In the special lecture on the ‘Future of Higher Education’ Professor Sanjay Sarma, Vice President of Open Learning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) talks about the road of higher education ahead and the future of learning post the COVID-19 pandemic. This webinar series of special lectures is being organised by the U.S. Embassy and Association of Indian Universities (AIU), New Delhi.
Prof. Sarma highlights the current situation in India, USA and the world at large as an important junction to rethink the methodologies of teaching-learning to transform higher education in the future. Sarma said, “We are at a junction point between the past and the future due to the present COVID-19 situation. There is a requirement for a massive shift in skills. You have to become your own CEO and CLO (Chief Learning Officer).”
What is the future of classroom lectures in universities and colleges?
The future is that lectures need to go online so that students can access, pause and learn any time. Cognitive skills can be taught online too. The future of universities lies in doing things which they are not doing currently in online classes. These things involve coaching, curiosity, hands on learning, active and interactive methods because that is where you learn internalised skills ready for life. This is what I call a flip university. If you just put lectures online, it is more of a flip classroom.
What would be the top recommendation for Indian higher education higher?
In Winston Churchill's words, “This crisis is too good to waste." When students are back post COVID, that is the best time for the new normal. Universities should rethink more so change the way they teach. For example, professors can take students out for a walk and conduct the lecture outdoors. Indian is a warm and nice place. If it is a biology lecture, then be surrounded by trees or take students on field trips. It is not easy but if professors, teachers, universities and colleges change the setting we will go back to human instinct ways of teaching as parents and students will pick it up.
How do we engage students in online education?
Teachers need to explain the science of learning, make the beauty of online education more about students. Teachers need to measure the assessment of students and make it a habit.
What about internet connectivity and accessibility for online education?
Internet is the new electricity. We are all hanging by this thread. COVID has shown us the importance of the internet, networking and information. 2021 is the beginning of the 21st century.
What about online exams?
I think exams can be in person once Covid retreats. Also, we have an examination overload, exams have become the centerpiece. We need to have more projects, creative stuff, portfolio, assessments and assignments. We need to rethink exams.
What should universities and students do to adapt to new methods of education in the future?
Once we begin again, universities have to not fall back into giving lectures and just conducting exams but should become a place of action, creation and impact. For me, this is the future of education. The world is going to face more crises and young people have to be prepared to take on these as sort of ninjas. In the future, degrees will matter less, knowledge and ability will matter more.
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