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Using 'Blended Learning' To Reform The Education System

27/01/2016 11:57 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Technology continuously proves itself to be indispensable to our lives, to an extent where it holds a degree of influence over us. In India, the widespread usage of mobile phones, ATMs and the Internet, in spite of vast differences in terms of incomes, ethnicities and rural-urban divides, has proved that most individuals have effectively adapted to technological innovations and are able to incorporate it seamlessly into their lives.

However, the one space where technology has surprisingly missed its mark is the Indian education sector, which needs a serious overhaul to make it relevant to the technological advancements of the current age.

While most students are savvy in using technology for recreational purposes, they are not introduced to the benefits of technology as an enabling tool. Teachers, administrators, and policy makers who constitute a fundamental part of the Indian education ecosystem have not adopted technology as an integral (and not peripheral) tool for teaching and learning processes. Only a few private schools have seen the introduction of smart boards, media clips, and tablets in classrooms, but these are add-ons rather than elemental tools of learning.

The need of the hour is to replace the existing methodology of teaching, not the teachers.

Further, many education tools and applications in the market today claim to be able to replace teachers or address teacher shortage. While this may sound like a noble cause, the need of the hour is to replace the existing methodology of teaching, not the teachers. This mismatch exists partly due to the reason that most of these applications are designed by companies which target only the students as their primary customers, instead of considering the teacher and the administrators who needs to be enabled to integrate technology effectively. Hence, the existing applications are yet to dent the education system significantly.

Moreover, when one does a thorough examination, it becomes clear that majority of the applications and demonstrations are meant for students in elementary school. There are very few tools aimed to ease the learning of high-school students, the level at which conceptual understanding is complex and where harnessing the 21st-century skills to enter the higher education of vocational space would be most beneficial.

Therefore, educationists and experts have agreed on the need for an intervention wherein the focus of the Indian education system shifts to harnessing "blended learning" -- a combination of the physical and digital tools which integrate face-to-face pedagogical methods with innovative connected learning -- to deliver quality education at scale to Indian students. These are interactive, innovative and are able to provide learning experiences which are technology enabled, engaging the students and also supporting the efforts by the teachers, leading to a connected and authentic learning.

The very nature of these technologically advanced tools can reassure their effective scalability across India...

There is scope for content being taught in local languages, which enables effective learning experience even in rural parts of India. Students in these non-urban centres present a unique opportunity to address the persisting problem of limited access to quality education--a problem that this blended learning can address, if scaled in a proper manner.

Fortunately, the very nature of these technologically advanced tools can reassure their effective scalability across India, as they comprise features which connect with global and open educational resources, and harness distance and flexible learning. The likelihood is high of these innovative tools succeeding in addressing the problems that plague our system - after all, they have been created by educationists who understand the reality which persists in the education sector.

What is now required is a support structure to enhance the scaling of these tools across India. Teachers must be trained and ready to adopt such systems; school administrators and policy makers must prepare schools and classrooms to integrate technology innovations in their curricula. They should note that if incorporated, technology-based tools of blended learning can not only lead to academic achievement, and better teaching and learning outcomes, but also encourage students to a path in which they actively explore, customise, and authenticate their learning experiences in connection with the outside world of knowledge and opportunities.

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