Universities are the catalysts of change, empowering students through knowledge and life skills to thrive in an increasingly disruptive and competitive world. However, with technology evolving at breakneck speed and redefining businesses, the role of universities in shaping classrooms for the digital age student becomes critical. At the same time, different avenues for learning through MOOCs, virtual classrooms and mobile applications are expanding the boundaries of the classroom and offering an alternate and cost-effective mode of learning. This combination of forces makes it imperative for universities and colleges to relook into their emerging strategies for student learning, review operating model, reconsider their pedagogy and redefine their engagement with stakeholders.
Reinventing the Classroom:
The fourth industrial revolution has brought changes to the core of business operations thereby honing a digital culture reflected across the organization. In the context of higher education, the traditional concept of ‘the Sage on Stage’ is evolving as the sources for seeking information have multiplied. Similarly, digital teaching and learning has reformed.
- Collaborative classrooms follow a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept for in-class activities. This fosters greater collaboration and enables real time insights, thereby contributing to a meaningful learning experience.
- Online platforms and student communities allow for cross-pollination of ideas and information symmetry, not limited by geography.
- Design based tech-tools inculcate creativity through multi-dimensional prototype visualization and digital models.
Virtual learning modes have changed the notion of a classroom being limited to the four walls. In recent years, Harvard and MIT have together launched the learning platform edX that has seen 290 online courses, a quarter-million certifications, 4.5 million participants, and 28 million participant-hours ( as per the report HarvardX and MITX: Four Years of Open Online Courses).
These alternatives are also reducing the cost of infrastructure and logistics for universities to cater to a large and diverse pool of students.
Engaging with the Digitally Native Student:
Students in the Digital Age are attuned to the immediacy and interactivity of the digital world. Universities can leverage this for an enriched interaction with the student community by:
- Personalising the Onboarding Journey: Seemingly, disconnected processes like student recruitment and acclimatization are streamlined by personalizing the onboarding journey. Providing assistance from the time the student first engages with the university, enrolls for the selected course and attends the sessions with preloaded course content benefits the student community.
- Enhancing Student Experience: Mobile/Tablet based applications act as a constant guide to new students allowing query resolution on the go, 24*7, and enhancing student engagement with the faculty and administration from the time they first enter the University gates.
- Analyzing Student Sentiment: Current and prospective student activity on online mediums generates a rich data footprint that universities can mine to gauge student sentiment and take proactive measures & address student concerns.
- Digitizing Assets and Artefacts: Digital libraries house assets and repositories of knowledge, allowing students and faculty to access information independent of barriers of time-location. It also enables audit control, versioning and accountability, freeing up the time of librarians to engage in value-adding activities.
Universities as a Rock bed of Innovation:
Innovations are happening not just in labs in corporates but in universities as we speak. Preparing students for today’s jobs requires universities to have an infrastructure and culture that allows the student to be acquainted with these new tools & techniques and innovate alongside.
Exclusive digital studios provide a range of state-of-the-art services and infrastructure to assist university researchers, faculty and students to engage with content, not just passively through knowledge artefacts but by consuming content via VR or AR technology.
Other developing technologies such as artificial intelligence, chatbots and virtual assistants would soon be an active component in the learning and teaching environment, greatly facilitating the routine tasks of the faculty such as attendance tracking, assignment grading, etc.
From point solutions to platforms, the University of the Future must be agile and quick to adapt to the face of changing competition and fulfill the digitally native student’s behaviour and needs.