Digital Disruption in the Education Sector

There are different ways in which education is 'disrupted' by the unfolding digital modes, often creating negative impacts initially, but then gradually forcing the impacted to deliberate upon the inevitability of this disruption for the overall relevance in the age of continuous change, most of it being essentially digital.

The concept of digital disruption provides an opportunity to education leaders to evaluate their strategy afresh and revaluate the type of student experience they wish to provide. The continuous quest for innovation is gradually but surely impacting the conventional learning set up of classrooms, lectures and textbooks etc. by juxtaposing them, in a technological contrast, with the new digital and innovative teaching methodologies and platforms. The biggest  advancement that this disruption is aiming  to achieve is that it is making the physical classroom no more integral to the learning process by making the content more personalized and easily accessible. The choice of courses thus is no longer limited to the ones available in a single university campus but across the globe in an unlimited manner.

Consequently the conventional university set up is now under considerable duress in order to continue to be relevant and effective in the face primarily of competition from newer digital providers of education across an unlimited array of subjects and courses.

The distribution of education across physical, sectorial and durational aspects has taken a completely new dimension thanks largely and solely to the positive and path- breaking disruption that the appropriation of digital technology has brought about in the educational world.

Disruption in the current educational context has come to be accepted as the inevitable norm albeit a bit grudgingly, especially due to the ease and inertia guiding the traditional ways of doing things. But then we know, in the educational world more than others outside it, that globalization is not a homogeneous process and contains a striking paradox in that it brings in simultaneously the process of convergence and divergence. It is driven by the convergence of the forces of new technologies and the higher demands of the customers. Disruption in higher education sector, accordingly, is predicated by the need to integrate technology with pedagogy.

However there are major challenges to this process of disruption, the most serious being the resistance to changing existing business models, operational processes,  re-definition of the students' role and the whole process of instruction. The managements of universities and other higher education institutions have to rise to the occasion and meet the demands that this new model of learning might place on them in terms of infusion of new ideas, policies and funds.

Top universities the world over pride themselves in the research efforts that their faculty and students engage in as a matter of course. Innovation by its very nature is disruption at its best. The extent and scope of data and the associated data analytics have opened huge vistas for universities and higher education institutions to make learning more personalized, directed, flexible and effective. Thanks to the disruptions brought about by digital technology good universities are much better placed today to provide their students more flexibility and convenience.

Admissions to various universities in future shall be more and more dependent upon the universities' digital capabilities. In an interesting conclusion, the Accenture's Global Value of Higher Education study has found that:

80% of the university students surveyed said that digital capabilities were important when deciding which university to attend.

70% want their institution to use more digital tools, both inside and outside the classroom.

81% want more integration of technology into the classroom experience, online access to materials and online availability of classes.

Universities must, therefore, rise to the occasion. To remain competitive, and to attract better students universities must engage in sustainable relationships with their students and enhance their university experience by incorporating and providing requisite resources and funding. Students' digital experience needs to be not only integral to learning but also contemporary in terms of technology. There is a challenge to integrate and choose the 'right level' of digital into education; it is difficult to choose tools and fully understand what technology concepts will work and succeed. Universities need to show the maturity to realize and understand that while digitizing their content they do not lose sight of the fact that the focus on the digital notwithstanding, there has to be the real and innovative mix of the digital with the face to face learning experience.

Another challenge that the universities need to cope with in the process of digital disruption is the process of culture shift which essentially means the readiness of the students, faculty  and staff to fully and meaningfully  embrace the digital while at the same time making the transition least disruptive. With all the stake holders on board the digital journey, universities can not only reinvent students' learning experience while students are with them but also provide lifelong learning opportunities and career support to them even after they leave the university portals.

Let this disruption, therefore, help us make our campuses digitally 'smart'.



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