Of all things digital in learning

Of all things digital in learning


Of all things digital in learning

In recent times, the education system has embraced many technological advances such as flipped classrooms and 3D printing, writes Anand Subramanian

Over the last two years, the pace of ‘digital disruption’ has picked up and virtually every industry is feeling the impact. Digital disruption has empowered the education industry with its own set of opportunities.

In a relatively short period of time, the focus has changed from teaching to learning, from teacher to learner, from blackboards to electronic whiteboards, and from on-demand learning to continuous learning. Digital technologies are opening up new methods and opportunities to improve the learning process.

Hi-tech knowledge

For example, distance learning platforms, virtual learning environments and massive online open courses (MOOCs) are using the reach of the Internet to scale the resources of scarce, subject matter experts and extend education to new groups of learners.

These platforms enable teachers to interact with students and other instructors and for students to download extra materials, upload completed assignments and more. Flipped classrooms have become possible in which the pedagogical model of the lecture followed by homework is reversed. Lectures are now videos that the student has to view at home, while class time is dedicated towards more interactive activities: exercises, discussions and projects.

Analytics and adaptive learning are facilitating improved learning outcomes by giving instructors insight into how well students navigate the online components of courses and where students may need additional support, or if the course itself needs to be improved to make it more accessible.

Student competency can be analysed using responses to questions or other algorithms that compare proficiency versus learning objectives, so that appropriate remediation can be offered to learners who do not yet meet the objectives.

3D printing now provides learners with newer ways to visualise and express their ideas. It is not about replicating ideas, but rather about creating new ones that convert theory in textbooks to hands-on concepts. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will give both teachers and learners a new dimension to the learning experience.

In the context of digital storytelling, VR and AR can make the representation and the characters more compelling: imagine students exploring the human body or learning how a virus spreads using VR games. The Internet of Things (IoT) has its own place in education technology.

Researchers are looking at ways to use gesture-based controls, which send data to Internet-connected devices, to more effectively and efficiently perform many time-consuming activities that are done manually today, such as registering attendance. Wearables are providing additional channels to capture data that can be further edited, composed and shared.

For example, Google Glass enables students and teachers to search for information on a particular topic, easily take a picture or record video that supports creation of a report on that topic, and even answer and translate questions in a foreign language. Or, medical students could watch different medical procedures in real time.

This technology is fairly new and the challenge is selecting the right wearable that can have an impact on the curricular and learning pedagogy. Imagine, though, how fast the adoption of technology has been in education: the transition from textbooks to desktops to laptops to mobile devices and now to wearables.

Machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, is another advanced technology facilitating a more personalised education experience. For example, enabled systems can take in new teacher or student assessment data, learn from it and dynamically adjust learner courses to present material to students where more practice is needed or even schedule meetings with teachers.

Grading systems can use this technique to interpret student behaviour based on their responses and realign the learning content or assessments. In this case, educational data mining (EDM) can be used to reveal the system usage behaviour. The clustering technique is then applied to characterise the learner’s behaviour and group them based on it.

Forerunners who use these technologies with good implementable ideas will help advance educational approaches. Learners will benefit from even more compelling and distinct learning experiences, and administrators and educators will have valuable tools for continually improving learning outcomes.

(The author is technology innovation centre head, Ness Digital Engineering)

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