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Role of ICT in Enhancing Scale, Quality, and Reach of TVET in India

  • Ajay BalakrishnanEmail author
  • Srividya Sheshadri
  • Akshay Nagarajan
  • R Unnikrishnan
  • Sreeram Kongeseri
  • Rao R. Bhavani
Living reference work entry

Abstract

India’s skill requirement calls for millions of individuals to be formally trained and qualified for employment. What underlies an acknowledged dearth of skilled labor, impeding India from reaching its potential, are issues of quality, standardization, and accessibility to skill development, especially to and within existing vocational training programs. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reiterated the urgent need for improved inclusion in skill development among socially and economically vulnerable groups to strengthen the prospect of decent employment and income generation, as indicated in the sub-goal of SDG 4 on quality education. Skill development practitioners and academicians recognize information communication and technology (ICT) as a critical component in addressing issues of inclusivity, quality, and standardized skill development. Discussion of ICT-integrated TVET primarily takes place in the context of formal training; however, a significant portion of skill development in India takes place along the lifelong learning continuum, outside of the formal context. This chapter, therefore, takes a wider perspective to review how ICT is reforming TVET delivery practices in India across formal, nonformal, and open and distance learning settings.

Keywords

ICT TVET TVET reforms India Technology Teaching and learning 

Introduction

India’s skill requirement calls for millions of individuals to be formally trained and qualified for employment. What underlies an acknowledged dearth of skilled labor, impeding India from reaching its potential, are issues of quality, standardization, and accessibility to skill development, especially to and within existing vocational training programs. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reiterated the urgent need for improved inclusion in skill development among socially and economically vulnerable groups to strengthen the prospect of decent employment and income generation, as indicated in the sub-goal of SDG 4 on quality education (United Nations 2015):

SDG 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship.

Skill development practitioners and academicians recognize information communication and technology (ICT) as a critical component in addressing issues of inclusivity, quality, and standardized skill development (British Council 2016, Chinien 2003). Discussion of ICT-integrated technical vocational education and training (TVET) primarily takes place in the context of formal training; however, a significant portion of skill development in India takes place along the lifelong learning continuum, outside of the formal context. This chapter, therefore, takes a wider perspective to review how ICT is reforming TVET delivery practices in India across formal, nonformal, and open and distance learning settings.

TVET Continuum

A major principle of TVET, as per UNESCO-UNEVOC (2013), is that providers must recognize that learning takes place along a continuum composed of formal, nonformal, and informal education. The barriers associated with access to formal skill development in India are widely recognized and have contributed to a predominantly informally employed labor force. Informal labor systems tend to require people to rely on open and distance learning (ODL) or other nonformal forms of training to acquire skill and employment. UNESCO (2002) defines open and distance learning (ODL) as an “educational process in which all or most of the teaching is conducted by someone removed in space and/or time from the learner, with the effect that all or most of the communication between teachers and learners is through an artificial medium, either electronic or print.” In contrast to formal education, which the OECD describes as structured and learning objectives in alignment with official accreditation bodies, nonformal education (NFE) is generally described as a complementary to formal education, shorter in duration, and flexible structure and can potentially cater to learners’ specialized needs (Schneider 2013). The aspects of short-term training, flexibility in structure and objectives, have lent to the implementation of NFE programs in sidelined communities throughout India (Mitra 2007). This chapter will focus on the role of ICT in training delivery, especially with regard to content development and course delivery.

To preface the larger discussion around ICT-integrated TVET across the lifelong learning continuum, the following section will clarify what is meant by ICT for TVET.

ICT for Teaching and Learning

ICT is a broad term that encompasses radio, television, Internet, mobile, WiFi systems, computer hardware and software, audio and video conferencing, and social media. ICT enables individuals to locate, analyze, share, and present information, knowledge, skills, ideas, and experiences (Latchem 2017).

