The onset of digital learning

The onset of digital learning

If digitisation is the next thing in classrooms, will it make teachers redundant? Vasant G Hegde discusses

The onset of digital learning

Information Technology has invaded and changed almost all spheres of our lives, and education is no exception. Today’s generation of learners is comfortable using iPads, mobile handsets or laptops.

Having grown up or rather being born with these gadgets, they have embraced them completely, like duck taking to water. The challenges for teachers today is how to interact and engage with them.

The challenges are daunting because the teachers belong to different generations. Those who are a decade old in the profession and those who are a few decades old. There is a big digital divide among teachers themselves.

And as more and more colleges and universities are migrating to digitisation for imparting education, a significant part of the teaching community is at the crossroads — to take the new digitised route or tread the traditional rote learning route.

Against this backdrop, the teaching community is debating whether digitisation in education is a boon or a bane? There is also concern in some and apprehension among others that technology may replace them and make them redundant.

Against this backdrop, the teaching community is debating whether digitisation in education is a boon or a bane? There is also concern in some and apprehension among others that technology may replace them and make them redundant. So, let’s try to understand the pros and cons of digitisation.

Imparting education
In digitisation, the content of any subject is available on digital platforms to the learner which she can access from any gadget like a smartphone, an iPad, a tablet or a laptop. Since the content can be accessed anytime and in any place, the learner can learn at her pace. Affordability and convenience are the greatest benefits of digitised learning.

The content is further divided into pre-class, in-class and post-class, with presentations, crosswords and puzzles. As the walls of classrooms break down, the participation, instead of being confined to a select few extroverts will become more broad based and democratic, with more ‘shy introvert’ learners participating in the learning process.

Features like discussion boards and Q & A encourage all the learners to participate in discussions on any topic. The learners not only interact with the faculty but also with each other on discussion boards in discovering and constructing knowledge. The focus in digitisation is also on developing skills among learners.

A banking academy could have model branches where the participants get a feel of the branch, and can do role plays and simulate the atmosphere where they can perform the role of customers and officers and interact with each other. From being teacher-centric in traditional methods of learning, the focus is learner-centric in the age of digitisation. The faculty can also monitor the progress of every student through student progress reports and session activity reports and can guide and help those who need some hand-holding.

In classrooms...
As the onus of learning shifts to the learner and the knowledge transfer happens outside the classrooms too, the faculty gets more time to clarify doubts of learners in the classroom. The time can also be used for skill building. So, the character of a classroom transforms from learning or knowing about things to doing things.

What are the drawbacks?
While participating in any topic on the discussion board, unless the faculty sets clear rules, the discussions at times can go off track and become meaningless with learners posting comments like “ I agree/ don’t agree with you.”

Also, when the number of learners is large, it becomes difficult for the faculty to reply to every post and also to moderate the discussions. At times, learners will also ask irrelevant questions, resulting in the waste of time. A faculty also will have to devote more time in the digitised setup.

Role of the faculty?
Since the content of any subject is uploaded and is available to the learner, there is apprehension that this will lead to many faculty being laid off.

The fear of automation is common to all industries sectors and one will have to adapt to changing times and upgrade skills to stay in the race. But will faculty uniqueness become a thing of the past? Not necessarily. Digitisation is only a tool and so instead of replacing the traditional system, can make the pedagogic ecosystem richer.

(The author is with Manipal Academy of Banking, Bengaluru)

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