By Dr. R.K Mitra
It has the potential to become a bridge between conventional education and industry needs and can become a co-developer in the evolving education ecosystem in India.
Education today is no longer confined to the four walls of traditional classrooms and has transcended the physical barriers thanks to the unprecedented technological innovations that have brought in the phenomenon of online education and gave rise to a new generation of growth engines called the Ed-tech. The Ed-tech industry has come of age from its initial days of merely connecting the content providers and the consumers to its evolution as content creators and curators.
They have changed the paradigm of learning drastically wherein they tried to bridge the learning gap by enhancing the student: tutor engagement and tracking the learner’s progress.
They also possess the power to bridge the knowledge gap – the gap between the dated curriculum and the explosion of knowledge that is taking place outside the realm of the classroom. Universities, which were once the abode of knowledge creation and knowledge transfer, are challenged by the Ed-tech industry with their ever-changing products and services backed by innovation.
The emergence of a knowledge-based economy post-industrialization has blurred the disciplinary boundaries and led to a cross-disciplinary approach to solving societal problems. The result is increasing reliance on innovation to produce economic growth and development, thus diffusing knowledge creation across different sectors of the economy.
The Ed-tech engine is bringing tremendous disruption in the way the country’s education sector is structured and functions. In the wake of the recent pandemic, the wave of online education took the center spread. The conventional academic institutions did respond to online education but their approach was more cautious and conservative. The apex Regulatory Authority, the University Grant Commission has so far maintained more of a regulatory disposition rather than that of a pioneer in online education.
There is an evident assumption that for recognition of an online course and eventual degree, conventional established academic institutions are the only options. There is a culpable reservation to accept, let alone recognize the phenomenon of Ed-tech grown outside the established academic edifice.
As to how the Ed-tech companies will get established at par with any conventional academic institutions for the knowledge they create and disseminate for getting recognition, it will all depend on the time to tell its story. However, Edtech companies can leverage certain distinct advantages in their favor to hasten the transition.
1) Firstly, the sheer technological and organizational agility enables them to touch the ground in no time and bring them closer to where the action is required.
2) Secondly, they are quick to feel the pulse of the environment
3) Thirdly, their agile knowledge resources enable them to act as “ sensors “to understand the gap in the real world.
Complementary assets get attracted to them because of their ability to accelerate and gain scale in the shortest possible time.
Ed-tech companies have some other inherent advantages. They can tap global faculty resources with ease, make the content interesting, adopt/adapt to changes fast, and are capable of inventing innovative feedback mechanisms from a large cross-section of stakeholders.
Ed-tech companies can emerge as new-age knowledge engines as they have the potential of positioning themselves as a bridge between what the industry needs and what the educational institutions offer. Ed-tech can act as an add-on to supplement the academic curriculum on a real-time basis. Industry by its continuous innovations creates new arenas of knowledge in terms of processes and products but academic institutions by their academic protocols and attendant processes remain relatively insulated from the enormous knowledge created within the industry on a 24/7 basis.
In other words, to remove any misconception in the minds of Regulators that the Edtech companies are projecting themselves as an alternative to the academic institutions, it may be strategically more viable for them to act as a dynamic link between industry and the real-time knowledge that the industry creates and the academic world.
The time has come to visualize the entire education sector from an innovative perspective. Disruption is knocking aloud and it is inevitable. The regulatory mechanisms are to be reimagined. The conventional orthodox belief that knowledge resides only in educational institutions and that the degrees that they award are the pen-ultimate ends of knowledge and skill are already challenged. Rather than degree-awarding, our education system is to migrate to a competency-building framework and Ed-tech can be a credible co-developer in the overall education eco-system as they are in a better position to respond to disruption.
This article first appeared in ET Government, https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/education/opinion-ed-tech-can-disrupt-the-delivery-of-education/92331566.
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