With online education taking the centre stage due to the global pandemic, experts say it is necessary to innovate the content and course delivery by educators and universities in the coming days.
It cannot be limited to lectures on zoom, video recordings and bulky PDF texts and must include active learning components like discussions, assessments and assignments.
“Recording professor’s lectures and putting the videos online and letting the learners learn on their own is the idea we have of online education. There is no active learning component in the way most people understand it,” said Amit Goyal, who is heading edX for India & South East Asia.
Highlighting the importance of online education, Goyal said: “We clocked some numbers in the first six years of our venture and the numbers doubled in just first two weeks of the pandemic,” he said highlighting the importance of online education.
Goyal was a part of a panel discussion on ‘Digital learning: The Future’ organised as part of the New Zealand-India Education Week recently. Organised by Education New Zealand (ENZ), the weeklong Virtual Conclave will be held from October 5 to 9.
Goyal said that watching only a video had the least attention of a student if it included discussions, the engagement got higher and it was the highest when the videos were complimented with assessments, discussions and projects. “We in fact conducted an experiment with EEG machines on the head of learners to see how they reacted while watching an academic video and we found that their attention span dropped after seven minutes,” he said.
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Technology and innovation
Kevin Lynch, Chief Development Officer of UP Education, which provides career and industry-focused skills and qualifications in New Zealand, said distance learning has existed for 100 years but what is new now is the technology. He said innovation and focusing on the delivery of education around students will help. He said though the videos play a key point, the platforms must focus on course delivery and the content. “It can’t be just text or PDF. In fact approaching, building and designing courses will be one of the challenges in the coming days and we have to use all the tools to make it an engaging experience,” he said adding that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will play a huge role in the field.
“Tools that find out that a student might have replayed a video too many times can show that they have not understood the concept well and the professor may need to work on it. The pandemic has given a nudge to the online education to make it better and receptive,” Goyal said.
Lynch also said that industries have to play a bigger role in how courses are designed. “Those days are gone when courses were built and revisited in 10 years,” he said.
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Open book exams?
Frances Valintine, Founder CEO of The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab, which is New Zealand’s education springboard for innovation said that now education is democratised now and available for free or at lower costs. “Online classes need to have a value, something students see worthwhile. It needs to be relevant, contemporary and accessible on platforms of students’ choice – mobile, laptop or tab. Breakout rooms on Zoom, interactive sessions and live feeds on Instagram, LinkedIn will give the students a sense of community,” she explained.
The experts also said that online education will change the way exams are held. Open-book exams or virtual proctoring will be the way forward.
Lynch added that it is high time that universities and education platforms build and deliver the content differently. “Innovation is the key and without it, colleges and universities will be left behind,” he said.
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