Dr Ajeenkya DY Patil, Chairman of the D Y Patil Group, Chancellor of Ajeenkya D Y Patil University and Pro-chancellor of the Dr. D. Y. Patil University

Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil is an Indian educationist and economist. He is Chairman of the D Y Patil Group, Chancellor of Ajeenkya D Y Patil University and Pro-chancellor of the Ajeenkya DY Patil University. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Dr Ajeenkya DY Patil talks about the impact of COVID-19 on higher education, challenges in the higher education system today, the D Y Patil – model that other colleges in the country can follow, and much more.

 

If there was no lockdown due to pandemic, what would have been the situation of digital transformation in the Indian education sector? How has COVID-19 accelerated its growth?

Many of the technologies that we see today in action have been there even before the pandemic. Technology adoption has always been a challenge in all societies and across age groups. In a strange way the pandemic forced the technology adoption and endeared people to it. Typically, whenever we speak of altering an established paradigm the preconceived thoughts become a hurdle and even before trying it is labelled as not as good. Since the pandemic forced adoption of online learning and associated technologies, people had no option but to find out good things in support of those. This creation of a positive mindset, though at the back of an extremely negative circumstance created an opportunity for accelerated adoption of new technologies.

In absence of a lockdown the curve would still have been the same, albeit much slower. In education besides the technology adoption the hindrance is the governance of higher education. Unfortunately, people in governance are the last to acknowledge changes happening in the ecosystem. Since we need to answer to these norms and standards it places a lot of limitation on our adoption of new methods. Once again, if there was no lockdown, even though institutions would have adopted new technologies to maintain distinction and efficiency, it’s hard to tell what support it would have got from the powers to be. The regulation and governance not in tune with the latest advances could have been the stumbling block on the digital transformation. The education governance system in India is based upon norms and standards and not so much on outcomes. As such digital transformation was a difficult proposition before the pandemic.

COVID‐19 has disrupted many higher education aspects, including how students are recruited, admitted, and enrolled. How will higher education institution meet the realities of a post‐pandemic world?

Education institutions are quite agile and forward looking unlike what they are perceived to be. They have been biggest hit by the pandemic even though it never acquired a shape of national debate like other sectors. Yet they kept their chin high and continued to serve the students despite all odds. We are all looking forward to a post pandemic world where pragmatism is combined with the latest technologies through which we can achieve our aims in a better manner. We rather welcome the post pandemic world with open hands. We do know the realities have changed and will change more. But that is something we have been preparing for, for quite some time. The pandemic has accelerated that preparation and we are well prepared for a world that is post pandemic.

What are the significant challenges in the higher educational system today? How can the latest technologies solve them?

The significant challenges in higher education system have remained the same that is the core issues. The core issues like quality of instruction, student experience, inclusion and access and above all preparing students for the VUCA World.

The technologies as we know are the aid to manage a thought. More than the technologies, I think what would aid significantly is the changed thought process of approaching these core issues. Availability of technology helps the acceleration of thought. Technology makes it possible for us to serve the unserved and derive and measure outcomes which we always wanted to. Through technology we can deliver more personalised education, differentiated instruction and instead of one size fits all approach take up approaches which are meaningful to each individual.

The pandemic has brought online learning providers into the spotlight. How is Ajeenkya DY Patil University responding to it?

First of all, we believe that the onset of online learning providers have expanded the space. We now see more offerings than ever before. Knowledge is not confined to be delivered by a few who had rights for credentialing. What this means is that true value will only prevail whereas credentials will be just a side story. Till now everything revolved around credentials. Not anymore. We understand this. In fact we have been conscious that coming years will rely on real value delivery more than the medium and the credentials. As such we have been strengthening our intellectual base, human capacity and capability to deliver cutting-edge instruction. We call ourselves an Innovation University purely in response to the modern day challenges. For us innovation is a three sixty degree pursuit hinging on 3 I’s. Innovation in delivery of education, innovation in nature of programs we deliver and innovation as an outcome of our academic rigor. This is what separates us from several others.

In India, how badly are students going to be set back by not having formal instruction? What are the efforts of Ajeenkya DY Patil University to control the damage?

Students are most suffered throughout this pandemic. The children and the young did not have a voice, but they have suffered immeasurably. Instruction is not just teaching is to be clearly understood. Learning is environment, learning is peer learning, learning is collaboration, learning is experience. All this is missed due to lack of formal instruction. Online instruction has its own advantages, but it cannot fulfil the gap created by lack of formal instruction. More importantly present circumstances do not leave a choice for the student to choose the medium to learn. The same was before pandemic as well. We are Ajeenkya DY Patil University wish to continue to deploy the gains of online instruction and intersperse with on campus experience. We have been doing so before pandemic by making students choose online MOOC’s by curating MOOC’s each semester. That small step will be intensified. We also intend to make work from home for 2 days in week a norm for all staff. We intend to deploy a lot of analytical tools to assess student learning and to deploy adaptive assessment for measuring student learning. We are deploying competency based transcript system with a digital portfolio for students to report student learning in a better and deeper manner to the employers.

How will higher education change in the Post pandemic era?

Higher education will never be the same again. If it was operating from a position of authority before it is not forced to operate with a position of responsibility. Once again while we hear quite a lot about technology and education what is changing is the possibility mindset and ushering in new, fresh thinking. This will bring about tremendous change associated with exponential growth in terms of value. Higher education will once again regain its relevance by being disseminator of knowledge and values and realise the true meaning of education. which in Latin is “educere” that is to lead out.

What are the precautionary measures universities must take when they reopen? What is the D Y Patil -model that other colleges in the country can follow?

First of all universities, colleges and schools must reopen. I have said this time and again that educational institutions are the most disciplined of fraternities after the armed forces. We understand limitations and rules and are used to following them and enforcing them. The amount of harm that locking the campuses has brought to the students is unprecedented. Unfortunately not much discussion is happening about that. We hear discussions around hospitality industry, retail industry, but we hardly hear discussions about Education. That’s disturbing.

In regards to universities, as the vaccination coverage increases from 18+ onwards our basic focus is on getting all our staff vaccinated. We intend to do that by July 30. We would be asking the students to do so before they attend campus. We have developed protocols to handle scenarios in the likelihood of a probable infection such as testing, isolation and tracing. Extensive and continued sensitisation amongst the community for maintaining safety norms will be carried out on a regular basis using variety of medium of communications. Bestowed with a large green campus, we are planning to hold a large number of activities outdoors so that the risks are minimal. Adding a hybrid mode of learning will ensure that the students experience practical activities on campus and some part of their learning is carried out through online medium from the safety of their own premises.

What are the immediate plans of Ajeenkya DY Patil University?

In January this year, we unveiled a new vision and implementation plan to transform education through Innovation in Learning. This is a plan combines technology with education objectives in order to transform the learning experience at ADYPU. We understand that teaching and learning is a core function of a university and we are making focussed efforts in order to enhance and transform this function. We studied what motivates today’s generation, implications on today’s learning environment, identified attributes of a teaching-learning university and evolved a framework of essential processes. We are very much thick into the implantation of this vision. Simultaneously we have set aside financial resources to invest in new technologies so that we try new ones and adopt them faster than others to keep a lead and serve our students better.

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