Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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A few years ago, the Star Trek series introduced ‘The Doctor’ an emergency AI projection to supplement shortage of medical staff on the spaceship. The doctor successfully treated any ailing staff for years in this fictional series. Though a fascinating idea at that time, it seemed impossible.  But not anymore, as holograms and 3d printing technologies, new-age teaching and learning software, EdTech explosion are becoming a part of education and other related areas. With the pandemic accelerating technology and virtual learning in education and workplaces, the journey from being human to technical expertise to humane has begun.

An estimated $13.2 billion are currently being spent by educational institutes on EdTech each year. Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data analytics, cloud computing, Augmented and Virtual Reality have made an impact already. According to WayUp, a jobs-site for college students and recent graduates, 33% of employers are hiring virtual interns, and 71% of students are open to the idea of holding a virtual internship.

What has changed, really? There’s a definite shift in mindsets and strangely, technology has made us more adaptive, agile and innovative! Study-from-home, virtual exams, online admissions, home studios and work-from-home aren’t alien concepts anymore with virtual hiring, gig roles and new apps also dominating the current scenario. These developments have also given way to upskilling, reskilling and machine adaptiveness along with raising some interesting questions. Let’s explore today’s virtual borderless world.

As millions of students and teachers jumped on the technological bandwagon in year 2020, the big question was: How will teachers bond with students in a virtual room as opposed to a physical environment where non-verbal cues– facial expressions, tone attitude, eye contact and body language— are critical engagement and communication parameters? Already technologies addressing these challenges may already be in the making. While teachers have found some useful virtual hacks like directly addressing students, encouraging stretching, reading slouching as a sign of disengagement, tonality in voice to read their students. But this may not be enough, in the long run.

New age technologies can certainly add the ‘wow’ factor to teaching and learning. Therefore, we need technologies that can understand, anticipate and align to the learning capabilities of every student to deliver a personalised or customized learning experience at their own pace. A bit like our online behaviour on search engines and e-commerce platforms where algorithms offer us learnings and choices based on our search data and virtual journey. This kind of system can ensure that learning is not just theoretical but an enriched experience where reality and virtual meet. We’ve already witnessed this in educational institutions where Mixed Reality (MR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) give that scope and space for learning.

These developments point to the critical need for an integrated and technologically sound ‘Learning Management System’ (LMS) in educational institutions and workplaces. This provides an opportunity for training and upskilling programs, administration, online teaching, assessments and examinations and managing a calendar in a virtual mode. In a nutshell, it creates and disseminates educational content and provides updates to workforces in organizations and educational institutions. But what’s significant is that new technologies should look at how teaching will be imparted through technology. It’s not a simplistic lecture delivery in front of a camera, alone. Rather, the pedagogy, curriculum and rules of engagement will have to change. The role and impact of AI in student assessment is another idea that needs research. Assessment is a key aspect of the teaching and learning process and technology of the future needs to make it simpler, more accurate and transparent.

We need to acknowledge that universities that were relevant for the last few decades may lose their sheen in the face of a etch driven world where industry and corporates are giving more value to skills over degrees. Clearly, Techertise is not in ‘in thing’ now.

The human element and value have mutated exponentially in the last few months! While the virtual bonding brought everyone closer, human skills emerged as the real heroes in an increasingly tech driven world. Risk management, adaptability, critical thinking and agility took precedence over degrees and technical skills as workforces and workplaces increasingly adapted to new roles and challenges. The human versus technology debate cleared the decks for technology with humans’ concept as new learning and skills happened.

Digital transformations should be benefitting their intender and universities need to adapt NOW. We need to explore ways to bridge the rural urban virtual divide along with a tectonic shift in our policies post NEP. Technology can be a great enabler in schools where the tone can be set for the three years of a college journey by identifying and enabling individual skills and timeless competencies like curiosity, agility, empathy for a more sustainable world. Mere familiarization with machines or AI in schools is not enough anymore. This aspect needs deep thought and exploration by tech giants, government and academicians to move towards a fruitful PPP model which harnesses the EQ and IQ of students with financial support and other incentives. Encouraging international collaborations, streamlining OTT platforms and multi-media channels into education to provide webinars, video lectures and more is the way ahead.  But in the end, it’s the journey of humans, technology is just a catalyst.

Our future has been summed up by US Engineer and inventor, Doug Engelbart, “Technology should not aim to replace humans, rather amplify human capabilities.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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