In today’s fast-paced technology world, knowledge obsolescence is common. Any knowledge becomes “half" as relevant in one-and-a-half to two years, implying that if one doesn’t learn something substantially new, his or her knowledge would contract to one-16th, or of virtually zero relevance, within six to eight years after a few half-life periods.

Over the last three decades, the pace of change in technology has only accelerated. The size of personal computers has shrunk. Today, almost everyone owns a mobile. And, there has been a sea change in the way we communicate today, thanks to social media. All such changes are occurring mainly due to two reasons—products and services being driven by technological innovations and strong consumer focus at businesses.

These incessant changes raise a few questions: How are Indian learning institutions adapting to such change? Are teaching methods being transformed at the same pace? Is content being upgraded in line with the evolution in technology and industry? Are students the focal point of this learning process? Do students have more choices than earlier? If so, are these being considered when deciding on what they will be taught in colleges and institutes?

Institutes need to think of these issues holistically and students need to adopt three key philosophies towards learning that could help them in meaningful career growth.

Non-stop learning, lifelong: With the changing pace of technology and market dynamics around us, non-stop learning is emerging as the mantra for success. We have been hearing about subjects like artificial intelligence, Big Data analytics, mobility and cloud technologies for many years now, but today they are all-pervasive and evolving almost daily. In such an environment, continuous learning is a key ingredient of employee success. And not just learning—regular unlearning and relearning are essential steps in keeping the knowledge relevant. Accordingly, learning institutes must rediscover the art of being ahead in research and nurture student-centric teaching actively.

Value-for-money, connected learning: In many emerging countries including India, the government provides funds for public educational institutions to take care of the citizens. In India, projects are often funded or grants given by the ministry of human resources, the department of science and technology and many other centre (central) and state departments.

While the tuition fees at premier institutions such as the IITs has been rising substantially in recent years, the Indian government wants educational institutes to operate in a self-sustaining manner—which implies that tuition fees at more institutes are expected to rise as well.

Like it happens in many universities in the West, Indian institutions could seek support from well-to-do alumni and build endowment funds. But these grants need to be tied to predetermined programmes—an innovative programme, a new centre or some unusual initiative. Besides, as government subsidies decline and fees rise, students will seek learning that is more connected to the trends-of-the-day subjects that are directly helpful in employment or entrepreneurship efforts. The attention would be on value-for-money, connected learning.

Learning beyond the conventional: In today’s digital world, students don’t necessarily need to completely depend on the material provided by institutes. Present-day students have begun learning widely through webinars, workshops and symposia. Great quantities of learning material is also available through massive open online courses. Organizations such as edX, Coursera and Udacity offer modern courses with many basic modules for free. University partnerships and new initiatives such as micromasters (MicroMasters) and blended learning are growing.

Furthermore, “do-it-yourself" courses, hackathons, codathons, appathons and other contests are also rising. A good performance in these contests acts as robust testimony for those thinking end-to-end, building the necessary elements, integrating open source content and delivering on time. Since such credentials are valued by industry during recruitment, universities should assess how they are catering to these new attributes.

Students now just want professors to function as “facilitators" in their learning of world-class materials by presenting, summarizing and elaborating concepts. With these fast-evolving digital tools and technologies, traditional educational institutes must understand their present global standing and make requisite overhauls in strategies and implementation, which should include the four Cs of 21st century learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking and Creativity.

Aloknath De is chief technology officer at Samsung R&D Institute in Bengaluru.

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