Amidst the COVID-19 spread, most of the higher education institutions globally are closing down regular academic schedules to curb the spread of the pandemic and keep its citizens safe through social distancing.

The pandemic has opened up a debate on how India can better utilise digital education tools to address such situations. How do we then plan a future that drives the education sector forward digitally? Are we ready to make this transition? These are questions that the Indian education system should answer in the wake of such a global crisis that has disrupted the way we live and learn.

The shift to blended and pure-play digital campuses can help in an uninterrupted academic continuity. Institutions will leverage technology to, address a changing student demographic, scale student size and deliver disruption free academic programs using blended, on-line and distant learning strategies. Online learning platform-based institutions and MOOC’s is a visible success of this, as it collapses physical and geographical boundaries. We also see a large number of institutions moving to ‘on-line first’, leveraging technologies to manage the entire student journey from admissions, academic delivery, examinations and grading.

The boom in digital and internet-based technologies in the last decade has seen a tremendous change in the way people consume information. The educational system needs to rise to the challenge of rapid transformation and adapt solutions and technologies to reach educational goals such as reach, quality and continuity.

The changing student demographics and early exposure to technology is leading the change. Many institutions were able to move online very quickly, even though they had never delivered a single course online till this crisis. That is only because of the student demographics.

At this point, it is difficult to predict when things will return to regular academic continuity. The challenge is on two fronts –the present ‘end of year’ academic completions, as most of the states are yet to complete their board examinations and secondly, how quickly can institutions bounce back towards academic continuity with steps in place for any future disruptions.

We would see an accelerated phase in adoption of digital and blended campuses that can deliver academic continuity in times of disruption. In future, we would see more institutions shifting to delivering academic programs across a digital platform that brings together all stakeholders- students, faculty, administrators and industry.

Lifelong learning and individual, autonomous learning have increasingly become more widespread even while conventional forms of learning, remains as the primary form of teaching in educational institutions.

Multiple options will include structured, online, self-managed or expert led without geographical boundaries through smart classrooms and digital assistants that will deliver personalised learning, AI recommended student outcomes connected to industry requirements and is self-paced.

There is a paradigm shift in academic delivery methods already in play and is very student centric. We will see a new era in education. The way education is delivered and consumed from a student outcome perspective is defining the next wave in Education, which the industry refers to as Education 4.0. The disruption arising out of this pandemic will only accelerate this.

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