How Information and Communication Technology has Evolved Education Industry
ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology. As such, there is no standard definition for ICT. In general, ICT denotes all devices such as Projectors, Computers, Networking equipment such as wi-fi devices that are used in the digital world.
Traditionally, the Education Sector in India has been averse to the usage of ICT. Part of the reason attributes to the average age of qualified faculties. Most of the decision makers in the educational institutions today belong to Generation X and they are not familiar with the usage of computers. Consequently, many of the senior faculties and decision makers are not even aware of basic computer usage, usage of internet or emails. And many of them fail to see the perceived benefit of knowledge of ICT, or how ICT can be effectively used for providing a better teaching-learning solution to all students. Chalk and Talk have been the most familiar way of teaching for such faculties, and adoption of ICT has been really low.
This, obviously does not take into account few premier institutions where the Faculties are familiar with different ICT based teaching-learning mechanisms due to interaction with international faculty members in a regular faculty exchange program, or their visit to foreign countries to participate in Seminars and conferences. Many of such faculties in the premier institutions have adopted to ICT based teaching learning as part of delivering the curriculum.
The Young Teachers
With the induction of faculties belonging to Millennial generation the situation did change a bit. The younger faculties are used to computers and find it easier to develop content using digital technologies. Moreover, there are a number of software applications made affordable to develop e-content for teaching-learning. Computing equipment such as powerful desktops and laptops have become more affordable, and many of the younger faculties, having completed their education in foreign countries, are familiar to ICT based teaching-learning. As a result of which the ICT usage has marginally improved many institutions in tier 1 and tier II cities and towns.
That brings us to the fundamental question, whether ICT is at all required to improve the quality of education. The Generation X faculties would stand by their opinion that chalk and talk is the best way of teaching and showing content in PowerPoint or by other means does not add any value to the process of teaching learning. Some of the faculties, especially belonging to Arts and Humanities, would even suggest that ICT is not applicable to teaching-learning for their subject.
ICT, however, is used as an important teaching aid for delivering quality lectures around the world in various ways. For example, in many of the cases, a practical illustration along with the theoretical details always makes it easy for the students to understand the subject. ICT techniques such as animation using easy to use tools makes it easy for the faculties to create illustrations. There are many videos and animations already available on the internet that can be used for teaching learning. Secondly, the lecture notes developed in PowerPoint can easily be uploaded in institutional LMS and referred to by the students as and when they require. The laboratory procedures may be recorded as videos and may be uploaded to the institutional LMS. The students may refer to those videos to prepare during the exam. Sophisticated mechanisms such as Lecture Capturing System can capture the entire lecture along with PowerPoint, videos and other artefacts used in the lecture and can directly upload it to the institutional LMS so that students may refer to it at a later stage.
Learning Management System
LMS or Learning Management System is another software application that is used widely in many institutions across the world. A Learning Management System enables the faculties to upload academic calendar, session plan, online and e-content that is required for teaching learning. The students may refer to the prerequisite materials for example before attending the class and be better prepared to participate in the discussion. It is easier to implement a student-centric two-way learning mechanism using LMS and other technologies. And Learning beyond the classroom is an important aspect for modern teaching-learning methodologies. With LMS, students may refer to the course content outside the classroom and prepare in a much better way. There are many open source providers available providing LMS for no cost implementation at the institute.
One of the concerns for using LMS is the students will not attend the class if all material is available online. It may be noted that ICT is only a tool for better student-centric engagement and is not a replacement for the interaction with the faculties. ICT is only a facilitator not a replacement of the knowledge acquired in the process of interaction with the faculties.
ICT is not only used for teaching-learning but it can also be used for effective implementation of continuous internal assessment, a technique used to assess whether a student has understood the subject and provide timely additional support. Advanced ICT techniques such as Machine Learning, the AI-based software can also be used to provide targeted teaching-learning guidance or career counselling, making sure the students get the required support to attain the outcomes for the program and the course.
The Government, along with the accreditation agencies such as NAAC, are introducing incentives or providing required support to implement ICT. The UGC, for example, has created a repository for online e-content required for every course that can be used for ICT implementation. In the latest framework for accreditation, NAAC has provided an incentive for implementing ICT based education, LMS and other tools.
Internationally ICT has transformed the way education is delivered to the students and assessed by the evaluators. Let's take an example of Australian RTO education system. It is not necessary for a student to appear for an exam in the classroom. In a more student-centric practical oriented approach, rather than the subject knowledge, the student needs to demonstrate that he or she has acquired the competency required for that particular program. Hence, evaluators may accept ICT based evidence of demonstration of the competency in lieu of the classroom-based exam for evaluating the performance of the student. For example, a video recording of the student performing the task at an internship or workplace is an equally valid submission for the exam.
ICT has also helped to introduce more controls in the way education is delivered, right from the potential clients to the current students and alumni. For example, for RTO standards 2007 in Australia, it is mandatory for the RTO to monitor through ICT the communication to potential students by its agents across the world and take necessary actions as necessary. Also, using ICT, many institutions are streaming classroom content making it available for a larger group of students bypassing the traditional barrier of classroom coaching.
ICT in education is pervasive and is likely to support a student-centric effective teaching-learning mechanism beyond the classrooms.