by January 9, 2012 0 comments

Barring those who went to school in the last 10 years, everyone went to what we knew as the traditional format school-50 kids to a teacher, learning by rote, bulky textbooks, and a high incidence of auditory instruction. The like and dislike for a particular subject depended solely on the teacher’s ability to explain that subject and it remained a bit of a challenge for the teachers to explain difficult subjects without the help of any tools. Today, the matrix has metamorphosed to what we call a ‘smart class’, where computers and content, the teacher and the taught integrate in a stimulating environment that not only challenges all knowledge delivery mechanisms of the past decade, but dramatically improves the outcomes of education.

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Education in the mid-90’s

This was not the case in the mid-nineties when Educomp was founded with a vision to transform the teaching-learning process through technology. Education space till then had remained largely unchanged for the last century. There was very little awareness about the potential for using IT in the curriculum and schools were not exactly enthusiastic about adopting IT in a significant manner. So the biggest challenge was to convince schools to adopt technology-first by setting up computer labs that would introduce children to computers and later computer-aided learning via digital content. The resistance was at 2 levels-resistance to any change and to attendant costs. The breakthrough came out of a process modification-instead of asking the school to bear the cost of the enterprise, we proposed a fee-based model where the cost of the enterprise could be recovered through a small charge added to the student’s fee. That changed everything. Suddenly, the problem of scale and the paucity of funds were tackled all at once. One of the key offering from Educomp is a digital learning solution designed for classroom teaching in a wired environment called ‘smart class’. This was developed in response to the challenges posed by the Internet age where technology was fast changing lives of students outside the classroom but not within. Smart class quickly became popular for its ability to transform the teaching environment.

Impact of Content Digitization on Education

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IT-enabled education has led to tectonic shifts in overall quality of educational content and its delivery. Digitization of content has allowed for instantaneous upgrading of content, quicker verification of data, comparative notes, references popping on the screens within nanoseconds, evaluations of answers by teachers in real-time, instant feedback from mentors, and a transparent and verifiable means of calibrating students progress. Naturally, it is impacting academic performance of students tremendously. It has also made teaching a more exact science, removed the drudgery of old school teaching, and converted it into a far more satisfying experience for teachers.

The overarching and parabolic impact of all this has been the democratization of education. IT-enabled education is free of geographic limitations, allowing education from anywhere, thereby reducing the cost of to-and-fro traveling, eliminating the need to purchase bulky, expensive hard copies, etc. Education can be content and learning centric. Specialization is easy, and course material can be pruned or added at will. Customization is possible for special needs of special students.

Technology: Leading the Way

None of what we just talked about is possible without huge improvements in the system. Efficiencies are being restored in the process, emphasis has been reassigned to the student-teacher dynamics, effort has been redirected towards mentoring, and wasteful activities like rote learning have reduced.

But no change is an end in itself. It is always weighed in after an organic process of validation, correction, and modification. It can be said with certainty today that the transformation of education from a passive, one-way communication technique to a multi-dimensional and experiential template is complete. No child born in the 2000s will be limited to just a blackboard; his interface will be a tablet screen, or something even better very soon!

While many challenges remain in the education space and we need to cover a lot of ground to make the Right to Education Act a reality in the true sense, one thing is clear-it is technology that is going to lead the way.

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