Is Information and communication technology(ICT) a game changer in Indian Higher education system during pandemic?

Is Information and communication technology(ICT) a game changer in Indian Higher education system during pandemic?
Dr.J.Meenakumari

Flexible learning systems powered by technology have emerged and continues to emerge as a powerful option in the modern learning scenario. ICT-based tools have been a catalyst in reforming the classroom dynamics to cope with unexpected phenomenal changes that are striking the entire world. “Social Distancing” and “Internet connectivity“ have become iconic and ironic phrases of day to-day life everywhere. The education sector is no exception. 
One interesting aspect of consideration is that, restoring normalcy continues to be a real challenge for various industries.  However, the education sector could achieve it with ease and minimal impact due to the penetration of ICT-based technologies. 
Apprehensions transforming to appreciations by all stakeholders of the education system is driving towards implementation of Education 4.0 focusing on the following aspects: 
  • Setting customized learning paths 
  • Teachers as facilitators
  • Formative assessments 
  • “Training” than “Teaching” 
  • Imparting quality education 
The key aspects of implementing Education 4.0 is becoming a reality with the integration of high end technologies.  
Learners continuously look forward to widen their knowledge spectrum. They are also in a constant thirst to explore more and more learning repositories to find answers to their queries. To enjoy the greatest feeling of experimental learning, Virtual reality and immersive learning technologies come handy to the learners to get adequate practical training in the specific domain through simulation activities. Many educational institutions around the world have taken steps to incorporate virtual environments into their online courses to provide uninterrupted learning experience for the students. Exploring the lab experiments through a new technology always creates an inquisitiveness in the minds of learners which otherwise would have been difficult to achieve during the pandemic situation. 
Learning transformation

Immersive learning provides an interactive platform for learners to replicate the actual real time scenarios while learning certain concepts and theories in accordance with their curriculum.  Many research studies have revealed that experiential learning has enhanced the learning outcome to a greater extent. A hybrid learning space has been created through immersive learning environment wherein learners would be able to experience the tangible world of reality mixed with the intangible world of ‘virtuality’ in a single environment. The excitement of learning in turn enhances the quantum and quality of learning irrespective of the topics. On top of this immersive learning helps the stakeholders to ensure that the present education system is customized and up-to-date, thus setting the path towards implementation of Education 4.0.   Education 4.0 depends on the concept of ‘immersive learning’ which provides learners with an environment that is highly interactive both at the physical and virtual levels as discussed above.

Brain Science behind immersive learning 
Virtual Reality(VR) provides learners with a complete sensory experience through which one can virtually touch, see and hear contents (Choi, Dailey-Hebert & Estes, 2016). Virtual reality (VR) is a complete immersion experience that minimizes the users’ perception of the physical world and replaces that world with a virtual one. With VR, the environment itself is created for you to experience. Once you are wearing the VR goggles and holding the paddles, you get transported to a new reality. 
Augmented reality Is a partial immersion in a digital environment but with the added presence of the existing environment around you.  Examples of this experience would be applications like Snapchat’s Lenses and the game Pokemon Go. With augmented reality, you are seeing a version of reality that allows you to layer digital information on top of the existing reality. This allows you to observe interactions between the two. There are many commercial applications for this technology in areas such as construction, fashion, design, and diagnostics 
360-degree video is a new immersive technology with powerful storytelling capabilities for any discipline. 360 degree video is a visual discipline in which you would be able to create a complete, detailed, two-dimensional video of a location or object in 360 degrees that can then be shared without the viewer being present in the space. This could be an invaluable tool to keep sacred or delicate spaces and objects safe. They can remain untouched or with limited touch, and stay as preserved as possible by this technology. It also reduces time and cost involved in travel.
For example, the application ‘King  Tut  VR’, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Android platform, provides a extraordinary visual treat.   This app guides the viewers into the tomb  of  the  Pharaoh  ‘Tutankhamun’ with a 360-degree virtual environment full of historical artefacts. With this technology, a student of history does not have to travel to Egypt to learn and experience this ancient history since it comes right in front of them.
In a nutshell, immersive learning technologies offer the opportunity for more effective training solutions than traditional textbook or slideshow approaches. These technologies come in two forms: augmented reality (AR), sometimes also called as “mixed reality” (MR) and virtual reality (VR). Where AR involves overlaying digital information onto your field of view in your real physical environment, VR involves immersion in a completely new world (Todd Maddox, Peter Campbell, 2018). 
Learning Outcome from research studies   
Learners’ attention metrics have shown a positive impact while learning through immersive learning approaches as compared with other learning methodologies such as  e-Learning and MOOCs. Immersive digital simulations allow learners to absorb knowledge within a realistic context through experiential learning. Learners directly visualize, manipulate, and interact with complex structures, so that the brain is not so busy trying to visualize the data. Instead, it is engaged in understanding, assimilating, recalling, and applying the data, thereby reducing the cognitive load.

Teachers reported that using immersive learning aspects in the classroom promoted a more inquiry based environment. This facilitated maximization of learning opportunities by instilling a greater sense of autonomy, and encouraging students to creatively engage with the subject beyond the pedagogical task at hand. They also reported that test scores among students using immersive technologies improved by as much as 22%. Research also indicates that immersive learning has enhanced the sense of personalized and self-directive learning. 

Conclusion

Educators should ensure that the technology is integrated into pedagogical theory and best practices for effective outcomes. Many research findings have reported only positive impact while exploring immersive leaning methodologies in the class room. Moreover, it is very evident that these technologies drive us towards a successful journey of implementing Education 4.0.  Hence, it is recommended to integrate such technologies of the future during this pandemic for the overall benefit of all stakeholders in the education system especially for the 21st century learners.

Are you ready to immerse yourself in the virtual learning journey to break the pandemic barriers for better learning outcomes?  The time starts now … 
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and content on this blog are solely those of the authors. ISME does not take responsibility for the content which are plagiarized or not quoted.

References:

1. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/hub/jisc/p/preparing-education-40 
2.https://www.futurereadyedu.com/what-is-education-4-0-how-you-can-adapt-this-in-thelearning-environment/ 
3. https://futuresconference2021.com 
4. https://trainingindustry.com/articles/it-and-technical-training         
5.https://www.csusb.edu/academic-technology-innovation/innovation/immersive-    learningtechnologies    
6. https://www.immersivelearning.news/2019/08/15/report-immersive-experiences-ineducation/ 
7. Choi,  D.  H.,  Dailey-Hebert,  A.,  &  Estes,  J.  S,  (eds.)  (2016).  Emerging  Tools and  Applications  of  Virtual Reality  in Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. 8. Yusof, A. A., Adnan, A. H. M., Mustafa Kamal, N. N., Mohd Kamal, M. A., & Ahmad, M. K. (2019). Education 4.0 Immersive Learning with Spherical Videos (360°) and Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences. In MNNF Network (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Invention, Innovative & Creative (InIIC) Conference, Series 2/2019 (pp. 52-60).
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