The New Education Policy, 2016, has to give mission level status and significance to education technology by:
- Systematically building up our intellectual and institutional capabilities in edTech
- Planning and implementing strategic edTech initiatives
- Actively promoting edTech entrepreneurship and R&D
Mission Level Focus on edTech
The NEP draft places no mission level emphasis on education technologies (edTech).
A mission level emphasis on edTech is critical if India is to achieve the objectives of equity and excellence at our scale and align effectively with other government initiatives such as Digital India, Smart Cities and Make in India.
Although the policy mentions the term “ICT” at many places, “edTech” goes above and beyond “ICT” in many ways (more details in Appendix 1). It would be a mistake to conflate the two. ICT is more concerned about access, while edTech is concerned about effectiveness.
There are several, far-reaching benefits to treating edTech with a separate mission-level focus. When leveraged properly, edTech can:
- Improve learning outcomes significantly in both online and offline modes
- Increase the capability of teachers to not just teach better, but to actually achieve the goal of student centred learning that has for long been the aspiration of many a National Education Policy
- Describe, with the help of data and analytics, student performance outcomes and proactively predict failures to meet outcomes.
The potential objectives or goals for this mission-level focus on edTech could be:
- Build edTech capability and awareness in a systematic manner through edTech innovation centres, PhD and certificate programs and open-source community projects
- Plan and execute national and state-level edTech blueprints for maximum impact on educational outcomes and effective access to education. The blueprints would span areas such as:
- Education programs for teachers and administrators
- Incubations & Entrepreneurship
- Platforms and Applications
- Digital Identity Management
- Digital Curriculum and Courseware including MOOCs
- Techniques including Adaptive learning, MOOCs, Gamification, Augmented Reality and others
- Metadata, Tracking and Learning Analytics
- Certificate depository/blockchain
- Implementation schemes & formats
- IT Infrastructure provision
- Lower and remove barriers to adoption of edTech by all educational institutions by increasing choice, limiting regulation, infrastructure investment and sufficient funding
While there are many approaches to achieving this mission mode emphasis on edTech, some possible techniques are suggested below.
- Set up a separate mission-mode edTech initiative, staff it with competent people with comprehensive state-level participation. Equip each state with a state mission secretariat which has sufficient authority to push not just infrastructural ICT initiatives but also work closely with state education departments to promote edTech and indoctrinate new edTech methods within institutions. Provide sufficient funding, autonomy & control to operate.
- Set up a fund to enable 500 PhDs in edTech in the next 5 years. Participants should get international experience and then come back to work with the Centre and States. This could be managed by top class universities.
- Actively identify, seed-fund, incubate and promote local and rural entrepreneurs including a special focus on women entrepreneurs
- Create a Chief Learning Officer position for India. The CLO will be responsible for all mission-level outcomes and will coordinate and partner with other initiatives and agencies. This position can be complemented by the positions of Chief Academic Officer, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operations Officer or equivalent. States could have similar positions.
- Completely revamp and promote the use of edTech starting with all open and distance learning institutions, teacher education institutes, departments of education and institutions like NCERT, NUEPA etc.
- Ease regulations to use of online learning for credit, subject to an accreditation mechanism to prevent misuse.
- Start small and grow organically
- The policy goals could also be based around the following major aspects:
- Infrastructure: Energy, Computing and Network
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Education Technology and R&D
Note: These are further detailed in the Appendix II.
