later conceived as a very successful movie series. In almost each of these movies, we see the protagonist speaking multiple languages and acquainted with various culture making himself comfortably mix among the aliens. Likewise, a future teacher while teaching marketing, might use a media and journalism tool to create a better use case. Multidisciplinary approach towards the subject matter will be the new mantra – “jack of all trades and the master of all trades also”.
SAY NO TO 9-5
All the above factors prepare us to face one final stand-off. Am I bound by time or am I ready to pounce on to the forthcoming opportunity? The teacher of tomorrow needs to be free from the traditional work hour model. Teaching will no longer be confined within the boundaries set by time, rather a 24X7 approach will work here. A typical day in the life of a teacher for tomorrow will have a classroom lecture delivery, a peer review meeting, an online lecture, a web meeting with stakeholders, research work, consultancy work and many more.
SECOND ANGLE: THE STUDENT’S ANGLE
As a student myself, I feel that my best friend is not an individual in my class or in my home town anymore. My socializing is happening on my Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) only, i.e., my mobile phone. Information is available to us from all available sources, just like what we studied as the characteristics of a perfectly competitive market in economics. So, there are lot of service providers (Higher Education Institutions or HEIs) and lot of service takers (students) available with almost no barrier to entry and exit.
I AM THE KING
A student of the future (very near future) will behave like a typical customer demanding education as per their convenience and requirements. They will expect customization and personalization of education as a product based upon their field of interest and dream. Traditionally, we have seen a set pattern of programs being run in various HEIs and the students subscribing to them year on year, but the future set of programs will be more of an a la carte combination of courses chosen and decided by the student. A student will be the only qualitative assessor of these programs because they will have a feeling that – “the customer is the king”. We can also say that the legal maxim of caveat emptor will be applicable for them as well.
SUPPLY WHAT IS DEMANDED
When I completed my mechanical engineering, many of my classmates from the same branch and many other branches of engineering joined a reputed Indian IT company (name withheld). Later on. I came to know that, all of them were converted (the correct word would be reskilled) to work as IT professionals within a span of three months of them joining that company. Whatever my friends had learnt over last 4 years was weighed down by computer codes and conventions. What this means is that there was demand for software professionals and thus core sector engineering graduates were also made to work in the software industry. Our future students will not be conventional anymore. They would want to focus on building skillsets demanded by the industry from the beginning of their higher education journey which will make sure that they can kick start their career immediately and achieve progression throughout.
Experiential learning has been a buzz word in higher education for quite some time now. Our future students will not only follow this buzz word but will also demand this as a part of the curriculum. No student will be willing to attend theoretical contact classes anymore. They will be willing to go an extra mile in order to experience what it is like to work on the concepts and apply them in actual use cases. For example, if a student is trained on a particular analytics software by explaining the features available in it, then that will not make them skilled in it. Rather, making them work on a live data and finding out solution of a problem based upon that dataset will extract the critical thinking and analytical aptitude of that student. That is exactly what the student of future will expect from the program that they would choose to join.
THIRD ANGLE: THE INSTITUTION’S ANGLE
I believe that the true success of an institution lies in the hands of the students studying there. The name, fame and recognition that an institution earns is determined by how successful the students had been, are becoming and will be. An institution is a body which employs its agents of change (the teachers) to mould the future students.
MAKE THE TECH TALK
While the world is busy in introducing technology to all kinds business domains, the responsibility of HEIs lies in making trained workforce available to use and implement these technologies. This will eventually ensure that curriculum designing is done by keeping technological tools at the centre point. While in the present day curriculum, technological tools serve as a fringe to the whole syllabus, the curriculum of future will have the whole syllabus constructed around a few technological tools. Another aspect that is gaining popularity is the flexibility in learning. Institutions of future will be flexible enough to allow the students to develop certain skill at their own pace. If someone wants to take a break and then come back after a few years to resume from where she/he discontinued their studies, that will be allowed as well.
THE SHORTER THE BETTER
One of the biggest drawback of the HEIs today lies in their inability to cater to the working class. Most of the HEIs are efficiently working in creating undergraduates and post-graduates, but ignoring the fact that the working class people are also in the need of upgrading themselves with changing times. These working class people have one big constraint, time. In fact, time is a constraint not only for these working class people but also for the companies which they work for. They need to get the requisite skills and knowledge as fast as possible. Thus, HEIs should effectively work towards creating various short-term courses and certificate programs catering to this need of the future. This will also ensure that HEIs reaches to a greater set of masses.
THE END RESULT
“All is well if the end is well”. The end of all kinds of skill and competency development culminates in to a job role so desired by the students. HEIs are to a greater extent making sure that they act as the hub of placements for their students by tying up with various corporate bodies and placement consultants, but a greater push is required in the field of preparing the future students towards facing the way they should approach the interviews and the job finally.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Subhra Pratim Bhattacharjee after his 10 yearlong stint in the banking industry moved in to his dream career of an educator in the year 2016. Currently, he is the director of business analytics department at Garden City University, Bangalore. His expertise lies in the field of business analytics, robotic process automation, banking automation technology, etc. He has been instrumental in supporting various industry-academia collaboration for Garden City University. He has published research papers in various national and international journals to enlighten the world about his findings. Initially, he completed his graduation in engineering and masters in finance before starting his banking career in the year 2008.