Enter ‘Schoolome’ learning

A learning approach that involves the physical and the digital is the way forward for education, says Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON

April 23, 2022 01:21 pm | Updated April 25, 2022 10:19 am IST

The key is to enable access to physical devices.

The key is to enable access to physical devices. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

American author Dave Pelzer said, “Something good comes out of every crisis.” And never have these words rung truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic. While everything came to a standstill, the flip side to the crisis was disruption: of business, education, and even of thought processes. From this emerged innumerable solutions to problems that once seemed insurmountable. Education has now moved from physical classes to online and phygital (blended learning), as the world emerges into a new order.

Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON

Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Naturally, with innumerable new players in an equally new sphere, there are several factors to consider, options to weigh, decisions to take, and regulations to bring in. Venguswamy Ramaswamy, Global Head, TCS iON, talks about phygital education, its potential, and more.

Ramaswamy points out that the term ‘phygital’ was in use even before the pandemic. In 2013, an Australian marketing agency called itself an ‘agency of the phygital world’. However, it is not clear who coined the term first. “When e-commerce spread its reach, the in-store experience brought the physical and digital world together to enhance the customer experience,” he explains. “Today, clearly, phygital learning is the way forward, where digital capability seamlessly integrates with physical assets.”

Shaping learning

“The current set up of a traditional classroom, video-recorded sessions, long PDF-based content does not excite digital natives. They have a short attention span and, hence, the demand for microlearning,” he explains. “With the pandemic’s advent, learning through devices has become accepted. However, teachers are not trained to handle such students.” According to him, a phygital approach that combines physical (in school) and digital (anywhere outside the campus) will be effective. “In a classroom, teachers focus on shaping 21st century skills. At home, learning stimulates students’ inquisitive minds.” He calls this “Schoolome learning”.

The question is how? Ramaswamy believes that a blended pedagogy provides students with the tools to simulate the real-time scenario and enhances learning by encouraging them to explore, access open-learning resources and other domains independently. “The key,” he says, “is to facilitate access to physical devices and centres to take hands-on training or learn something that can’t be learned online. It is also vital to empower teachers to reach out with innovative ways to impart lessons to students through AR and VR.”

He agrees that there are challenges. Like equitable access to technology for all students. “Access will vary as per students’ socio-economic background. The design of physical learning components may need to factor in this. Leveraging AR/VR could be one solution. Any self-led learning requires a high level of self-discipline and time-management from students, without losing interest or confidence, especially for a long-term courses.”

Regulation required

Given the growth of ed-tech, he believes that there must be some regulation. Government-imposed and self regulations will impact stakeholders directly or indirectly. “For instance, in the case of ed-tech firms, government-regulated laws will add to their cost in terms of resources, legal aid, setting up consumer grievance redressal cell, and users’ data management; firms will need to restrict market and sales tactics, particularly those which lure parents into making payment in return for services/products with less or no value,” he points out. “For academic institutions, regulations will help in how they can partner with ed-tech firms. Government regulations will certainly benefit consumers and ensure they do not fall for advertising gimmicks and enroll in unrecognised courses.”

Today, around 88% of students globally think online learning will be part of the future education experience. Nonetheless, the continuation of phygital learning will largely depend on the teaching method/resources and students’ access to devices. In the higher education space, UGC has recommended blended learning, Ramaswamy says. “In the Indian school education system, where over three crore children don’t have access to digital devices, low-tech blended learning adoption could happen through empowering educators with digital tools, using mass media like radio and TV to run educational programmes.”

He believes that, while phygital learning adoption in India is still in a nascent stage, it will help us to scale up learning, address the challenges of inclusivity, and bridge the gap of the digital divide, and bring remote areas of India to the cusp of digital learning.

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