As part of our University of the Future series, we spoke to leading institutions from across Asia to understand their vision for the future and how they plan to realise these ambitions.
The following article stems from an extended interview conducted with the Chairman of Amity University Online, Mr Ajit Chauhan, as part of the research for our University of the Future eBook. Read more from the University of the Future series or download the eBook – University of the Future: Transforming Asia’s higher education in the new normal and beyond – to explore how universities can embrace the opportunity to reimagine the future of tertiary education through innovation.
With technology providing more freedom and opportunities for people to learn all over the world, universities now have a chance to open their doors to many more students, regardless of their geographical location.
In a recent interview, the Chairman of Amity University Online, Mr Ajit Chauhan, elaborated on how the pandemic has affected universities and how they will look going forward.
The future of universities
Universities should be a centre of education, allowing people to access knowledge all around the globe. The future of higher education was always likely to change with the development of education technology (edtech), but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the way that universities traditionally operate is being re-examined in a different light, fast-tracking the change to more technological, remote modes of delivery.
“These were brick and mortar institutions established to provide a global learning experience through a community of teachers and scholars. With the advent of technology, we shifted to click and mortar giving a better chance to cross country knowledge exchange and collaboration and building the foundation for online learning. Now, with the current situation, all universities have made the shift from bricks to clicks.” Mr Chauhan explained.
How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected higher education
The current global health crisis certainly affected everybody, and the education sector saw some of the biggest changes for people all over the world. With online classes, virtual tours, learning management systems (LMS) and apps readily available, education had already started to pivot to a more remote way of learning. The edtech industry is already huge, but now, due to the pandemic, the use of online learning platforms and the sector’s development has surged in an unprecedented amount of time.
Mr Ajit Chauhan said, “Education at all levels had to move online in a matter of days. The learners had to adopt and adapt within weeks. This has removed all inhibitions attached to online learning and raised a lot of interest in online learning, acquiring new skills, and moving ahead in the formal learning path as well,”
The role of technology in changing universities
When the pandemic hit, like most other industries, education expected a short-lived disruption to their normal way of operating. Now, over 18 months later, the changes that were implemented on a temporary basis have proven to bring more to the table than anyone initially thought.
“The changes we see now are bound to have a permanent impact on how learning is undertaken, and education is imparted. The pivotal role in technology will be driven by learning analytics which will create an ecosystem of data driven learning. This will help to understand and interpret the learning absorption data at an individual learner level – these insights can be used by the faculty in teaching or can also be fed into the machine learning engines to personalise the learning experience for the learner.” Amity University Online’s Chairman stated.
The physical changes to universities and the future of online learning
The edtech industry not only provides a platform for learners to take control of their education, but it also gives educators more resources, and they can use technology to increase the stimulation of students.
Mr Chauhan shared, “Both the learner and the educator deploy technology to fulfil their own needs. While the educator focuses on leveraging advanced technology for a constructive learning experience, the needs of the learner are quite different. They are looking at affordability, employability, multiple formats of course content, vernacular learning, less time investment, ease in transition across stages, mobility and guidance when it comes to learning online. As we move ahead, teaching models will focus on interactive and collaborative learning. This will help learners engage better with course content. Rather than memorising facts, learners will learn by doing.”
Universities are also looking at physical changes. Even though campuses are not going anywhere post-pandemic, many are considering pivoting the way in which students gain knowledge to a more online learning-based structure to allow collaboration from industry professionals and experts from all over the globe.
“The physical setup of universities is evolving, the learning environment is being transformed, and the change is happening for the better. It goes without saying the traditional physical campuses are here to stay but virtual 3D campuses will also capture imaginative minds and will be a reality sooner than we realise,” he added.
“Going forward, online learning will no longer be a choice but a part of the structural design of delivery. In the student surveys that we do, 48% of those enrolled with us are working professionals. For them, the flexibility to continue learning in addition to their jobs is what brings them to online education,” Mr Chauhan continued.
The relationship between universities and the edtech industry
For the progression of education, both physical universities and those online must form appropriate partnerships to move forward.
As Ajit Chauhan says, “If a university or institute is looking at an expansion or penetration strategy, nothing better than collaboration can be an alternative. For the user, the lines are blurring when it comes to a university or an edtech vendor. For them what matters is the availability, affordability, and freedom of choice.”
Therefore while online learning platforms may never fully replace the face-to-face experience, they will play a significant role.
But, as the chairman of Amity University Online said, “The ability of the human mind to learn and relearn is infinite. As long as we humans have the capacity and desire to learn, the market opportunities will be immense and there would be enough room for newcomers too. Coming to specific innovation spaces, we see 2020 as the year of change and disruption. 2021 will decide the trends for the future.”
Even though physical universities still have a very significant part in education, especially for programmes or modules that cannot be provided in the online space, online learning platforms are going to add many advantages. Not only will the edtech industry create more opportunities for physical universities, but it also will provide more accessible education through the financial, time, and geographical benefits it generates. The University of the Future will give people from all corners of the world easier access to higher education.