From classrooms to glass rooms – transforming education

AS students ourselves, we remember the days when schools would be shut down indefinitely due to some agitation or natural calamity and students, parents and teachers would face long days of uncertainty. As the country is slowly moving towards a lockdown mode in response to the pandemic, students all across India face the same situation today.  But we live in different times and we have the superpower of digitization at our disposal. We saw what demonetization did to the digital payments sector can it be replicated in our educational system?

To achieve this, digital technology can be a great enabler and it can transform the conventional classrooms into glass-rooms! People are trying to adjust to the new normal and this seems to be the opportune time to usher into this transformation.

Through the innovative use of technology, it is today possible to create a digital ecosystem for uninterrupted learning. This is the right time to move on priority from the brick and mortar walls of a regular classroom to the virtual walls of a digital glass-room. What are the factors that will come into play in the transition? Let’s take a quick look at some of the important ones.

  1. Accelerated Adoption of Digital Technologies: The education sector has been slow to adopt digital technologies for long.  Today, with the pandemic, every alternative to run the physical classroom has been shut.  This is an opportunity for the educationists to embrace the new model and make it work.  Cloud, data bandwidth, storage technologies, compute power, analytics, data management methods, etc are all working in tandem to create an unprecedented opportunity in the digital world to dream of things that could not have been possible a few years back.  They all have come of age.  It is time for our education system to leverage the same and fight the pandemic.
  2. Teacher centric to student-centric: We have always been a teacher-centric (mostly one-way) in our approach to education.  This is the time for all of us to move from this teacher-centric physical classroom to student-centric digital glass-rooms. It is an opportunity for us to nurture and develop self-learning behavior in the students. This will broaden their thinking, stimulate curiosity and cultivate a higher level of interest. 
  3. Physically Distanced, but Digitally a Community: A community approach in the digital world will help students connect for learning ‘anywhere, anytime’. Communities will offer a relevant collaborative space for students, where they can be kept engaged and their potential can be developed.  As a beginning, let us put three digital communities for every student. (i) School or College as a community (ii) Classroom as a community and (iii) Every Subject or Topic as a community.  This will initiate active engagement within students and across educationists and students.
  4. Virtual but engagement is Real: Keeping students interested and engaged in a digital space comes with its own set of challenges. One way is to ensure regular digital assignments, contests, debates, etc to stimulate student interest and learn the key practical applications of the subject.
  5. Validation for the virtual world: It is also important to have digital assessments on a regular basis, to allow evaluation of learning effectiveness.  This helps the educationists to spot and initiate appropriate additional interventions, where needed to specific and needed students. The educationists can take the entire students in the digital glass-room together as though they are in a physical classroom.
  6. Technology and Content are enablers, but the key is the Pedagogy: Access to technology is not a challenge.  The content to teach is also available.  Educationists have access to the content as they have been teaching in the physical classroom.  The missing link is the pedagogy.  The pedagogies for a physical classroom may not be readily suitable for digital glass-room. A whole new set of methods and practices are emerging.  They are more interactive, gamified, visually rich, personalized and hands-on.  This takes the learning effectiveness to a completely new level.
  7. Democratisation of Education: In this hour of crisis, it is important for us to ensure that digital technologies are not available just to the elite few. It has to be democratized and be available to every citizen without discrimination. The government runs a very large part of our education system. They must adapt and make the platform, content, and methods available to every school. Few state governments must take the lead in demonstrating the adoption of digital glass-room to the rest of the country.

The digital glass-rooms will ensure higher transparency, low-cost maintenance and are more convenient. It will help us to set a newer benchmark for education.  But the journey to this destination is bound to have a few roadblocks. We have hurdles like low bandwidth, internet access to all, low adoption to technology, lack of full-time electricity etc.  They are fast changing though.  The key is the mindset to adopt.  We are confident that our Educational Institutions will demonstrate leadership in adopting this new model.

Already, we are seeing institutions in the real-world including SASTRA University, NMIMS, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Singhania School and many more who have taken the lead in moving education to a completely digital platform to meet the current challenges and at the same time, prepare for the future. Let us seize this opportunity and make the best out of this crisis to accelerate the transformation of education from classrooms to Glass Rooms. “Carpe Diem – Seize the day”

Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON

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