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Expectations from digital and technological applications in education and developments so far

Written by Kamlesh Vyas

The education sector has several expectations from digital and technology applications. It expects the applications to help students overcome different constraints and divides of access, distance, availability of time, language, finances, choices and preferences, learning styles, learning pace and learning paths etc. It is also hoped that technology can be leveraged to reduce non-teaching workload for teachers. Digital and technology applications have the ability to provide teaching-learning materials for teachers as well as management tools for the administrators. Additionally, students will be able to learn about things that are difficult to experience in real life through technology – for example deep sea exploration, nuclear explosions, volcanic eruptions etc. Support for students is also expected to cover Personalized Adaptive Learning (PAL) for learners including those with physical and learning disabilities and for administrators by providing them real time, actionable data for decision making.

Several of these expectations from the education sector have been met by the digital and technological developments in the last decade or so. Digital and online learning is helping overcome several divides. It has also brought down the cost of education. It has made available great content and faculty that were only available to a few to many. Technology has enabled people to undertake jobs and education in parallel. Technologies like Augmented reality (AR) /Virtual Reality (VR) have enabled students to visualize events and experiments which are otherwise difficult to learn from. LMSs (Learning management Systems) and LXPs (Learning Experience Platforms) have enabled PAL and monitoring of learners’ journey. ERPs and several other enabling packages have helped to simplify administrative work for educators and education administrators. Applications for managing attendance, assessments, student tracking, facial recognition, 3-D modelling and 3-D printing, QR coding of books, as well as assistive technologies for students with special needs have all helped in different areas in the education sector.

However, two aspects of the role of digital and technological applications must be noted. First, the pursuit of excellence for these applications continues. And second, they have posed new challenges for the education sector.

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Technology applications in education must continue to get better, more efficient and more affordable. Analytics and AI/ ML must make better sense of big data that is today available on how students learn, teachers teach and administrators manage so that better outcomes are achieved. A case in point is the Vidya Samiksha Kendra set up by School Education Department in Gujarat and now being replicated in several states. It makes data on students, schools, teachers, learning outcome and facilities available in the hands of education policy makers and administrators. However, these applications can be further developed to provide predictive analysis, correlations and optimal solutions in areas like student dropouts, migration, learning paths, learning pace, learning sequence and efficacy of different inputs and processes etc. Similarly, AR/ VR applications need to become easy to set-up, use and update. Learning tools need to mature further with the use of applications like conversational Artificial Intelligence( AI), curation engines, search and suggestive technologies, learning chat bots, reliable assessments, telescopic and adaptable assessments. We need to also develop applications for career counselling and for knowledge exchange for students and teachers. NDEAR (National Digital Education Architecture) is another important initiative to create technology standards in education. There is a need to implement it widely and to align existing and upcoming digital applications to this architecture. There is also a need to create a platform of learning platforms at the national level to avoid duplication of efforts. Similarly, states need ERPs for education management at different administrative levels and many of them are working on these individually. National level initiatives like UDISE+, Divyan, SWAYAM, Diksha are excellent programs in their own right. However, there is a need to integrate them and to also continually enhance their functionality, ease of use, awareness about them and their scope. There is also a need for further development of technology-based solutions for skill development, for learning socio emotional skills, for career counselling, and for single window applications to institutions and for students scholarships, examinations etc.

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Lastly, increased application of digital and technology has created some challenges as well. These relate to widening of the divide between those with access to digital learning and others. They may have also contributed to reduced physical exercise, group work, play time and in-person interactions among students and the implications thereby.

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However, while challenges remain, at an overall level, digital and technology applications in education present unprecedented opportunities for improving the reach and quality of education at different levels.

Kamlesh Vyas is a partner at Deloitte India.

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