Dr Sanjay Gupta, Vice Chancellor, World University of Design

The education sector is evolving rapidly in the face of ongoing technological advancements. There is a steady shift from blackboards and book-based teaching to interactive teaching based on information and communication technology (ICT). Technologies like cloud, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and big data analytics are playing a big role in this transformation. Some institutions have started deploying these technologies with the aim of enhancing learning outcomes and making the teaching and learning experience rich and exciting. However, the deployment of ICT solutions and tech advancements come with their own set of challenges, the biggest being low digital literacy and limited awareness.  Nonetheless, the potential of ICT as an enabling and transformative tool for the education sector cannot be emphasised enough. Heads of leading educational institutions talk about the emerging ICT trends in the sector, the level of technology adoption and the key challenges…

How have the ICT needs of the education sector changed over time?

In the education sector, ICT stands not only for information and communications technology, but also for integrated co-teaching. Today, ICT is looked upon as a transformational tool which, when used appropriately, can promote the shift to a learner-centred environment.

What are some of the telecom and ICT solutions used by your organisation? What are your future plans?

The World University of Design campus has been designed to cater to future needs. We have moved beyond teaching through black boards to interactive learning via sate­llite classes. The campus has well-equipped audio-visual (AV) hall structures that enable teleconferencing and remote learning to leverage international learning opportunities. The campus has Adobe Creative-enabled labs with Macintosh and Windows machines. The library is equip­p­ed with online digital resources for various publications. While the academic campus is Wi-Fi enabled, the hostels too have good internet speed that enables students to complete their projects uninterruptedly. The campus has a robust LAN system that connects it through an enterprise resource planning system. A well-equipped server room hosts the LAN system.

The university looks forward to leveraging upcoming technology and innovations to further enhance its prototyping and testing facilities.

How will the deployment of new technologies such as the cloud, IoT and big data analytics shape the education sector? What are some of the key use cases?

Not just cloud, IoT and big data but also other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are making the teaching and learning experiences rich and exciting, and opening up endless possibilities. Cloud technology is going to make life easier, for both students and tea­chers as documents and files will be stored and accessed easily. This will help the management in a big way, cutting down infrastructure costs.

IoT will create a network of varied devices that will lead to the pooling of varied data. Similarly, big data will make as­sign­ments, evaluations, tests and projects more results driven. Teachers can make use of data efficiently to monitor and gui­de students, customise programmes, redu­ce dropouts, target international recruiting and make career predictions. Teachers can also use analytics to improve their teaching skills after receiving feedback for a better learning experience for students. AR and VR videos and simulations will make education content more interactive and interesting. Highly engaging classrooms will lead to better results. These can transform the traditional methods of learning, breaking down the walls of classrooms and making students think out of the box and pilot new innovations.

What are the challenges faced in managing the existing IT/telecom infrastructure and deploying new technologies?

If there is one reality that has emerged in the relatively brief history of ICT use in education, it is that it is not the technology that matters, but how you use it. Unless our thinking about education changes along with the continuing expansion of ICT in the classroom, our technology in­vestment will fail to live up to its potential. Having said that, higher education institutions in Tier II towns and cities are still struggling with supply-related issues of electricity, telephony and internet; and the availability of technical support specialists and content developers.

The government is increasingly focusing on smart education and smart classes. What are the key technology trends that will help achieve this goal?

A carefully thought-out integrated approach to introducing computers, internet and associated technologies into learning environments can have a significant impact on teaching and learning. In places where learning resources are limited and teachers never dream of having a fully stocked library, let alone the internet, teachers and students have been introduced to a new world of learning. As a result, those with access to ICT have been greatly empowered and now believe they can compete in a global knowledge-based economy because they know that their knowledge, ideas, culture and passions are as valuable as any in the world.

For achieving these goals, rather than technology trends, greater commitment and willingness to share and adopt innovative solutions are needed from all aspects of society – the government, the private sector, communities, donors, parents and students. Specifically, it needs to be understood that any new technology comes with not merely hardware and software, but with a learning and teaching style and grammar of its own, and that management practices need to be adapted to use the technologies effectively. ICT is, ultimately, only a physical tool, which by itself cannot bring benefits to students, teachers and communities at large. Therefore, the unique contextual realities of a region, including primarily the initiative and impetus of various institutions and their constituents, and the level of their infrastructure play determining roles in creating enabling environments, for the use of ICT in higher education.