University leaders can adopt digital classrooms and digital technologies to radically transform learning and pedagogy at their respective institutions.
As the world becomes more open, connected and reachable to people through the Internet, digital classrooms have become an important new way for universities, organizations and governments to impart quality education in a genuinely new and revolutionary way. A digital classroom adopts the best of all that a university or an organization has to offer – a wide range of courses across disciplines, taught by expert faculty, peer to peer learning, and an opportunity to interact and work with people across countries, interests and backgrounds – and packs them together in a model that is openly available to the students and the public.
But what are the advantages university leaders have in adopting digital classrooms? A digital classroom should work in tandem with their vision to adopt and impart world class education through intelligently created modules and courses for their students and teachers. The learning pedagogy at universities, an intensively thought-out process in itself, can be further improved by additions through adoption of technology.
Here’s a list of how digital classrooms can change the way universities and colleges function, and the way interaction between students, faculty and staff across different colleges and different geographic locations can be fostered by the new and impactful avenue provided by digital classrooms:
Increase Collaboration: Over the last 10 – 20 years, several top Indian universities have established tie-ups with foreign universities. Most of these partnerships are in the form of student and faculty exchange, and the exchange of expertise between the two parties. But Indian universities have not been able to take complete advantage of these tie ups, as visiting professors are only able to designated a very short period of time at the host institution, and the number of students that are part of the exchange programme is very low. But what can be encouraged with the use of digital classrooms is collaboration between student teams from partner universities. We are already seeing the trend in the corporate sector where projects are completed between virtual teams in various geographical locations. Technology solutions like a virtual classroom or virtual project rooms can enable Indian students to collaborate with their foreign peers on special projects.
Research and Development: Research and development (R&D) are not a core focus in several universities and colleges across the country. A vast pool of talented students is available across campuses but lack the resources and the infrastructure to carry out profitable collaborative efforts with the industry. For instance, biotechnology students can collaborate with healthcare and life sciences companies to create university led R&D in specific fields. University faculty and industry representatives can mentor the students, making it a win-win for students, university and the industry. This can be made possible through virtual classrooms, virtual lectures and conferences between the university and the industry.
Online Events: Interaction with peers, professors and experts in the field of your studies is one of the most crucial elements of collaborative learning, one that is gradually finding foothold across campuses in India. Universities and colleges hold festivals and competitions that see participations from students across the country and the world. These events are an important platform for students to showcase their skills. With digital classrooms, universities can create online events, competitions and projects that can reach a wider set of students, and be more comprehensive and inclusionary. Already, several IITs and NITs hold online events that are becoming very popular with students across the country.
Quality Faculty Available Remotely: With cheap and excellent technology solutions available, university leaders can partner with leading professors and practicing professionals across fields to introduce a collaborative learning set up for their students. This is fast becoming a very sustainable model where experts from various industry backgrounds interact with students regularly to answer questions and discuss latest developments in their field. The government is setting up new IITs, IIMs and institutes of higher learning across the country. One of the major problems is to find quality faculties for these new establishments. But by leveraging the innovative solutions provided by digital technology, sharing of faculty can become much easier. Every educational institute can share their faculties with a few other campuses and remotely schedule live sessions.
Experiential Learning: Digital learning has radically transformed the boundaries of classroom teaching. While in class, the instructors can make use of various digital technology solutions to allow students to experience the application of concepts, 3D design and photographs. For example, engineering students can better develop an understanding of structural design, or students of architecture can take lesson on modern cityscapes using high-res pictures, graphic stories and recorded light and sound. This makes classroom studies more interactive and encourages first-hand learning.
Knowledge Management: One of the most important tasks of the university administration is to present the quality of their college, pedagogical methods, syllabi to a large number of inspectors, visitors and interested parties. Digital classrooms can now make this collection of lectures, assignments, tests, question banks, digital content and e-books available. What’s convenient about this is that knowledge management automatically takes care of itself when good digital classroom practices are adopted.
Gamify Learning: One of the most important changes in recent times in higher education institutes is the need to continuously provide assessment and insight into student’s performance and to keep them engaged with their subjects. This can be made more holistic and interesting through gamifying learning methods. Assignments and tests can now be designed so that students have to pass through various difficulty levels in order to move to the next section. This can also become a very importance source of information on students’ learning curves, and weaknesses in a student’s understanding of a topic can then be addresses at an individual level.
Teacher Training: Alongside various interventions that can be put in place for a better student-centric learning environment, universities also have to continuously step up their quality of education. The first step in the direction is to invest in the teachers and professors, who through leveraging technology can benefit immensely. Teacher development programmes can be set up remotely where some of the best teachers across the country deliver lectures on pedagogical methods and new ways to respond to changing expectations of students in a classroom. The central government is already planning to use digital technology to set up similar programmes across the country.
Digital Library: One of the most obvious and drastic changes with the advent of digital technologies and the Internet is that students and faculty are increasingly moving to the web to consuming content about their field, instead of relying on textbooks and physically-bound infrastructure like libraries and archives. Various websites, research organizations, data banks and forums are becoming a popular way of learning. Universities and colleges can come aboard by setting up a digital library which is a repository of all the books, lectures, videos and resources in one place. The biggest advantage in adopting a digital library is that it reduced infrastructure and operational costs, and students and faculty can make use of these resources at their convenience because it is available on the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
Administrative Efficiency: Every term, a large swath of a faculty’s time is spent preparing class notes, checking student projects, marking them, collating reports, classroom plans, and other administrative tasks not directly related to teaching. With the use of digital tools, educational institutions can drastically reduce the time spent on these activities, which can be used for other purposes like research and mentoring students.