Modern university demands foundational changes

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Modern university demands foundational changes

In the 21st century, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, a university has turned an institution with a physical campus on land and a virtual campus in space, in the clouds where all stakeholders are continuously connected; work is collaborated, and knowledge generation and dissemination is co-created. It is now not only in the campus where learning takes place, but is anywhere-anytime. It has now been customized in terms of learner-first approach where faculty have individualized teaching/learning plans for learners, facilitating each student to learn at her best-suited pace according to her abilities. Now, time has come to put the testing to the test where grades should match the learning outcomes. Due to personalizing learner experience, besides teaching, now faculty also play their role as human engineers, curriculum developers, innovators, counsellors, creative thinkers and most importantly academic auditors.

University has always been devoted to propagate and craft understanding and deliver quality education. In modern times, besides routines, a university has some additional but unconventional duties/responsibilities for its sustained & hallmark existence.

The student's capacity to learn and expand the best potential returns from her institutional experience depends upon the institutional ethos favourable to learning. What it takes to succeed in new regulatory landscape depends upon that a University should have a reason that connects and inspires the society as a whole and its approach must match its vision and mission.

The University should have an ambiance to support discourse, dialogue, and even divergences, which edifies how to live in a world where everyone is not comparable, and everyone does not concur. It should be a place where it is acceptable to have strongly differed opinions on any idea. For the fruitful discussion to happen, the University must be a protected platform for students and faculty to express their ideas.

The University in this part of the world has to develop Foundational Capacities of Transformational Readiness. With the tempo of transformation breathing down the neck of a university, a better one knows that it must settle in, change, and keep up the pace to compete with the world.

University teachers must start to personalize learning to combine their well-received offline ways of dissemination with digital technology by means of analytics to tailor the course according to the needs of individual learners and highlight their competencies rather than finishing the content. To blend the basics of "Brick and Click" education with asynchronous self-paced learning proves much efficient than face-to-face or an online one. This should now be a routine practice because its importance has increased in 2020, and the reasons are best known to all of us.

The University should take the initiative to redesign courses across the disciplines and may implement a flipped model. Under the banner of this model, university students be provided the course material in advance and be asked to go through it before coming to the classroom in-person. The concerned teacher should be encouraged to discuss the content in a dialogical way where students actively participate and experience that they are the equal knowledge shareholders, which may inturn help teachers lessen the burden and use their time more resourcefully.

A University should strive for adaptive learning, which uses analytic ways to check the level of mastery a student has reached. It offers just-in-time opportunity that addresses the unique needs and aspirations of individual learners. It also articulates the vision of equity to direct in creating everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. It helps to guide every struggling learner through a challenging discourse. It also anticipates in advance what resources are needed to enhance mastery.

The University students come from varied backgrounds with a particular frame of mind for teaching and learning. They possess different experiences and levels with different study habits. A good fraction of students at the university level is carrying family responsibilities also. For them, competency-based education will be an attractive option, ignoring the credit value of a course but weighing the mastery level related to her learning outcomes. In this way, a reward shall be granted to a student based on the level of her subject knowledge/skills than the level of time she has spent in a particular course. The offering of these competency-based courses can also help those working, and for them, an option should be given to complete the course through online competency testing.

In each academic year, some students are at risk of falling behind, and there are multiple factors for it. In some cases, it is the University that pushes a student to fall. A university thus should identify those students and should develop data indicators to predict a student who is at risk. Predictive modeling can be one of the identification options through which besides university/course regulations, student's previous record, including academic achievement, family background and demographic characteristics, is used. Once a student at risk is identified, University can intervene effectively to make her come back on the track.

Those students who have clear thought in choosing the course or career at higher education most of the time remain on track. It is the responsibility of the University to introduce a guided pathway, which should comprise academic maps with specific advisories for students in career choices.

There are many diverse obstacles that compel students to discontinue their studies, and most of these may be clashes in timings for accessing the class, transport, or examination. A university should activate student-focused operations and settle in to the desires of a swift, persuasive, and varying student community by offering flexible provisions with a greater sense of connection. The authorities should utilize their best services to help students respond efficiently to these challenges.

There are many individuals, associations, organizations, and industries outside the University who can prove very helpful for students' success. An institute that forms a strong bond with organizations outside offers its students an extra opportunity for their prosperous career. The University should explore the possibilities to have MOUs with these organizations and industries, and the support from diverse stakeholders will definitely help its graduates to secure a successful career.

To conclude, why are some universities significantly successful when it comes to their perception, outreach and outcome? It is because they are not lost in 'What to do'; instead, they continuously strive for 'how best they can do'. A university must marshal its troops, line-up its optimum reserves, develop committed & motivated human resource, embrace originality & novelty, encourage every stakeholder, and continue to strive relentlessly for quality improvement. To be capable of cherishing this type of foundational change, strong leadership should champion the endeavour.

Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Central University of Kashmir

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