Conceived and implemented properly, the mission level focus could deliver on many fronts such as:
- Designated stakeholder entities/institutions reliably connected, trained and supported
- edTech champions (teachers, administrators and experts) trained to harness the network potential across India that can handle Higher Education, VET and School Education teacher capability building
- Aggregation and implementation/deployment of all past and current technology and content initiatives for Technology enabled learning or ICT enabled learning
- Development of rich interactive media content as necessary
- Cutting edge IP in administration, collaboration, learning, content and assessment technologies (among others)
- Teacher certifications and the building up of Teacher Assessors and Mentors
- Awareness generation and capability building across all HE
- R&D centres dedicated to evolving edTech
- Internationally recognized PhDs
- Highly productive and cutting edge global partnerships
- Many Ed Tech startups incubated
- A large number of disadvantaged individual or small scale businesses granted funds and supported by the mission
- Inclusive and equitable strategy, tuned for excellence
This is a scalable approach from which we can derive a high quality, continuously adaptive & improving growth engine for India.
ICT Vs. edTech
So far Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been treated as the most important focus in education. It is obvious to appreciate how digital technology can help connect people, disseminate information and empower people and processes with necessary tools. This is our idea of ICT, which is a widely recognized paradigm since the late 90s.
But ICT for Education (also called Technology Enabled Learning) and education technology (edTech) are two very different domains.
To understand why education technology is so different from ICTs, one needs to understand the limits of ICT. ICTs are mainly concerned with the following:
- Establishing networks – developing physical and Wireless networks like the NKN and NMEICT (also underlying newer and wider initiatives such as Digital India and Smart Cities) to enable people and devices to connect, communicate and share data and voice services.
- Building Applications – conceivably every area of operations needs applications for automation to bring about large scale efficiencies, decrease response times and increase accuracy. ICTs enable these and we have made significant progress using ICTs for automation, even in education. Apart from automation of public services, the other significant uses include analytics, research & development and public security.
- Content Creation and Dissemination – a large effort arising out of ICTs is in the creation and dissemination of information. For public or private use, using ICTs for content dissemination is a necessary tool.
However, edTech is concerned with not just the specific applications of ICT for the Education system, but more importantly, the development of altogether new techniques and methods specific only to the education system. Some of these very specific areas include:
- Course creation – establishing content taxonomies, re-usable learning assets, metadata, building adaptive content, reusable competency definitions are all activities in the edTech domain but find no similarities in the ICT domain.
- Course delivery – learning paths, personalized learning, mentor and coaching models, proctoring, andragogy and self-directed heutagogical learning, badging & certifications, gamification, Augmented Reality – are all terms not to be found in any ICT vocabulary
- Analytics – academic analytics, learning analytics, social network analysis, sentiment analytics, digital identity are all specific to edTech, but often conflated with business intelligence paradigms. In fact, Learning Analytics models have been proven to identify at-risk students (sort of an early warning system that can help us much more than post-facto PISA type of analytics)
Digital courseware content is usually clubbed with ICTs (e.g. the largest content development initiative is the National Mission on Education using ICT). However, edTech champions would strongly differentiate the type of content, its developmental process, tools, delivery techniques and quality assurance to the point where it has no resemblance to the same types, processes, tools, delivery and quality assurance of other forms of ICT driven content.
To give an example, creating a video and posting it on Youtube would be classified as an ICT skill. When imparted as a skill to educators, they would be trained in creating videos and pushed to generate Youtube (or other) video content for their students. However, a video does not equate to an educational experience without many other pedagogical components such as interactivity, student progress tracking and analytics of various kinds.
This is the reason why, in the rush to create content since the NPTEL started, we still do not have any way to know how students and teachers are in fact interacting with and using the content, and to what outcomes. We just know video views and unique users, which are important ICT based statistics, but not significant enough if we want to understand if the students actually learnt something using the videos. The same holds true for almost all the components of the 4-quadrant model created under the NMEICT/NPTEL. Creating a Youtube channel for a course, is perhaps the most primitive and inaccurate step taken to disseminate the educational content.
In the area of MOOCs, a similar issue confronts us. When viewing the MOOC as a way to broadcast video lectures and objective tests, with or without facilitation (blended models of MOOCs), we are in fact doing great injustice to how MOOCs were initially conceived and implemented – the early MOOCs showed that education technology could be harnessed to help learners learn via networks and to regain control over their own learning through community interaction and reflection. However, the ICT view of courses is so widespread that MOOCs have become only a wellspring of static content, not interaction.
