The role of education in human capital development has been largely acknowledged for decades. However, the education industry, unlike other industries, has been a slow adopter of technology. Although this trend is changing for good, we need to ask–is the change fast enough (considering what’s at stake – the human capital is key to a nation’s empowerment)?
No doubt, the last decade witnessed a growing awareness of eLearning solutions among students, teachers and other stakeholders in the education ecosystem. Students are seeking online courses as part of their self-study routine to supplement their school learning. Some schools are investing in ERP and digital classrooms. These are the first crucial steps towards harnessing technology in the education sector. Although these are encouraging signs, quite clearly technical solutions in education are still in a supplement (at best ‘enablement’) phase. Embracing technology is still viewed as optional by these stakeholders especially by school authorities and administration. Cost is often mentioned as a deterrent, though such claims are usually based on subjective feeling than an objective analysis. Many students are enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) – to supplement their school learning with self-paced digital lessons, but statistics show that a significant percentage of these learners are casual in their approach. Students don’t allocate similar priority to MOOCs courses as they may to their classroom /college courses. Such half-hearted infusion of technology in education needs to change.
It is not the case that eLearning solutions have some inherent technical limitation that is affecting their mainstream adoption – technologically, these solutions are top notch for their time and have potential for disruptive innovation. However, this technology penetration needs to be architected in the formal learning system. A positive step in this direction would be from school authorities and education boards to acknowledge eLearning as a valid and mainstream medium of imparting education and even student evaluation (some universities provide proper course credits for MOOCs – just like classroom lecture-based courses). The teacher community also needs to dispel the idea that technology solutions can hamper the human element of teaching. In fact, many teachers are warming up to MOOCs as such medium allows them to reach out to volumes of students (spread across the globe) that is exponentially higher than a lifetime of classroom teaching.
The impact that technology can have in advancing the education industry will remain limited unless the role of technology is not universally acknowledged as an essential ingredient rather than an optional ‘good-to-have’ addendum.
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