ASMA Education Leadership Conclave on Higher Education – Virtual Experience Synchronization: Innovative Pedagogy for a Fast Forward Future

ASMA Education Leadership Conclave on Higher Education

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The Inaugural Event of ASMA’s Education Leadership Conclave was held on the 24th September 2020 and brought together various leaders and stakeholders from the education industry, including those from the higher education, school education and preschool education sectors.

The Education Leadership Conclave Panel on Higher Education – ‘Virtual Experience Synchronization: Innovative Pedagogy for a Fast Forward Future’ saw participation from various leaders such as Dr DN Rao, President, Vignana Jyothi Society, Hyderabad, Prof Prem Vrat, Chairman Board of Governors of IIT (ISM) Dhanbad; Pro-Chancellor; Professor of Eminence and Chief Mentor, The NorthCap University, Gurugram, Dr DNS Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, Sushant University, Abhishek Mohan Gupta, Pro-Chancellor, Jagran LakeCity University and Dr RS Bawa, Pro-Chancellor, Chandigarh University.

The session was moderated by Prof Ujjwal K Chaudhary, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of ADAMAS University.

The esteemed panel took us through an insightful session that touched on the government’s New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the education industry and how pedagogy is evolving and adopting technology to bring about a new normal.

Moderator Prof Ujjwal K Chaudhary, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of ADAMAS University, opened the discussion by saying that although there have been many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic; the crisis has also brought us many benefits as well. He also noted that education will remain blended and also he provided some eye-opening statistics, saying “According to government statistics, there are 283 million (around 28 crores) students from schools to university in India who are informal education. Out of this, there are reports that say there is only 28 per cent (around 8 crores) having digital education; 21 per cent (around 6.5 crores) of the student population who have some access to digital media, but they do not have access to regular access to while there is 51 per cent (almost 15 crores) of the population has no access whatsoever to any form of education during this crisis and this is the reality”.

Abhishek Mohan Gupta, Pro-Chancellor, Jagran LakeCity University, explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our perspective, even in relation to education and learning. He explained, “One thing this crisis has taught us is that blended learning is acceptable. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the big push technology needed. People are also mentally prepared to know that technology is available and online learning can happen”.

He continued, “The world has changed in the last 5-6 months. We now have to focus on delivery, because blended/online learning has very different challenges than a classroom delivery. Faculty has the opportunity to become facilitators, rather than focusing on delivery”.

Gupta continued, “With the blended mode of learning we will be able to change the way our pedagogy is delivered. Through this, faculty will be able to focus more on skill delivery rather than just delivering knowledge”.

Taking the discussion further, Dr DN Rao, President, Vignana Jyothi Society, Hyderabad pointed out that education has not changed for almost 100 years. He remarked, “Today change is happening multiple times more than we have seen before”.

He continued, “I have seen the change happening at the educational institutions, as well as at the industry level. Our population – the teachers, students and management – have become more flexible and adaptive”.

He explained that at Vignana Jyothi Society, they have focused on creating an immersive experience through virtual experiences in a classroom with a concept called “Presencing” – to be present, sense, experience and extrapolate. He explained that this has been taken further with a course called ‘Presencing and Design Thinking’ which has been very well received by the students.

Dr Rao also spoke about ‘vertical literacy’ and how they have infused this concept into their courses.

He also highlighted Vignana Jyothi Society’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, through their ‘Post-Lockdown Restart Manual: Framework for Prevention and Mitigation of COVID-19’ and explained how the COVID crisis can be leveraged to gain a higher potential after the lockdown ends.

Prem Vrat, Chairman Board of Governors of IIT (ISM) Dhanbad; Pro-Chancellor; Professor of Eminence and Chief Mentor, The NorthCap University, Gurugram opined that “The new normal is the NEP 2020 and our future educational policies must be governed by the policy document that the nation has given to itself. The new normal is the NEP 2020 in which technology has a place”.

He also explained that despite technology, the teacher’s role will always take centre-stage, saying “I could never imagine a society in which technology will replace the teacher. There are four important pillars of excellence which any institution must stand for, these are Faculty, Funding, Flexibility and Freedom – the NEP gives us Flexibility and Freedom. But faculty will always remain centre-stage. However the major change will come from retraining the faculty to create co-learners between students and faculty, and technology will be an enabler in creating greater student experience”.

Prof Vrat concluded by saying, “Virtualisation must synchronise with reality; artificial reality cannot replace real reality, artificial intelligence cannot replace real intelligence, but if we synchronise the two then technology will become the enabler to enrich the real”.

Dr DNS Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, Sushant University referred to Pro Chaudhary’s point that 51 per cent of students do not have access to digital learning and questioned if it is possible to take the online mode of learning to the entire country. He said, “Some of the educational institutions are still in the offline mode of learning; they have no infrastructure.”

Dr Kumar pointed out that the COVID-19 situation has improved and honed the skills, capabilities and attitudes of all stakeholders at Sushant University. He said, “COVID has made teachers and students put in more effort. The resources available now to the teachers and students are now multi-fold. Rather than becoming student-centric, it has become a teacher-led education”.

He also pointed out that due to the current scenario, there has been a trend of reverse mentoring, where a distinction between junior and senior levels has blurred. He also emphasised that today we have to find new ways to make use of the opportunities that are coming to us.

Dr RS Bawa, Pro-Chancellor, Chandigarh University, began by pointing out that many of our institutions have not been using real educational technology, however, the pandemic has now hastened the use of technology.

He said, “Let us not lose reality in the light of virtualisation. Virtualisation will be part of the system, but it cannot replace reality. COVID is going to be a passing phase, but the new normal is going to be the NEP and also the way we think; the way we do things”.

Dr Bawa explained that there are three requirements in the new normal. Firstly, flexibility; the learner must be facilitated and the learner’s aspirations must be addressed, the second is the use of technology which has been hastened by COVID, and thirdly, the faculty – from where comes the innovation. He said a teacher will have to innovate in terms of bringing in new applications.

Dr Bawa concluded saying, “The New Education Policy envisages India to be the most important education hub in the world and that will be possible only if we bring our own education level beyond what is happening in the world. This is possible by changing the pedagogy; synchronisation with the virtual world will take place automatically.

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