Common trends in education and our changing requirements

Features, Guest Author

As educational practitioners and learners, it is important to continuously assess the overall trends in the education sector. Some issues are starting to become vital part of the general discourse in this sector. Particularly, it is important to be aware of the changing role of education in the society, the process of learning, role of and relationship between learners and instructors and the design of learning spaces.

The types of learning environments available are the most apparent and drastic recent changes. Learning spaces are transforming from specific classroom set of devices to BYOD arrangements to interactive learning spaces utilizing some form of VR, AR, or mixed reality in lieu with gamification techniques. Digitally enhanced educational technologies, learning management systems (e.g. Moodle, Edmodo) and MOOCs (e.g. Coursera), once considered novelties are gradually starting to be the norm. It has also become increasingly possible to get accreditation from a respectable university through electronic and distance learning methodologies.

Further pairing of AI applications with the digitally enhanced learning environments is already affecting core parts of the education process such as the design of the content, teaching methods, assessment and communication. Various Interactive Learning Environment (ILEs) and Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) are being designed to massively-deliver and administer automated content in a synchronous, adaptive and personalized manner by using Educational Data Mining (EDM) techniques based on needs, psychological profile, pace of learning and knowledge level of students. However, it is not the holy grail of education. The comparative assessment of AI-student and teacher-student effectiveness is lacking to conclusively state which one is better. It is also doubtful whether social interaction in the classrooms can be completely replaced by AI. In any case, the goal of the education should be to educate first-class humans with the required cognitive, social and emotional capabilities rather than second-class robots.

It is not only the obvious digital transformations, which are disrupting education sector. Due to globalization and enhanced mobility of students, classrooms are increasingly diverse. This trend is affecting the design of relevant curriculum (which should perhaps move beyond ethnocentric and local focus), the learning methods to account for diverse backgrounds and effective systems to acknowledge diverse a priori learnings and qualifications. Existence of diversity coupled with greater emphasis on group problem solving both in classrooms and workplaces means that social skills are increasingly prized assets. The contemporary problem of managing climate change is also leading towards focus in skills required in an environmentally sensitive economy and preparing students for such needs. The ubiquity of information in the knowledge economy is changing the role of the teacher from delivering information to creating opportunities for students to ‘learn how to learn’, solve problems, and apply learning in meaningful ways. This also means that from the students’ perspectives, judging the credibility and relevance of gathered information and analyzing those using appropriate tools and methods is increasingly becoming important. At a broader level, recent political upheavals have also initiated the discourse of digital literacy skills, navigation of digital democracies and digital citizenship in general.

In addition to issues already discussed, there are several other essential skills to survive as learners in the new context. Digital disruption means familiarity with all aspects of science and technology is vital. The virtual organization of workplaces and gig economy means that familiarity and proficiency with remote working and collaboration tools is important. The rise of the gig economy coupled with longer working lives means learning and updating relevant skills is a never-ending process. Lifelong learning is increasingly becoming compulsory. Minute knowledge specialization and group problem solving indicates that it is necessary to individually monitor the volatile labor market and improve teamwork skills. All of these also suggest that rather than focusing on the immediate need for instant academic success, it is important for learners to have stamina (‘grit’ and ‘growth mindset’) to achieve long-term goals. This requires self-directed learning and transformative agency from students, which means the ability to take initiatives and commit to transform academic activities and contexts provided in the classroom for personal and/or own academic ends. All of these efforts coupled with some form of disciplined practice of mindfulness to manage everyday stress, self-regulate and ensure well-being can help students achieve their purposes well.

Jagat Kunwar