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January 26, 2020

Digital learning

Opinion

January 26, 2020

If we look back a few years ago, the concept of learning in the field of education had been pretty straightforward. Classrooms full of eager students and a teacher who led the process used to be the only thought that came to our mind.

A typical classroom setting with the physical presence of students and a teacher was the norm and any other type of teaching/learning format was viewed with scepticism. However, since the early 2000s this pretty straightforward model took a turn due to the rise of internet and technology, and the rest we can say is history.

Digital and blended learning solutions can no longer be viewed as a disruption to conventional modes of education but rather as innovative, value-added options available and accessible to everyone. With the right kind of e-learning products and platforms at disposal to most learners, the geographical gap has been bridged so much that it seems almost like being inside the classroom even while you’re not.

We all have become a part of the global village. You may be sitting anywhere in the world and attend a lecture at your own convenience. Earlier, online courses and certifications were not considered credible enough but now even Ivy League colleges offer that option. Moreover, there are dedicated portals such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, LinkedIn Learning, etc which students can make great use of.

EdTech or Technology in Education has been a game-changer not only for students. It has also provided teachers a plethora of options for sharing learning resources in different formats as per the diverse learning styles and needs of students. Digital learning brings a dimension of immersive technologies where students can use augmented and virtual reality to experience concepts and environments beyond their reach through 3D models and visualizations. For example, students can now look at layers of earth or go on a virtual field trip.

These creative tools aid in the delivery of education by allowing students and teachers to step out of the traditional model of delivering lectures where students take notes while the teacher explains. Now educators can employ innovative solutions such as makerspaces to transform a simple lecture into something engaging, exciting, and hands-on. It goes without saying that because of digitization, the concept of modern education has escaped the bounds of classrooms and opened up a world of endless possibilities for learners.

E-learning has been growing rapidly around the world and Pakistan is no exception. It is not the rapidly changing technology and its after-effects that concern me, but in fact our inability to adapt to it as a nation. Will we allow our students who are the future leaders to adapt to this new method of learning, or will we hold them to the ground as they aim to fly? In order to avoid the latter from happening, it is imperative that all players and stakeholders of the education and publishing sectors come forth and join the digital transformation process.

As we take steps towards a tech-based economy, we should also focus on slowly and steadily moving towards expanding the offerings in the digital sphere. Educational institutions and publishing houses should make the best use of technology and provide digital content to students. Animated videos, interactive materials, comics, and assessments are the fundamental learning tools of today. It would be fair to say that the ever-struggling education sector in Pakistan is due for its well-deserved makeover.

It is interesting that many people thought that the publishing industry would become redundant with digitization. However, in my opinion, the increased focus on digitization should be viewed as an opportunity. In fact, we should have an enhanced focus on providing digital solutions. The aim should be to develop blended learning (digital and print) resources to maximize the learning experience of students.

In Pakistan, market readiness for digital products is an issue and any subsidized internet facility from the government to middle and lower income segments to increase access to digital platforms would give the publishing industry a breakthrough in this area. Initiatives like ‘Bring your own device’ can enable our schools to make the maximum use of these new ways of learning.

We know that the future of work will bring careers and jobs which are unknown to us right now. Therefore, it is important to instil self-directed learning skills in our students. One of the ways to ensure that our students are developing skills for life-long learning is through providing digital content which they can consume at their own time and pace either at home or school. The content should include self-assessment which helps in getting constructive feedback and channelizing the student’s self-directed learning journey.

Without a doubt, accelerating digital is the key to growth. Of course, the importance of the publishing industry, pedagogy and classroom learning will remain but it is digitization that will drive a better future. It is digital that will allow us to add value and make a difference in the learning and education landscape in Pakistan.

The writer is managing director at Oxford University Press Pakistan.