Role of ICT in Higher Education: An Appraisal

Anupama Khera*
*Research Scholar, Dept. of Mass Communication,
Assam University, Silchar

Abstract

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an indispensable part of the contemporary world. In fact, it is a force that has changed many aspects of people’s ways of life. Global information society cannot develop without highly motivated individuals who move beyond the ordinary and secure sustainable development in their region through their innovation and creativity with new media and Information Communication Technology (ICT). The use of ICT for promoting education and development has always been a part of the policy and plan documents on education. It increases the flexibility of delivery of education so that learners can access knowledge anytime and from anywhere. It can influence the way students are taught and how they learn as now the processes are learner-driven and not by teachers. This in turn would better prepare the learners for lifelong learning as well as to contribute to the industry. It can improve the quality of learning and thus contribute to the economy. Especially in developing countries like India, the effective use of ICT for the purpose of education has the potential to bridge the ‘digital divide’.Thus, the aim of the present paper is to examine the role and need to appraise information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in higher education.

Introduction

Education is a powerful instrument of social, political, and economic progress, without which neither an individual nor a society can attain professional growth. It increases the individual’s productive skills and earning power and gives him a sense of well being as well as the capacity to absorb new ideas, increases his social interaction, gives access to improved health, and provides several more intangible benefits. The government of India has taken several initiatives during the Eleventh Five Year Plan period to increase access to higher education by adopting state-specific strategies, enhancing the relevance of higher education through curriculum reforms, Vocational programs, networking, information technology adoption, and distance education along with reforms in governance.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) is an invaluable invention of modern times.  Thus, in the current information society, there is an emergence of lifelong learners as the shelf life of knowledge and information decreases. People have to access knowledge via ICT to keep pace with the latest developments. In such a scenario, education, which always plays a critical role in any economic and social growth of a country, becomes even more important.

ICT tools enable pupils to access, share, analyze, and present information gained from a variety of sources and in many different ways. The use of ICT provides opportunities for pupils to work both collaboratively and independently. As such, the role of ICT within the curriculum is not only to enhance the learning experiences of pupils but also to help them develop the skills essential to participate effectively in world affairs. It encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning and offers problem-centered and inquiry-based learning which provides easy access and information-based resources(V. V. Krishna, 2007).  The success of ICT-based education depends upon the teacher’s ability to keep pace with the developments since teachers are responsible for quality control, improvement of learning and the aggregate effectiveness of the learning process (K. Balasubramanianand Willie Clarke-Kah, 2009). It also generates venues for working in groups developing team spirit, cohesion, and social values.  The recent curriculum framework 2005 as proposed by NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) focuses on the issues of;

  • Connecting knowledge to life outside
  • Shifting from rote learning to constructing knowledge
  • Providing a wide range of experiences for the overall development of a child
  • Bringing flexibility in the examinations

The various kinds of ICT products available and having relevance to education, such as teleconferencing, e-mail, audio conferencing, television lessons, radio broadcasts, interactive radio counseling, interactive voice response system, audio-cassettes, and CD ROMs, etc. have been used in education for different purposes (Bhattacharya and Sharma, 2007).

The use of ICT in education develops higher-order skills such as collaborating across time and place and solving complex real world problems. It improves the perception and understanding of the world of the student. Thus, ICT can be used to prepare the workforce for the information society and the new global economy. ICT education can be classified into three main categories viz., E-Learning, Blended Learning, and Distance Learning.

E-Learning

Electronic learning or e-learning is a general term used to refer to computer-enhanced learning. It is commonly associated with the field of advanced learning technology (ALT), which deals with both the technologies and associated methodologies in learning, using networked and/or multimedia technologies. It is also known as online learning. Distance education provided the base for e-learning’s development. E-learning can be “on-demand”. It overcomes timing, attendance, and travel difficulties. E-learning allows delivery, dialogue, and feedback over the Internet. It allows mass customization in terms of content and exams. E-education can provide access to the best gurus and the best practices or knowledge available (UNESCO, 2002). It is possible to leverage the on-line environment to facilitate teaching techniques like role-play across time and distance. It can also facilitate the development of scenarios, which can be rarely witnessed in practice. ICT can play a valuable role to monitor and log the progress of the students across time, place, and varied activities. E-learning allows higher participation and greater interaction. It challenges the concept that face-to-face traditional education is superior to it (Bhattacharya and Sharma, 2007). The Web and the Internet form the core of ICT to spread education through e-learning. The components include e-portfolios, cyberinfrastructures, digital libraries, and online learning object repositories. All the above components create a digital identity of the student and connect all the stakeholders to education.

