Investment in Technological Infrastructure and Security Will Be Important in the Post-Pandemic Era, Say Education Leaders

Experts from the education field were gathered for the Digital Campus on the Cloud for Education (North) virtual event on 9th December 2020

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The Digital Campus on the Cloud for Education (DCCE) – North India Chapter was held on 9th December 2020 and examined how technology can be leveraged to transform the Indian education sector, witnessed two interesting panel discussions by experts in the technology and education fields.

The first panel which was moderated by Abhishek Ballabh, Co-founder, ExtraEdge and comprised of Dr Atul Khosla, Co-Founder, Shoolini University, Dr Sandeep Pachpande, Chairman, ASM Group of Institutions, Dr Sunil Rai, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Prof Tabrez Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor, GD Goenka University and Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University.

The panel discussed the topic ‘The role of digital marketing & admission technology in the post-COVID Era’.

Speaking about what he has learnt this year in relation to admissions and outreach, Dr Sandeep Pachpande, Chairman, ASM Group of Institutions remarked, “While all of us have been speaking of going digital and online, I think this is the time when everyone has understood the importance of the physical way of universities and classrooms, so the physical campus plays a very important role”.

Panchpande continued, “We have to leverage the digital platforms and technologies. I would expect a lot of adoption of digital technologies coming in not only in the marketing part but also in the delivery part. In marketing, of course, we have seen a big change, most people have moved to the online model; they are engaging with the students online, the physical seminars have moved online. So we are all leveraging those platforms and other EdTech companies to engage and nurture the leads”.

He added, “I don’t think there is any change in the mindsets of parents, the objective of a student to join a course also remains the same and why they choose a particular institution also has not changed. What has changed is the location, but overall, the mindset and thinking are the same”.

Speaking about marketing spends on conventional media versus digital media, Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University said, “COVID has accelerated the change towards the use of digital media. It has been the need of the hour because it allowed us to evaluate the performance of the campaigns. Digital media gives us a much more efficient manner of how to reach out to our target audience”.

Adding his thoughts to the discussion, Dr Atul Khosla, Co-Founder, Shoolini University said, “It’s been a spectacular year for us; our applications are up 50 per cent from last year. Also, 50 per cent of our applications are outside of the core zone of Shoolini. Technology brings in a new paradigm, it brings in disruption and we believe it’s only going to become deeper and deeper”.

Dr Khosla continued, “The fundamental point is, the whole admissions process of educational institutions is going to be completely disrupted”.

Dr Sunil Rai, Vice-Chancellor, the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies commented, “Digital now is the only way to go because it brings in many advantages. Every aspect of the education process such as placements, internship and research can be done online. Technology is here to stay and when you compare televised media versus print media versus digital media, the costs and the reach and the performance is highly in favour of social media”.

Prof Tabrez Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor, GD Goenka University said, “Our entire survival during the COVID era has been because of technology. Technology can help to reduce cost as well as allows us to collaborate with top professors around the world”.

He added, “It is important to match what students want with what we are offering, and this can be done through technology”.

The second panel of the day was moderated by Hemant Sahal, Founder & CEO, Collpoll and comprised of Sudhanshu Varma, COO, Bennett University, Madhu Chitkara, Pro-Chancellor, Chitkara University, Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Chancellor, Shobhit University, Dr  Victor Gambhir, Vice-Chancellor, SGT University and Prof Arjya B Majumdar, Dean, Admissions and Outreach, OP Jindal Global University.

The panel deliberated on the topic ‘Digital Transformation of Educational institutions for the New Age Education in the Post COVID Era’.

Talking about how technology can play a larger role in learning beyond just online classes, Madhu Chitkara, Pro-Chancellor, Chitkara University explained, “There is a good likelihood now that virtual learning in some capacity will need to be a part of education. The long term plan for virtual learning will lead to blended learning”.

Dr Chitkara continued, “Higher education institutions need a response framework that looks beyond immediate actions. We have to prepare for an intermediate period of transition and now we should begin future-proofing institutions for the long-term”.

She added, “New-age technology has to be used and for that, we need to give the budget to the technological infrastructure, then the physical infrastructure”.

Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Chancellor, Shobhit University remarked, “Technology brought in new learning and the fear of the digital divide has started disappearing. Security will become the crux of the challenges technology will face in the future”.

He continued, “Now that we are in the blended mode, we have to ensure that all COVID safety measures are in place. We also have to ensure that there isn’t a duplication of efforts. So it will mean more integration of technological resources is there in our classrooms and lab”.

He added, “During the pandemic, there was a ripple effect that has led to new innovations. The government needs to seriously think about the importance of safeguarding universities as national assets of knowledge and social cohesion”.

Sharing his thoughts, Prof Arjya B Majumdar, Dean, Admissions and Outreach, OP Jindal Global University said, “Different technologies and different platforms have different advantages. One of the previous challenges about online teaching is the feeling of staying connected because students identify with their particular institution, so it is very important for institutions to drive engagements and conversation outside the classroom to maintain that sense of identity and connection”.

Dr Victor Gambhir, Vice-Chancellor, SGT University said, “In any university, there are four takeaways for the students: knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour. In the classroom, we focus more on knowledge while skills are focused on through labs, projects and internships. Attitude and behaviour are focused on through group activities that happen either in the project or internships, or activities outside the classrooms”.

He added, “In science, good digital content is not available and if you need to create your own that is a challenge. At SGT University, the management has greatly invested in employing the teams who empower the faculty for digital content creation”.  

Sudhanshu Varma, COO, Bennett University remarked, “We have believed that whatever we are doing is the only way of doing it, the right way of doing it, and everyone should follow that, until the time the situation gets disrupted. These last 8 months have brought pure disruption. Change does not come from tinkering with the dents in a car, it comes by overhauling the whole body per se, and this is what COVID has brought”.

He added, “Even in education we have a customer, who is the student and we have to delight our customer. If we talk about the inefficiencies that have crept in because technology has been forced on us, there are a lot of things which we have learnt and we should keep those learning with us to practise them. When the COVID situation becomes better, we should not get into to trap of falling into our old bad habits of doing things the way they were done before”.

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