Mr. Lokesh Mehra, Lead (Research) SSC, NASSCOM

1. What are the few key challenges in integrating technology with education??

Ans: Especially for a developing country like India, technology integration requires multiple interjections – from basic capacity building of faculty that would be utilising technology in the new pedagogy, infrastructure adjustments towards this fresh learning environment and finally assessment mechanisms as a lot of it, would now happen online. Industry will face a shortage of 230,000 skilled techies as jobs in AI and Big Data is estimated to be 780,000 by 2021. As per the recent study of the World Economic Forum (WEF) namely “The Future of Jobs”, stated that around 54 per cent of the global workforce had to be re-skilled or up- skilled to work in disruptive and digital technologies spawning the virtual world.

Our current DIETs (District Institute of Education and Training) in K-12 sector as well as at NITTTR (National Institute of Technical Teacher Training) in Higher Education may have the requisite devices and curriculum – but when these trained faculty return to their respective institutes, there may be a huge disparity. Identification of gaps where technology can be used in the curriculum and teaching process, a plan for implementation and then communicating day in and out with all stakeholders of how technology integration can help all, is the path to be undertaken. To get comfortable, any faculty could begin by having a word for the day, online weather tracking, news of the day, etc. and then jump into administrative tasks. However, to make this successful, a conducive ICT policy is imperative at the Federal as well at the state level. As citizens we are awaiting “The National Education Policy” to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. What’s your view point about MOOC’s and it’s monitoring part and quality?

Ans: Before we jump into Massive Open Online Courses, we should check the primary reason as to why people take MOOCs - to learn more, expand their education, gain a certificate or supplemental knowledge to display to their employers. MOOCs are like your food buffet – a participating student decides what he wants to eat (learn), in what quantity (all or some nuggets of information) without worrying too much of the final assessment – as they may just do the parts which they find engaging. Formal education on the other hand poses a different façade where an individual has to opt for a full course with a final assessment at the end to gain a degree or a certificate.
Though MHRD had launched their own MOOCs under the brand name “SWAYAM - Study Web of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring”, it unfortunately has not proliferated as envisaged unlike its foreign counterparts like Coursera, edX, Udacity, etc. Though India ranks number 2 in MOOC enrolment globally, number of students completing these courses still is very poor. Some current mechanisms for measuring MOOC quality are hinged on completion rates, satisfaction scores against given benchmarks. Monitoring is done in the form of peer review, web camera dictated assessments, anti-plagiarism, etc. Uptake of MOOCs will increase as professionals undertake more courses and get addicted to one provider where they have successfully completed a course and prospective employers start accepting MOOC certifications as an industry norm. NASSCOM via its Future Skills Platform is collaborating with the Govt. to help upskill industry people.

3. Why is India still considered an imitator and major technology innovation are not witnessed here?

Ans: While there have been no disruptive technologies of a next Google, Apple or Microsoft getting created in India, however there are product companies which have done extremely well – Zip Dial which was acquired by twitter, Inmobi – innovative curated mobile solutions, Eram – public hygiene, etc. are some with breakthrough ideas. Despite the political conundrum and a start-up ecosystem impeded with every changing regulations, there are new companies being formed across India every day attempting to resolve day-to-day challenges faced by the common man or the industry. Favourable industry policies are now being framed to assist organisations in building up ground breaking solutions – example NASSCOM 10,000 startup or in the bio-technology area. A data point that I would like to highlight here is that India’s Share of Global population is 17% but share of Global output in R&D is barely 1.58%. In terms of rank in Quantity of research papers, India ranks number 21 but in Quality it is 119. India slipped 10 notches to the 76th position on the Global Innovation Index. Research inclination among students is very poor – most of the M.Tech and PhD degrees are namesake. India needs to inject a DNA culture of innovation and funding options to inculcate the right skill sets, cultural fit, appetite for risk, etc. Unless academic research gets converted to commercial applications, it would be a slow process.

4. Why Industry Academia collaboration is not taking place? Are colleges unable to attract corporate?

Ans: It would be incorrect to make a generic statement that Industry Academia collaboration is not taking place. There are some bright sparks where we are witnessing strong collaborations – IT companies do take a lead as they get impacted when students are not industry ready in new technologies like cybersecurity, cloud computing, IoT, AI, etc. Other core industries have also now realised the value of students being exposed before to cut down the gestation period of fresh recruits contributing to the bottom line. Unless institutions build the right infrastructure, devote resources and time, corporates would not seek partnerships with them. Ministries act as stifling opponents – if they give autonomy to universities and their boards, India would have witnessed a higher number of collaborations. Silicon Valley has seen some great examples of transformation of industry and research universities.

5. Why employability skills of students are going down every year and its solutions?

Ans: Only one third of our engineering graduates find meaningful employment. The remaining flounder due to lack of requisite skill sets and being out of sync with industry requirements. Some possible solutions include having an industry endorsed curriculum, project activities in line with current needs, honing all relevant skill sets spanning from planning, organising, verbal, presentation, communication and written skills, shadowing people from a particular domain, finding the right industry mentors and finally with an internship that gives an opportunity for fine tuning these skills. CEGR ( ) is taking an important step towards bridging this gap with requisite interventions in the form of innovative books aligned towards these lacunae.