Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University

The Indian education sector has seen a huge technology uptake in the past few years. From AI and ML to IoT and AR/VR, use cases across technology domains are finding a place in the edtech space. The Covid-19 pandemic has given a further impetus to this trend with even traditional universities and schools now exploring ICT. Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University, shares his views on the key technology trends shaping the sector, the opportunities and challenges brought forth by Covid-19, and the way forward…

What role is ICT/digital playing in the education sector? What are some of the key technology trends shaping the sector?

Lovely Professional University (LPU) has always been at the forefront of adopting the latest technologies. We have also been awarded the best ICT-enabled university by the Ministry of Communications and IT. The whole world is going through unprecedented difficult times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As per the government directions, LPU has been closed since mid-March and we have taken all the classes online. As LPU has a sizable investment in technology, shifting to the online mode was not very difficult and ICT usage assisted in finishing the syllabus and scheduling the exams. If Covid conditions will not permit physical examination, AI-based remotely proctored exams will be held at LPU post mid-June 2020.

In fact, ICT is a potentially powerful tool for extending educational opportunities, both formal and non-formal, to all those who are unable to be present or get enrolled. Prior to this, ICT/digital education has proved fruitful, making inroads into rural areas and reaching those populations that traditionally did not have access to education due to one or the other reason.

The way students are being taught today is very different from the methods adopted a few decades back. Technology has brought about various changes, from self-learning to the flipped classroom approach, thus making a considerable impact on learning and teaching methodologies. With numerous benefits to offer, digital learning has become an important part of the education system. Some of the current trends in education technology are collaborative learning, e-learning, interactive social media, e-books embedded with videos, AR, audio files, data management and analytics, immersive and engaging learning. Teachers and students stay more connected and interactive with interesting trends and techniques. Among other defining features of ICT/digital education is “any time anywhere learning”, and access to researchers and resource persons across the globe.

What are your views on the use of technologies like AR/VR, IoT and AI in the education sector? What is their uptake in the Indian market?

Advanced technologies such as IoT, AR, AI, VR, blockchain and cloud have the potential to add significant business value and make daily life more convenient and enriching. These technologies provide learners with a new imagination, innovation, interaction, interconnection and improvement. In line with global trends, the growth of new technologies in the Indian market can be attributed to the excessive usage of smartphones, gaming, automotives, healthcare, defence and other sectors. Using these technologies, LPU students have developed three socially useful devices. The “e-Parirakshak” device is based on AI and IoT and helps farmers in closely monitoring the agricultural field for fertility, soil pH, water levels, moisture levels, and soil temperature. The device also can control water pumps, blowers and sprinklers remotely. It also collects and stores the data on the cloud for further analysis. Another group of students has created a pendant, Kawach, to alert the user to maintain social distancing. Another group has devised a smart dustbin to collect dirt, dust and waste material through self-access.

What are the opportunities and challenges arising due to Covid-19 for edtech players and traditional educational institutions such as schools?

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth both challenges and opportunities for ed-tech players by significantly disrupting the education sector. Entrance tests of various universities, competitive and board examinations, and admissions thereof, are all at a standstill. The structure of schooling and learning, including teaching and assessment methodologies, is badly affected. A handful of private schools have adopted online teaching methods, but many others have completely shut down for not having access to e-learning solutions or knowledge of the latest trends and technologies. To continue the smooth educational process, we at LPU remained committed to making effective use of technologies and other available options. The future may hold many uncertainties and difficult times demand quick, appropriate decisions. For traditional schools, a multi-pronged strategy is necessary to manage the crisis and build a robust education system for the long term. For the most vulnerable and marginalised ones, inclusive learning solutions need to be developed. With the fast increase of mobile internet users in the country, technology is enabling universal access and personalisation of education even in the remotest parts of the country. This can alter the traditional schooling system and increase the effectiveness of learning and teaching.

Going forward, how do you see the education space transforming in India? What will be the key drivers and elements? 

Fast emerging digital technologies will develop the next generation of learners, innovators and global citizens. With a strong technology foundation and the right support, teachers will be able to adopt powerful tools to deepen, accelerate and enhance their students’ learning.