Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ubiquitous learning

learning: fall out of technological advancement in learning


Dr.K.V.Subramanian,402, 2nd
Main, Canara Bank Colony, Kodigehali,
Bangalore-560097, Ph.080-25533664 (o)

Information technology has made a paradigm shift in the way knowledge
is generated, stored and disseminated to a large and distant audience
in real time, and competency / level of knowledge acquisition, tested
through communication and collaborative technologies. The positives
such as learning anytime and anywhere for anybody, devoid of barriers
of high cost and physical distances, and enabling simultaneous wider
reach, improved quality and standards in the content, variety and
delivery are obvious. Technology has also enabled wider participation
and collaboration by the academic / research community, in the
creation of new frontiers of knowledge cutting cross conventional
disciplines. IT has also enabled moving towards a unified world,
demolished the monopoly power of the privileged few, by enabling
easier and affordable access for anyone, leading to equality of
Opportunity to learn and contribute unobtrusively has enhanced
participation from those preferring to remain anonymous or maintain
low profile, without barriers of age, pre-qualifications, or other
similar impediments. This has encouraged surfacing of isolated
pockets of quality knowledge base and teaching skills, available and
open to use by audience far from the source.
Amidst all the positives, the technology package has brought
in, its share of negatives, from a long term societal point of view.
The underlying potential adverse impacts of the purposes, for which
technology is used, are disturbing. The negatives could gather
momentum and manifest in a few years or a couple of decades from now,
and are likely to hit the developed world, more than the developing
world. This apprehension is based on certain trends in the education
domain, on the use of Information Technology (IT) taking advantage of
the low cost labour (knowledge resources) in the developing world.
There is currently the prevalence of, the practice of outsourcing
home work assignments, research work by PhD scholars, data and case
study analysis and report writing, by students in several parts of
the world, to cheaper BPO /KPO destinations, such as India. Even
online exams are being outsourced to subject specialists in the BPO /
KPO centers, individual teaching faculty / experts in India,
operating unobtrusively and innocuously from their homes, who take
the online exams, on behalf of their clients: students registered
for the test, in the USA or other countries. This has become a line
of business in the BPO / KPO segments, under the broad banner –
e- tutoring .
In this new paradigm, students simply forward via e-mail their class
assignments, home works, case studies for analysis, data search
requirements, report writing, and taking on line exams, to
outsourcing / e tutoring centers / subject experts, to be completed,
at very nominal costs. The service provider is also guided by the
student, on how much score they should aim at, in the on line exams /
quality of the assignments done, to sync with their own known
performance in the class, to dispel any suspicion by their teacher.
The outsourcing agent is paid incentives / imposed penalties
depending on how close he / she is able to meet the desired goal.
The long term implication of such practice is scary. The student who
out sources his / her work, resorts to unfair competition and gains
an unfair competitive advantage, vis-a-vis his/her peers in the
batch, assuming all students do not resort to this practice. The
competence level, as assessed through the evaluation of the
assignment solutions submitted / online tests taken, are a
misrepresentation of the true competence of the candidate, who makes
a claim on the scores, which are actually scores attributed to the
knowledge of the experts, who have worked on these, unobtrusively.
This leads to the assessment process getting reduced to a farce,
unfair grading of students, unrest among the student community,
misleading inferences on competence of the candidate to perform a
task, erosion of credibility of the examination / evaluation system,
danger of incompetent candidates put on critical jobs needing minimum
competence levels and in the long run, resulting in a situation where
society is left with few competent people to handle technically
demanding jobs.
The evaluation and examination system will fail to perform its role
of defining benchmarks and assessing competency and delivering truly
competent human resources, to meet needs of various sectors in the
economy. This is likely to create a huge shortage of competent
employable experts, akin to the issue of non-employability of fresher
passing out of technical institutions, at present, in developing
countries, like India. We can expect and should prepare for severe
shortage of qualified personnel with competency to deliver, in the
long run.
A scenario of the above nature but of a different manifestation, was
feared in the wake of the explosive growth of the BPO / IT
our-sourcing industry in destinations like India, where the IT and
related sectors could suck out qualified candidates, from all other
technical disciplines, driven by the short term lure offered by the
IT and outsourcing industry. This has now been realized as a
sub-optimum utilization of scarce technical resources, developed at
high societal costs and also reverse resource flow. The scenario is
akin to trading our long term (Human) capital build up and strategic
interests, for short term consumption income.
Outsourcing activities do not add to human capital value of the
service provider personnel involved, but only meet short term
business needs of service providing business organizations, in
developing countries and labor needs for fulfilling menial jobs at
low costs, of client organizations, in developed countries.
The long spell of IT and ITES boom has done its own damage in
shifting the balance of educational preferences, employment choices
in favor of IT sector, to the detriment of other productive and
strategic sectors. This damage caused to the developing world during
the IT boom era can be expected to be inadvertently, paid back to
the developed world in the emerging e tutoring driven practices,
mentioned above.
This shortage of skilled technical personnel in non IT disciplines is
already felt and has started tilting the balance in favor of non IT
technical education and employment opportunities, after a lag of more
than a decade. This is clearly evidenced by the increasing
remuneration levels in sectors such as Physical infrastructure,
Retail, Telecom, Real Estate, Manufacturing and Hospitality.
There is a need for human capital accounting systems at the national
level, just like a financial accounting and production accounting
systems, to track and take stock of accretion and attrition of
quality human resources. Such an accounting system shall assign
differential weight-age to various skill disciplines, their
deployable quantity and quality, and take periodic assessments
through a Balance sheet / Score Card, to assess their productive
worth, at various longitudinal stages. The outcome of such an
exercise shall be used for assessment of governmental performance,
and tracking and reporting at global level, similar to the Human
development index. Arresting and reversing this trend is a major
challenge. The developing and developed world needs to introspect and
act on how to tame this undesirable trend.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Commonwealth Professional Fellowships

Commonwealth Professional Fellowships

Closing Date: 30 April 2009

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in 2009 will once again be providing funds for UK organisations to host visits from mid career professionals from the developing Commonwealth whose work is critical to the development of their home country. This will be the eighth year that the Scheme has operated with around sixty five awards now being offered each year to a variety of organisations including NGOs, professional membership bodies, local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations, as well as organisations within the central government and private sectors.

Commonwealth Professional Fellowships support programmes of professional development designed to have a catalytic effect in developing skills that will subsequently be applied in a developing Commonwealth country. Funding will be provided for programmes of typically three months duration, although requests for funding for shorter or longer programmes of up to six months will be considered in exceptional circumstances. Applications are being sought for programmes providing professional development opportunities to individuals in the broadly defined fields of education, engineering/science/technology, environment, governance, public health and agriculture/fisheries/forestry (this one is new for 2009). Applicants should be capable of devising a coherent and relevant programme and of identifying suitable recipients through existing organisational networks. Fellowships cover the full cost of travel to the UK, living expenses, some UK travel and other approved short course and conference expenses and a contribution to host organisation costs.

The closing date for applications is 30 April 2009. Further details including our

Prospectus and Application Form are available from the Commission’s website at: or from the

Commonwealth Scholarship Commission,

c/o The Association of Commonwealth

Universities, Woburn House, 20 – 24 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HF, tel: 020

7380 6734, fax: 020 7387 2655, email: