2020 has been the birthplace of many new cultures and practices that were once thought to be dormant. Due to the pandemic that struck the globe, several institutions and workplaces opted for a work from the home initiative. It in turn leads to a better working and productive environment. While it was easy for corporations to work from their homes, the educational institutions too opted for a work from home initiative wherein online classes and assessments could be carried out virtually. Following these footsteps, a reputable educational institution named Jain took one such initiative in Bangalore and they started Jain Online.
Jain online is part of a new learning initiative where they are offering online degree courses accredited by recognized associations in offering courses around BBA, MBA, BCom, MCom, and other such commerce-related streams. Every course is packed with various assessments, online classes, recorded lectures and much more. It’s quite an innovative forefront where the entire course is taken up online and offers feasibility for students to take up their course from the comfort of their houses at depressing times like these. To learn more about it and understand what gave way to such an ideology, Bangalore Insider had a brief discussion with Dr. Raj Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Jain Online to learn more. All the excerpts from the interview are given as follows.
Firstly, all the very best for your EdTech venture in the form of JAIN Online. Bangalore Insider wishes you all the success for the same. This was a great year for EdTech companies in general, no doubt led by the increasingly virtual lives we’ve led due to the impact of social distancing. How do you look at India’s education ecosystem from the context of the last 2 years?
I look at very interesting phase starting for Indian education, particularly the higher education. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world having over 35 million enrollments, 40000 plus colleges and about 1000 Universities. As we move into the future, our education system will be shaped and impacted by the consequences of COVID-19, the technological advancements (particularly Industry 4.0 technologies) and the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Though the NEP was announced in July 2020, the regulatory framework in the country is being redefined since the time the policy drafting committee was formed in 2015 and particularly during last 2-3 years. It may not be inappropriate to say that many of these changes have put the regulatory framework ahead of what our Institutions and professors have been thinking about and now we as the teachers have no one to blame, except ourselves, for poor quality of education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a redefining period for education the world over including India. The willingness to change is the highest ever among teachers, administrators, parents and students. The blended mode of education delivery is going to stay almost for all times to come. Though these changes were imminent to happen, they have been advanced by at least 5 years due to COVID. Though the positives and negatives of Online and blended learning are still being debated, some benefits are certain like; students will be able to learn from the best Indian and foreign teachers, they will have flexibility, wider options leading to interesting pathways and a possibility of working along with their studies, at least on part-time basis. The teachers will innovate and design superior course designs, teaching-learning methodologies and assessment methods.
If we were to talk about the overall state of India’s education sector today, what’re your most cherished moments from the broad impact that you’ve created so far in your professional career in terms of delivering both student and societal goals and objectives?
While there have many unique initiatives that I can cite to answer this question but some of them are particularly worth mentioning. I have been advocating inter and trans-disciplinary flexible education for almost 15 years even though they have found place in regulations only during last five years or so. I strongly believe that inter-disciplinarity (e.g. humanities courses in engineering curriculum) is extremely important to expand learning opportunities for students in order to enable them acquire higher order thinking skills (HOTS).
During the COVID period we have developed a unique pedagogy (or more appropriately called andragogy) involving students in trans-disciplinary projects in every semester. These projects will be based on real problems of the society and community and finding innovative solutions to them and will thus, enable us to take education to the intersection of research and practice. For University, this approach will ensure large number of patents, their commercialization leading to start-ups and large number of high quality publications.
Gradually but certainly, I have able to influence the learning activities to shift outside the classrooms ensuring higher learning with less or negligible stress for students and at the same time making them more employable, sensitive and sensible citizens of the society. I am a strong proponent of using global benchmarks and still remaining locally relevant as advocated by the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission in India.
How much of a challenge do you think it will be for JAIN to create employability or/both entrepreneurship among the individuals who wish to choose JAIN to further their academic career? Is there an institutional mechanism whereby entrepreneurship is actually given the real-world experience of promising ideas being incorporated as a company?