There are many other examples that can be taken that show how mistaken the conflation of ICT with edTech really is. This conflation is also visible in funding decisions by the government and in government policy. While there is a significant infrastructural investment in ICTs to be made, there is negligible effort in promoting edTech, and an even more fragile appreciation that edTech also requires research and development investment.
We must have a clear focus on edTech. This is crucial given the path-breaking initiatives for a digital and self-reliant India, the problems of access, quality and equity, the problems of governance of education and the diversity inherent in our education system.
Infrastructure: Energy, Computing and Network
- Provision of affordable and reliable power, computing and network services to selected entities involved in education.
- Provision of and integration with existing technology, content repositories and other services on a nationwide network (aggregate all existing efforts in technology, content and R&D) by a core team of 50 Ed Tech professionals over 5 years with support from existing initiatives
- Identity Management: The ability to uniquely identify a stakeholder and reach out to through multiple identified channels
- Campus ERP: A minimalistic ERP system that is based on a SaaS model
- Knowledge and Community Networking Services: A mechanism for dissemination and sharing information for, by and of the networks
- Communication & Collaboration Services: A mechanism for collaboration
- Virtual on-demand classrooms
- Audio and Video Conferencing, including application sharing
- FM and Community Radio interfaces
- Satellite based two-way interactive TV
- Creation of an elite cadre of 170,000 EdTech champions across the country that shall be certified to create awareness, build & grow educational networks, disseminate information and act as a strategic implementation arm of the MHRD.
- Creation of localizable, rich media advanced elearning and offline materials across subjects (including vocational, medical and agriculture, in close cooperation with those and other councils)
- Integration of domestic community and Open content repositories through a process of academic, pedagogical and technical validation
- Creation of Teacher and Student Resource Kits and kits for assessment of teachers for continuing certification in ET.
Education Technology and R&D
- Development of cutting edge technology and EdTech pedagogy by a core team of Ed Tech professionals over 5 years with support from existing initiatives
- Personal Learning Environments for every connected person
- MOOC based learning environments on demand for community learning initiatives
- Social Networking tools for learning, recruitment and professional collaboration
- BIG Data Capture and Analytic Services: Provision for data collection services for each node, type of data and type of network. This will involve designing and implementing a single framework for organizing and assessing data, closely integrated with initiatives such as the UID and ERP for HEI. Create the systems for collecting and analysing educational data in ways that make the teaching-learning process adaptive and responsive
- Creation and implementation of cutting edge learning content management systems that will allow mass generation of authentic rich media content
- Web 3.0 and Semantic Web based development of educational services and applications
- Mobile Learning solutions
- Offline solutions
- Adaptive Learning and Personalization systems
- Content Security
- Virtual Labs, Simulations and Serious Games frameworks development/procurement
- Research and Development in edTech: Establish a mechanism to develop and integrate increasing amounts of intellectual capital/ human resources that can facilitate the network effect and lead & extend the state of the art; development of 500 international level PhD holders in 5 years
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Provide seed funding of 5 cr for 10 entrepreneurs each year in the field of edTech
- Provide 1,000 small scale women, disabled, socially and economically weaker sections INR 5 lakhs grants per year for supporting HEIs with products and services; provide easy loan schemes or microfinance initiatives for this audience
- Provide a support system (ET Labs and other institutions) for these ecosystems for design-through-adoption cycles
- Implement edTech certification in teacher career progression (and pay scale) systems; reward performers with more incentives
- Process to renew certification (not in terms of the licensed practitioner model that the policy proposes) every year that requires teachers to demonstrate project experience (employing ET in teaching practice evidence) and conform to ET guidelines
- Policy for creating champion teachers and teacher assessors
- Setting directives and guidelines for the use of funds and for the cooperation between and across MHRD, industry and academia.
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