Dr Abhinanda Sarkar Academic Director, Great Learning

The education sector is undergoing a paradigm shift with the adoption of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and the internet of things (IoT). This transformation is enabled by 5G networks with significantly high bandwidth and low latency. Industry leaders share their views on the use cases of these technologies, challenges in deployment and upcoming digital trends in the sector…

What are the use cases of technologies such as AR/VR, IoT and AI/ML in the education sector? How will 5G drive the adoption of these solutions?

Technologies such as AR/VR, IoT and AI/ML have significant use cases in the education space, revolutionising the way learners learn and interact with information by facilitating immersive learning experiences, personalised instruction and enhanced connectivity. The roll-out of 5G network will further drive this adoption by providing the necessary infrastructure for seamless and efficient implementation.

  • AR/VR technologies provide immersive learning experiences by allowing learners to visualise and interact with complex concepts. They can explore historical sites, dive into virtual laboratories or even simulate real-world scenarios, ma­k­ing education more engaging and practical. In fact, these technologies are bri­dging the gap between education and employment by providing learners with first-hand experiences of various job ro­les and assisting them in making in­for­med career choices.
  • IoT plays a crucial role in creating smart classrooms, where various devices and sy­stems are interconnected. It enables real-time monitoring and control of cla­s­s­room environments, thereby en­han­c­ing safety and optimising energy usage. IoT devices also facilitate data collection on learner performance and behaviour, providing valuable insights for personalised learning and assessment.
  • AI/ML technologies enable personalised learning experiences by analysing data and adapting educational content to cater to individual needs. Intelligent tu­to­ring systems deliver customised ins­tr­uc­tion and feedback, helping lear­n­ers progress at their own pace. AI-powered chatbots can provide instant answers to questions, promoting self-di­rected lear­ning. AI also assists in an­alysing learner performance data to help identify areas of improvement and enable targeted interventions.

What are the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation? What are the main challenges faced while deploying new-age technologies?

We have developed our own ICT solution called Olympus, a learning management system that provides a centralised platform for educators, learners and internal staff. Olympus ensures that learners have access to materials, collaborate with peers, track progress and receive career services. For faculty, it amplifies their reach and impact by allowing them to create meaningful and transformative learning experiences for a larger number of learners. Our internal te­am uses the platform to understand learners’ aspirations and provide timely interve­ntions when needed. The efficiency of this technology platform has helped us achieve an industry-leading completion rate of 91 per cent for our programmes.

To help institutions scale up their on­line offerings, Great Learning provides ac­cess to their own learning management sy­stem through the Olympus Digital Ca­m­pus. This allows smaller institutions and those on limited budgets to quickly mo­­­ve their content online and customise cloud-ba­sed academic offerings to suit th­eir re­quirements.

The deployment of new-age technologies comes with its challenges:

  • Implementing advanced ICT solutions often requires robust infrastructure, in­clu­ding high-speed internet connectivity, reliable servers and sufficient storage ca­pacity. Ensuring the availability of nece­ssa­ry infrastructure that can meet the de­mands of the technology can be a challenge.
  • Investing in new technologies can be expensive, especially for smaller educational institutions or organisations with limited budgets. Scaling up the deployment to accommodate a larger user base or expanding to multiple locations can pose financial challenges.
  • Introducing new technologies requires training and upskilling of educators and learners, which can be met with resista­nce to change, or a learning curve associated with using the new tools effectively.

Protecting learner data and ensuring pri­vacy becomes paramount with the in­c­reased usage of digital tools and platfo­r­ms. Implementing robust security meas­u­res and complying with data protection re­gulations can be complex and challenging.

How will the rise of various AI tools impact teaching and learning? How will it influence learner-instructor interaction?

The rise of various AI tools in education is making a significant impact on teaching and learning and will continue to do so. These tools have the potential to revol­u­tio­nise education systems, making them more equitable and equipping learners with the necessary skills for the future.

  • A key impact of AI tools in teaching and learning is the ability to personalise education. AI-powered adaptive learning systems can analyse individual learner da­ta and provide personalised learning ex­­periences tailored to specific needs and learning styles. This personalised ap­proach can enhance learner engagement and improve learning outcomes.
  • AI tools also have the potential to automate administrative tasks and provide re­al-time feedback to both teachers and le­arners. For instance, at Great Lear­n­ing, AI-based chatbots are used to provide initial responses to learner queries. Acade­m­ic counsellors step in only when faced wi­th complex situations. Thus, a quick tu­r­naround for most queries is maintained.
  • Furthermore, AI tools can facilitate the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. With intelligent tutoring systems and virtual simulations, learners can engage in immersive and interactive learning experiences that challenge them to think critically and solve complex problems.

In terms of learner-instructor interaction, AI tools can augment the role of tea­chers rather than replace them. The role of teachers will evolve from being the sole source of knowledge to becoming facilitators of learning and mentors who guide learners in their educational journey.

What are the three key digital trends to watch out for in the education sector?

Several key trends are shaping the rapidly evolving education sector. Here are three digital trends to watch out for:

  • Reality, AI, AR, and VR: These techn­o­logies are transforming education by providing immersive and personalised le­ar­n­ing experiences. These innovative te­ch­nologies are revolutionising conventi­o­nal teaching methods, transforming them into interactive and engaging sessions.
  • Gamification: Gamification is increasingly being employed across the education sector as a means to enhance learning. By incorporating game elements and mechanics into educational content, learners can engage in immersive learning experiences. Educational games ma­ke the learning process enjoyable, pro­­mote active participation and encou­rage multimodal learning.
  • Nano-learning: This emerging trend in edtech provides bite-sized classes that offer on-demand access to specific kno­w­ledge. Nano-learning allows learners to learn at their own pace and target sp­e­cific areas of interest for skill development. With the increasing demand for on-the-go and just-in-time learning, this trend is expected to gain popularity, offering flexible and personalised learning opportunities. For instance, Great Learning Aca­demy offers several courses for free, varying in duration from as short as one hour to more in-depth co­ur­ses that span up to eight hours. In fact, thousands of learners have curated their own learning journeys by combining courses according to their specific interests and objectives.