E-learning can also eliminate time and geographical barriers in education for learners as well as teachers. It can provide speedy dissemination of education to target disadvantaged groups and offers a combination of education while balancing family and work life. Besides this, it also enhances the international dimension of educational services.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a combination of multiple approaches to learning. It is usually used to define a situation where different delivery methods are combined together to deliver a particular course. These methods may include a mixture of face-to-face learning, self-paced learning, and online classrooms. Face to face learning refers to learning that occurs in a traditional classroom setting where a faculty member delivers instruction to a group of learners. This could include lectures, workshops, presentations, tutoring, conference, and much more. Self-paced learning provides the flexibility to learn according to the availability of learners’ own time and pace, it occurs in a variety of ways such as: reading specific chapters from the textbook, studying course material presented through web-based or CD-based course, attending pre-recorded classes or sessions, reading articles referred by a faculty member, working on assignments and projects, and searching and browsing the Internet.

Online Collaborative Learning. Online collaboration involves interaction between learners and faculty members through the web; this interaction can occur in one of the following modes:

  • Synchronous interaction
  • Asynchronous interaction

Synchronous means “at the same time”. It involves interacting with a faculty member and other learners via the Web in real-time using technologies such as virtual classrooms and/ or chat rooms. On the other hand, Asynchronous means “not at the same time”. It enables learners to interact with their colleagues and faculty member at their own convenience such as by interacting through e-mail.

Distance Learning

It is a type of education where students work on their own at home or at the office and communicate with faculty and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, video-conferencing, chat rooms, instant messaging, and other forms of computer-based communication. It is also known as open learning. Most distance learning programs include a computer-based training (CBT) system and communications tools to produce a virtual classroom.

ICTs also allows for the creation of digital resources like digital libraries where the students, teachers, and professionals can access research material and course material from any place at any time. Such facilities allow the networking of academics and researchers and hence sharing of scholarly material leads to quality enhancement in teaching and learning.

In the absence of ICT, most of the responsibility of teaching and learning lies in the teachers. However, with the help of ICT one can transfer the responsibilities to the students so that they can self-manage. It helps to individualize the teaching or guidance method as per the student’s need. It also boosts the confidence level and the self-esteem of the students who acquire ICT skills through the process of being exposed to such kind of learning. ICT-based registration, evaluation, and administration help to link different levels of information and facilitate an overall view of the whole educational setup. It facilitates the evaluation and examination of the learning process and results by the students and the parents flexibly and conveniently. The globalization process has also created a large market for offshore students. To reach them, information technology is the only convenient medium, which can offer education as a service. It creates competition among the institutions for providing education and hence improves the quality (Cross and Adam, 2007). The experience of many teachers who are early innovators is that the use of ICT motivates the students as well as the teachers themselves. The use of ICT can improve performance, teaching, administration, and develop relevant skills in disadvantaged communities. It also improves the quality of education by facilitating learning by doing real-time conversation, delayed time conversation, directed instruction, self-learning, problem-solving, information seeking and analysis, and critical thinking, as well as the ability to communicate, collaborate and learn.

Review of Literature

Ashish Kumar and Arun Kumar (2005) highlighted the importance of Information Technology (IT) as a modern-day ICT tool that would benefit institutions of higher education in India.    They mentioned the positive perception towards the use of ICT in education. It is also mentioned in their study that students of different universities reported the usage of ICT for communication and for on-line discussion forums. ICTfacilitated contact and information exchange and also promoted access to higher education. They have also revealed that ICT included systems for student admission and records, examination results and transcripts, finance database, human resources database, and management information.

GunmalaSuri (2005) reported that Spanish and Indian universities have been changing fast due to the development of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It was also revealed that user satisfaction is a widely used measure of ICT success.

Magni (2005) in his study describes that ICT helps in providing a good communication system in the higher education system. In his report, he said that ICT helps in providing timely information to all concerned.

HosseinZainally (2008) revealed that ICT has changed the very nature of higher education, allowing information to be transferred, stored, retrieved, and processed by almost all who work, study, or interact with a given institution. The author has also quoted from other research works that there is an increase in managerial effectiveness and efficiency through the usage of ICT. The various research studies conducted to evaluate the extent of usage of ICT in multiple aspects of higher education revealed that heads of faculties utilized technology in planning and to a large extent in the supervision and evaluation of academic affairs, student affairs, financial affairs, and administrative affairs.

Rajeev Singh (2008) has specified that ICT has played a major role in reducing operational inefficiency and improving decision-making in many areas of governance. He said that an integrated Higher Education Service System is one such concept that can empower the governing bodies to administer the progress of the education plan in the whole country and serve various stakeholders in a much better manner.

It is also mentioned that usage of ICT in higher education involves “harnessing technology for better planning, setting standards, effecting change, and monitoring results of the core functions of universities. One of the key conclusions arrived at is that the integration of ICTs in higher education is inevitable (UNESCO, 2009).

Advantages of Adopting IT/ICT in Higher Education Facilitates:

  • Improving the access to the system through online education.
  • Improving the quality of teaching especially across remote locations.
  • Increasing transparency and strengthening systems, processes, and compliance norms in Higher Education Institutes.
  • Measure students learning participation and effectiveness.
  • Analyze student behavior to maximize students’ involvement, optimize retention, and improve placements.
  • Mode of Course Delivery: Distance Learning with course delivery through the Internet (virtual classrooms) satellite and other mediums.
  • Provide a Collaboration Platform: ICT provides a platform linking universities and other agencies for collaborative research on many technology projects and course content development.

Summary

ICT education can be classified into three main categories viz., E-Learning, Blended Learning, and Distance Learning.

Information Technology is considered as a modern-day ICT tool that could benefit institutions of higher education in a country like India. It is found that ICT facilitated contact and information exchange and also promoted access to higher education.

ICT included systems for student admission and records, examination results and transcripts, finance database, human resources database, and management information. User satisfaction is a widely used measure of ICT success. ICT helps in providing timely information to all concerned and provides a good communication system in the higher education system. Hence, the integration of ICT in higher education is inevitable.

Conclusion

In the 21st century, India needs a large number of talented youth with higher education for the task of knowledge acquisition, knowledge imparting, knowledge creation, and knowledge sharing. Hence, the need to appraise ICT facilities in higher education is very necessary. It makes a lot of sense that when a program/product has lasted for some time it should be appraised to assess its effectiveness and work.

The increasing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is bringing changes to teaching and learning at all levels of Higher Education Systems (HESS). Students may use ICT to increase their leisure time and have less time to study. Traditional forms of teaching and learning are increasingly being converted to online and virtual environments. There are endless possibilities with the integration of ICT in the education system. The use of ICT in education not only improves the classroom teaching-learning process but also provides the facility of e-learning, blended learning as well as distance learning. The teaching community can reach remote areas and learners can access qualitative learning environments from anywhere and at any time. Teachers or trainers must be made to adopt technology in their teaching styles to provide pedagogical and educational gains to the learners. Thus, the growing use of ICT as an instructional medium is changing and will likely continue to change many of the strategies employed by both teachers and students in the learning process.

Even small things make a difference. Even if you cannot change people, you could at least make people aware of current changes. Let us all come together and get ready to take up these challenges for a bright future not only for the student community but for the country at large.

REFERENCES

  • Ashish Kumar and Arun Kumar (2005),” IT-based KM for Institutions of Higher Education A Need”, Paper published in A weekly Journal of Higher Education in India from Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi India Vol. 43, No. 30, July 25-31, 2005, pp. 4 – 9
  • Bhattacharya, I. and Sharma, K. (2007), ‘India in the knowledge economy – an electronic paradigm’, International Journal of Educational Management Vol. 21 No. 6, Pp. 543- 568.
  • Carole, S. Integrating ICT as an Integral teaching and Learning Tool into Pre-Service Teacher Training courses, retrieved from http://www.nd.edu.au.
  • Gunmala Suri (2005),” “Organizational culture in ICT implementation and knowledge management in Spanish and Indian Universities: A conceptual Model”, published in A Special Interest Groups of CSI.
  • Hossein Zainally (2008),” Administration of Faculties by Information and Communication Technology and Its Obstacles”, InternationalJournal of Education and Information Technologies, Vol. 2,issue1,2008.
  • K. Balasubramanian and Willie Clarke-Kah, “ICTs for higher education.Background paper from the commonwealth of learning UNESCO,” World Conference on Higher Education Paris, 2009.
  • Magni (2009),” ICT usage in Higher education”, International Technology and Education and Development Conference, Spain March 9-11 2009.
  • Rajeev Singh (2008),” Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration”, Education World 2008.
  • UNESCO (2002) Information and Communication Technology in Education-A Curriculum for Schools and Programme for Teacher Development. Paris: UNESCO.
  • UNESCO,(2002),’ Open And Distance Learning Trends, Policy And Strategy  Considerations’,14 UNESCO.
  • V. V. Krishna, “Universities and emerging national innovation systems,” South Asian (Indian) Experience. 2007.

Internet Sources

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