Higher Education Innovation Speech – Part 10

A week or so ago , there was a very good article in the New York Times by David Brooks, “The Campus Tsunami.”  It  talked about online education. And I’m going to read out a small passage, because it’s very important from the perspective that we are thinking through, what we need to do for Indian education for the next 5-25 years.   Seeing what changes are happening around , I think are very critical.   So I’ll quote and then give closing thoughts.

The most important and paradoxical fact shaping the future of online learning is this: A brain is not a computer. We are not blank hard drives waiting to be filled with data. People learn from people they love and remember the things that arouse emotion. If you think about how learning actually happens, you can discern many different processes. There is absorbing information. There is reflecting upon information as you reread it and think about it. There is scrambling information as you test it in discussion or try to mesh it with contradictory information. Finally there is synthesis, as you try to organize what you have learned into an argument or a paper.

Online education mostly helps students with Step 1. As Richard A. DeMillo of Georgia Tech has argued, it turns transmitting knowledge into a commodity that is cheap and globally available. But it also compels colleges to focus on the rest of the learning process, which is where the real value lies. In an online world, colleges have to think hard about how they are going to take communication, which comes over the Web, and turn it into learning, which is a complex social and emotional process.

How are they going to blend online information with face-to-face discussion, tutoring, debate, coaching, writing and projects? How are they going to build the social capital that leads to vibrant learning communities?

This is what we  got to  think about. With the investments that are happening, in the next few years , the amount of lectures, array of content available on the internet is going to multiply tremendously.    In the past few weeks ago  Harvard and MIT announced multi-million dollar investments into putting  a lot of their course content online.  And we in India  can actually  benefit from a lot of this.   I think the key point which we have to think  really is the following. India has an option to radically re-invent  education – to meet the needs of our young  population. How  is it that we can have the will and vision  really to make this thing happen . This is the disruption that is happening in education, and we in India can be at the forefront leading it.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.