(This interview was originally published in the September 2017 Issue of India Today Aspire.)
Vikas gupta is a well-known name in the education and publishing industry in India today. He is the President of Association of Publishers in India (API), the promoter-member of the Education Promotion Society of India(EPSI) and also the Managing Director of Wiley India (the Indian subsidiary of one of the largest global educational publishing houses). An engineer and alumnus of ISB, throughout his career, Vikas has started and ran multiple businesses, and also brought about many new models in the space of technology-driven education, in research and faculty development, professional certifications and skill development in new areas such as big data and analytics, digital marketing and transformation, and in models that bridge the industry-academia gap. He is also the author of IT books which have sold millions of copies worldwide, and is known to be a mentor and advisor to numerous start-ups, professionals and students looking for guidance in areas of business, profession and career.
Q and A:
Question: Over the years, you have seen various education models evolve. This an age of disruption, so what are some of the interesting learning models we see nowadays and will see in future?
Answer: Learning and education models have truly undergone immense changes, especially in the last 10 years, and will continue to be disrupted. Earlier, teaching and learning was a liner process flowing from the teachers to students in a classroom, and students learnt from the teachers’ and educators’ knowledge and experiences. Today, the expectation of a learner is to learn anytime, anywhere, personalized to his or her learning style. So, a one-size-fits-all education model does not work anymore. Multiple innovative options are available to learners and teachers to choose from, based on their learning preferences and background- such as learning by doing, collaborative or social learning, anytime anywhere learning, learning through gamification and virtual reality, adaptive learning, mentored learning – the list is endless. Learning is not restricted to classrooms anymore, or, I would say, probably has moved beyond schools and universities. These days, many start-ups are doing innovative work in education space, and most big corporates also provide certifications – and may be in future, would even award degrees! Overall, learning is more outcome focused and is not restricted to a classroom or a textbook.
Question: Do you think technology is the key driver in education today, and can replace textbooks or human trainers?
Answer: We need to understand that technology is just an influencer and enabler, and can never replace human interventions or the values of remediation. Think of pure online learning such as MOOCs- a trainer teaches and thousands of students just hear. Majority of learners are unable to learn as it may not suit their individual learning style. It is again, in a way, a one-size-fits-all format. This is why pure online learning is not always successful, especially in cases of test prep and certifications where the barrier to passing is high. While technology helps in making good quality training available without any restrictions on time or geographical regions, the value of learning will always depend on how learning is imparted and what is the ultimate outcome- how empowered a student is after the learning. Similarly, a textbook is only a medium to convey learning to readers. Technology has given various new formats now to convey this learning, and made it possible to learn anytime, anyway and anywhere.
Question: What innovative ways are you observing globally in university education?
Answer: Universities are keen on attracting best students and also recruiters – to this end, many innovative formats of teaching and learning are adopted within universities nowadays. One such model is the flipped classroom, where the core concepts are learnt by online methods, while classrooms are dedicated to more substantial discussions and peer to peer interactions. This enhances the learning outcome immensely. Universities today adopt experiential learning as well as enhanced industry interaction through internships or job-focused and application oriented courses, thus creating a new ecosystem for learners, faculty as well as recruiters to create and place an industry-ready talent pool.
Question: What would be your advice to students and professionals of the current generation?
Answer: One key thing to remember would be to make learning a continuous process. Remember, skills rated highly now will become obsolete tomorrow, as more and more functions become automated and more innovations are made in AI, machine learning, etc. So while colleges give us core knowledge, we need to continuously enhance our skills. Secondly, this is an age of hybrid skills, and you need to have multiple skills to be successful. Financial professionals need to upskill in new marketing techniques or data science. Sales professional need to also have a good understanding of various domains they work in. Digital Marketing, IoT, machine learning, data analytics, social and mobile techniques are some key skills one needs to have today, so no matter whether you are a professional, student or teacher, do keep learning.