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Smart And Digital Universities Are Going To Be A Reality

Bhimraya Metri, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Nagpur explains how teaching and learning habits at the institution adapted to the next normal.

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, adapting to the change to fulfill business requirement by shifting from face-to-face business activities at the workplace to remotely performing from home or anywhere is a sign of permanent change. Bhimraya Metri, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Nagpur explains how teaching and learning habits at the institution adapted to the next normal.

For the last two years now, professionals have adapted to, innovated and developed the expertise to chart their growth and work in a flexi and hybrid environment. The last two months have exhibited some signs of the disappearance of Covid-19 and return of normalcy. In the next normal, the business landscape has fully embraced the hybrid environment, which is partially physical and partially virtual. We can say the business landscape has been changed to phygital (physical + digital) mode.

Staying Ahead

Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Nagpur, among the newer IIMs, doesn’t have a legacy. It has already revised the curriculum keeping in mind the massive disruption and developed modern pedagogy which includes digital payments, gamification and simulation exercises. The institution has also set up multidisciplinary centres including two Section 8 companies. This supports entrepreneurship, building a startup culture that is focused on research capabilities while providing holistic perspectives as envisaged in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.  

The institute has fully adopted new-age technologies to offer the most current and relevant programmes to the students and working professionals who will be lifelong learners. Keeping the generation Y and Z in mind, IIM Nagpur is also preparing itself by developing audiovisual caselets, brief cases in place of traditional cases. And the future belongs to augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality. And education institutions need to gear up to fully make use of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR).

IIM Nagpur has already set up its campus in Pune, one of India’s largest traditional as well as modern education hubs, to sharpen the skills of working professionals. The institute is also setting up its campus in Hyderabad, one of the leading IT destinations. It is also planning to set up its international campus in Singapore in the near future.

Five Permanent Changes

Rigidity to agility: Here rigidity is going to be stupidity. Future belongs to an agile workplace, quickly shifting from one context to another.

The leadership style: There are two types of leadership changes. Contextual leadership, which is essential for success and growth as and when disruption happens. Whether leaders change or not the leadership style has to change. Leaders also have to provide leadership remotely to manage virtual teams located remotely at different locations. Since nowadays digital disruption is a continuous phenomenon, digital leadership is also taking a central place in the organisation. The second change is around empowered leadership. Instead of dictating and directing, leaders now have to empower young minds to provide innovative and relevant solutions to the present world.

Speed vs size: The pace of change has taken over the size of the organisation. Those who move ahead of time, faster than fast, to capture the new technology, will lead the disruptive world, irrespective of how big the organisation is or how tall the leader is.

Connecting the dots: There are tightened conversions of the physical and cyberspace into the cyber-physical system (CPS) to become fully technology transformed and interconnected to a super-smart world. In this CPS, people, things and systems all are connected in cyberspace and optimal results are opted by artificial intelligence (AI). In the CPS, the focus has been on the individual and customised services and products that need them precisely at the time they are needed which depicts the data-driven business landscape.

There is a synergistic interconnection between human abilities and AI capabilities, where humans explore and enhance their combined abilities of AI, which is called the ‘Internet of Abilities’ (IoA). The IoA will bring the change in human behaviour and it will bring the new aspect called the Internet of Behavior (IoB). Thus, the world is in IoT-IoA-IoB.

Mindset change towards ESG: The recent COP26 discussion shows that the corporate world is rapidly shifting towards ESG (environment, sustainability and governance) to get into a sustainable business model.

Placements & Internships

Due to the pandemic, the traditional placement process has shifted from physical mode to virtual mode. Despite the pandemic, the institute placement has always remained 100 per cent, with a continuous rise in average and median salaries. As such, the pandemic has not set back either the placement process or the payment package. Nevertheless, it has brought down the cost, accelerated the entire process.

IIM Nagpur has a strong connect with the industry for its internship, placements and executive education. This year IIM Nagpur became the first amongst the IIMs to complete its placement with a higher average and median package as compared to previous years. IIM Nagpur has added 40 per cent of new companies for its placement and summer internship.

The curriculum has to be relevant to the disruptive world. All routine and mundane jobs are taken over by machines due to automation and AI. The shelf life of skills has come down due to disruption. Newer jobs are getting created that demand newer skills. By the time students complete their HEIs, they need to take up unknown roles in unborn companies and unknown environments. In this changing landscape of the education ecosystem, the curriculum needs to be updated regularly to make it relevant to the present world. To provide new generation skills. Building competency through skills is not enough. There is a need to develop the mindset of students to build the capabilities to manage and lead to play the unknown roles.

Digital and design too are important growth drivers. In the current continual digital disruptive world, the education sector needs to be rebuilt with the latest and current technologies. So the future education institutions are smart universities and digital universities that can offer relevant education to align as per the business world. In the future, education offerings need to be fully customised such as face-to-face education, online education, hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous systems as per the individual needs of the students.

Keeping this in mind, Kerala has already started a digital university and Maharashtra too has set up a committee to set up such a university.

The final strategic driver to bear in mind is a new pedagogy, the phenomena based learning. In this changing world, learner-centric and learner-focused education is going to make a difference. This demands a disruptive approach to learning. The powerful pedagogy may be phenomena based learning (PhenoBel). Finland is the first country to adopt PhenoBel. In PhenoBel pedagogy, a group of students work on a given situation for achieving certain objectives. A group of faculty members will provide mentorship and assistance to achieve those goals.

For instance, to learn a course on mergers and acquisitions in a business school, as part of PhenoBel, a group of students will take the course as a project. And in this course, a faculty will advise the students on how to merge the two cultures. A faculty from business law will provide the input for statutory and legal requirements apart from contractual obligations. A faculty member from the strategy will advise on strategies of both the companies. A faculty from information systems will advise on digital architecture and enterprise resource planning. Similarly, a faculty from operational management may advise on how to synergise the two operating systems.

The other powerful pedagogies one can use are project-based learning, gamification, global emergence programme. This pedagogy will not only build competency but also capabilities for the learners. It will help students to get a growth and problem-solving mindset.

Reskilling Faculty

IIM Nagpur has created a conducive environment for the faculty members to upgrade themselves to the next orbit and to remain relevant to the changing world. There are also continuous interaction and informal feedback mechanisms to continuously inspire the faculty members to adapt to and evolve in new pedagogy tools and techniques. The institution has established strategic partnerships with global B-schools for new learner-centric teaching methods and cutting-edge research. The institution has also established a strong industry connect. As a part of the policy, the industry professionals are invited to interact and share with faculty and students the current trends and future perspectives of the industry.

During the last two months, second-year MBA students are undergoing a hybrid mode of education with around 50 per cent of students in the classroom and the rest attending remotely. IIM Nagpur has developed all-digital technologies to launch the hybrid mode. Students and faculty have adapted to the hybrid mode of education. IIM Nagpur has also introduced new courses to keep students relevant to the current world. Also, a project-based global immersion programme, execution strategy course and professional management programme courses have been introduced.

The future of management studies in India is dynamic. There are unlimited opportunities and possibilities to experiment and come up with customised programmes and courses. In future, smart universities and digital universities are going to be the realities in India and elsewhere.