Interviews

While Online Learning is a Boon, It Has Also Posed Security Challenges

Dr. Christopher Abraham, the CEO and Head of SP Jain School of Global Management, speaks about the challenges faced by the education sector during the pandemic and the opportunities ahead

How has the pandemic affected the education sector in the region?
The pandemic has had a transformational impact on the educational sector in the region across all levels, including Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. The acceptance and adaptation of digital technologies have been much faster due to the pandemic. Institutions that were either reluctant or slow to adapt to technology had limited choices and hence adaptation was much quicker during this time.

While the technology adaptation happened, students across all levels still missed the face to face in-class experience which includes, interaction with the teachers, their classmates and friends. Human beings, being social creatures, were missing the crucial element of social interactions that come from a typical classroom experience.

What sort of opportunities do you see in the regional education sector?
The pandemic has opened a slew of opportunities for academic institutions to experiment with innovative approaches to pedagogy, curriculum, technology, and assessment. It also opened up newer opportunities for institutions to collaborate, share best practices and jointly identify methods to improve the faculty teaching approaches and the overall student learning experience.

Is there a digital disconnect despite tech tools being available for distance education?
While some institutions had already invested in the appropriate tech tools much before the pandemic, many were caught suddenly with the challenge of investing and moving to digital technologies. In some countries in the region, the lack of appropriate technologies and financial resources also perpetuated the digital disconnect.

How can this digital disconnect be bridged?
This digital disconnect can be addressed by a combined multi-stakeholder approach which should include – Government bodies, Ministries of Education and Technology, educational institutions, Ed-tech enterprises, NGO’s, parents and students. Through collaborative brainstorming and ideation sessions on an ongoing basis, many interesting and practical solutions can be experimented.

STEM has risen as the go to stream of education during the pandemic. What importance does STEM have in developing the skillsets of a student?
STEM has now metamorphosed into STEAM and this change is critical for developing the appropriate skills of future generations. While competencies in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are significant, a balanced input on life’s skills (indicated by ARTS) is equally compelling.

Future generations need to be balanced professionals with equal parts of technical and human skills. This has been vindicated by the World Economic Forum report in July 2020, articulated by Oxford economist Professor John Kay, who identified six critical intelligences to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic era. These includes contextual intelligence, moral, and ethical intelligence, social and emotional intelligence, generative (innovative) intelligence, technology intelligence and transformational intelligence.

Do you use solutions today to make STEM learning a seamless experience?
As a top ranked business school in the world, S P Jain School of Global Management combines cutting edge technology with business to offer a plethora of choices to aspiring students. Courses like Bachelor of Data Science and Masters of Artificial Intelligence in Business are some examples of this combination.

Programs like this ensure that the future professional has a combinational of relevant technology and business subjects preparing them for increasingly uncertain and challenging future.

What about the security aspects of online learning. How can that be addressed?
While Online learning is a boon during these times, it has also posed security challenges. These challenges manifest in various ways including hacking of zoom classroom sessions and challenges to assessments and evaluations. While these challenges continue, Ed-tech enterprises are continuously upping their game to address these ongoing challenges and making suitable adaptations and modifications.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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