Unlocking the future

The wish to protect the status quo of the physical campus and the monopoly over credentials will inhibit large-scale educational transformation.

The wish to protect the status quo of the physical campus and the monopoly over credentials will inhibit large-scale educational transformation.

The future is about time frames. A year is a short time to experience the gravity of educational shifts, but large enough to spot the signals and drivers of change. The National Education Policy and its allied ideas of equity, quality and access remain popular forces for the future. But, there are less-debated subtle themes. Here are five such themes clustered from different signals and drivers, which allow us to align macro forces such as tech-innovations with tiny changes such as flexible curriculum.

Rise of alternative learning providers: Who is an alternative learning provider? Anyone from a YouTube teacher to a university offering an industry-partnered degree or an ed-tech venture. They come in different sizes, credibility, recognition, and cost. Quality standards range from good to bad to ugly. It is a shift from the traditional educational experience that operates around prescribed modules in specified sequence, with standardised evaluations and approval status. Such providers pioneer new models and innovations, and convert academic sessions into work-integrated learning. Their agile nature equips them to offer more affordable learning compared to most traditional institutions.

Non-traditional providers impact changes in pedagogy and credentialing, though they are neither widespread nor quick. For example, learning can be more solutionary , an advanced form of problem-centred learning, and will be portfolio-targeted and outcome-driven.

Cohort-based courses and new credentials: The last two years have seen unprecedented enrollments in MOOC platforms. While it may continue to attract learners, cohort-based interactive courses will be on the rise in the current year. These carry and cherish an active learning community in hybrid spaces and serve fewer learners but with higher engagement levels compared to MOOCs.

The employers’ focus on learning outcomes over traditional credentials will push the need for real-life work experiences. This will question the value of classroom seat-time and probably see some institutions experiment by merging theory and practice and designing an entire programme around field experience.. We may also see more collaboration among educational entities, businesses and civic organisations leading to new credentials and badges, particularly in technical courses.

Design your own degree: Designing individualised majors and minors has been around in many institutions abroad. Academic Bank of Credit (ABC), a proposed databank for accumulating and withdrawing learners’ credits supported by multiple-entry and exit across institutions, carries the seed of a rich learning experience in India. At a finer level of practice, learners can customise their degrees by bundling credit hours and modules, matching their interests.

Ecoversities and sustainability: What if learners and communities reclaim the diversity of knowledge, ecologies, cultures and economies? The answer lies in Ecoversities, a movement and model that re-imagines education through ecological leadership. The Ecoversity Alliance has more than a hundred learning spaces in the world and some are in India. They currently reside on the margins and mainly cater to independent and alternative learners. They may not come to the mainstream soon, but will endure as a reminder of the possibilities of education on a fragile planet. For the rest of the learning community, the educational response to the climate emergency is already delayed. Some progressive institutions will voluntarily opt for carbon-aware practices. But the majority need a regulatory push.

Experiments ahead: The future of education is neither a one-step process nor a policy panacea. It is a path with ambiguities that simultaneously demand stability and innovation. Experiments allow us to balance this paradox. So, institutions, communities and countries that are open for experimentations will benefit in the future. Creating a preferred future is far different from preparing for the future. Creating requires questioning the assumptions and opening to a series of micro-level education experiments to address the uncertainties.

What will not change?

The future is also about resistance. We will continue to talk about blended learning even as questions of digital inequity and pedagogical readiness are raised. The wish to protect the status quo of the physical campus and the monopoly over credentials will inhibit large-scale educational transformation. On the other hand, the larger narrative of education will maintain its obsession with competitive exams, quality-talks, and ranking-romance.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned here are personal

The writer is an Education Officer with the University Grants Commission.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 1:11:36 am |