Yes. Entrepreneurship has always been a focus at JAIN. The DST sponsored incubation Centre and Chenraj Roychand Centre for Entrepreneurship as an accelerator have already enabled over 80 successful start-ups involving hundreds of students and alumni. As we undertake our journey called JAIN 2.0 this year, we have put in place an extremely innovative concept wherein every student irrespective of the discipline he/she belongs to will not only work on a new project with the objective of developing a patentable idea and a start-up, but will also work on actual business/ practice in the experience schools we have established and are currently being beta-tested. We believe that not every student will be able to turn into an entrepreneur but everyone will certainly become more enterprising and an intrapreneur. The concept of experience schools will provide every student to earn while learning and bring in a sustainability for students, parents, teachers and staff and for the University apart from making the University become NEP compliant and supportive of all national missions like Atmanirbhar Bharat and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
What’re the challenges you’ve faced from an operational point of view in allocating and deploying capital towards establishing JAIN Online? How has the Student Experience been designed considering the fact that many institutions are adopting a dual online-offline mode of learning?
The main distinguishing feature of JAIN (Deemed-to-be University), in all its programmes, is emphasis on apprenticeship and entrepreneurship. JAIN has been offering high quality programs in regular mode for 30 years now and has extremely rich experience. Apart from being accredited with high NAAC grade and being in top 100 Universities as per NIRF, our unique approach has been to develop professional competence through co-curricular activities and extra-curricular activities which finds a flavour even in the design of online degree programs. With use of technology and innovative program designing (meticulously mapped with skills needed by industry and other sectors) make us stand apart from most of our contemporaries. Having partnered with some of the best industry partners like LinkedIn, Great Learning and others, we have created a culture of “Co-habiting, co-creating and co-owning” curriculum with industry.
According to you, how much of an issue exactly is the ‘gap’ between industry and academia? Having witnessed this first hand in your career, how have you gone about tackling this issue?
I think this is a great question and the issue raised is the concern of every stakeholder including industry. One of the ways is to implement in true sense ‘Learning outcome based Curriculum Framework (LOCF)’. The curriculum design process has to begin with the end in mind. This requires a total mindset change for teachers. To make sure that we implement at JAIN (Deemed-to-be University), we collaborated with LinkedIn and prepared a comprehensive list of skillsets required in various industries and sectors. This list was mapped with the feedback from our large number of recruiters and finalized. It was made sure that these skills are included in program outcomes and course outcome in all the schools of the University. The teaching-learning methods and each instrument of assessment and examinations is mapped so that we accurately measure the attainment of outcomes at all levels. In finalization of curriculum, all stakeholders including students and alumni are involved along with the industry. The process ensures the following to be part of education delivery process:
Expanding the learning opportunities for students and shifting the learning activities to move outside the classroom.
Making research an integral part of the education process and then take research to innovation so that we find solutions to real-life issues and problems
EdTech companies are encouraged to be incubated on University Campus.
Leverage technology to harness the human ingenuity of faculty and young students and implement blended learning.
With so many online education ventures being set up in India in the last 5 years (excluding the venture capital-driven entities like BYJU’s, Vedantu, and Unacademy who’re inverting themselves from online to offline – think BYJUs acquisition of Aakash) targeting virtually every segment of India’s large under-graduate and post-graduate student population, how do you see JAIN make its presence felt and differentiate itself by leveraging its legacy in Bangalore?
This question touches one of my major concerns. Most institutions are using contents developed by third parties. While it may serve the immediate purpose, it does not ensure the implementation of a University’s vision, mission, values and philosophies distinctively. To do this, we need unique differentiated contents and pedagogies that reflect the philosophy of education a University follows. Internal development of contents also ensures enrichment of our teachers as they originally create contents, pedagogies and assessment tools. Being in the eco-system of Bangalore which is called the silicon valley of not only India but that of Asia, innovation become a natural way at JAIN. It facilitates interaction with the best industry professionals, helps in focussing on entrepreneurship and motivates the students and teachers to excel through the vibrancy of the city.
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