Media and Technologies: ICT in education may be broadly divided into media and technologies. Technology consists of tools and resources used to support teaching and learning. Current educational technology includes devices such as computers, tablets, mobile devices, telecommunications, network, software, massive open online course (MOOC) platforms, learning management systems (LMS), simulators, etc. The key building block of media, on the other hand, are text, graphics, audio, video, and computing (including animation, simulations, and virtual reality) (Bates 2015). There are models that help determine the selection of media for training based on various factors including context and target audience. In the subsequent sections, the term “ICT for teaching and learning” may interchangeably be referred to as “media and technology.” Also, the term “e-content” refers to digital learning resources such as digital textbooks, workbooks, articles, videos, or multimedia.

ICT-Enhanced Delivery Models: ICT is used by institutions in a variety of delivery models such as blended learning with technology aids, i.e., using videos, presentations, and similar aids, blended learning with flipped and hybrid classrooms, fully online learning such as distance learning initiatives and MOOCs, and the use of open educational resources (OER) in informal learning (Bates 2015), as illustrated in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1

Continuum of ICT-based teaching and learning (based on Bates 2015)

Enabling and Constraining Factors to ICT Implementation

There are a wide variety of factors that influence the success of ICT-enabled training, such as teacher training, pedagogy, technology familiarization, and more, which need to be considered while adopting ICT for teaching and training (Mayer 2014). The literature identifies the following common issues in ICT for teaching and learning: lack of usability and user engagement, which mainly arises from a lack of rigor in the design process and a poor choice of media, and insufficient effort at the institutional level to develop carefully curated e-learning content. Institutions often convert textbooks to online e-books or page turners and expect a change in learning outcome.

The use of evidence-based models for media design that follow learning and design principles such as ADDIE is known to lead to more effective uses of ICT for teaching and learning (Mayer 2014). Higher forms of ICT, such as interactive e-learning, simulations, simulators, and virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR), promote active learning and improve user engagement compared to passive forms of media such as e-books, PowerPoint presentations, and videos. The former forms of technology are considerably more expensive to design and develop; hence, institutions are often required to balance between cost and quality when adopting ICT for teaching and learning. With this background on ICT-integrated TVET, the next section discusses practical instances of ICT for TVET in India along the learning continuum.

ICT for TVET in India

The integration of ICT and blended learning in schools and other higher and distance education through MOOC platforms like edX, Coursera, Khan Academy, etc., is a globally trending practice. ICT-based initiatives initiated by the Government of India (GoI) Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) such as recorded lectures by experts, MOOCs, online-simulated and remote trigger labs, digital libraries, etc. are a growing school education practice in India. ICT integration at the vocational training level, however, is an emerging practice in India and not yet widely implemented for reasons that will be briefly summarized here.

Firstly, a distinguishing factor between the integration of ICT in TVET and conventional school education is that the former involves the use of complex, multimodal technologies that are designed to provide hands-on, kinesthetic learning experiences in addition to cognitive knowledge transfer. Secondly, the varying levels and educational qualifications of the target groups add another level of complexity to the teaching-learning process. In India, there are challenging cultural and structural issues, notably the multiple language requirements for the course curriculum (India has over 22 major languages and hundreds of local dialects), a large number of vocational trades, and the costs involved in undertaking large-scale ICT initiatives which are constraints toward developing universal ICT-enabled content for TVET.

Evidence has emerged, however, that demonstrates ICT-integrated teaching and learning lends to improved quality, standardization, and accessible TVET (British Council 2016). Currently, there are multiple governmental agencies such as the MHRD and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) that fund the development of open-access media and technology for TVET. This is supplemented by intergovernmental bodies such as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and Commonwealth Educational Media Center for Asia (CEMCA) and industry-driven ICT-based skill development solutions promoting the development and the use of open education resources (OER) in distance education. Figure 2 highlights the current ecosystem for e-content and technology for TVET in India. The figure includes initiatives by the GoI ministries and nongovernmental and private agencies that develop and distribute ICT solutions as OER or for paid access.
Fig. 2

E-content and technology ecosystem for TVET in India

Other ICT Enablement Policies and Initiatives: MSDE (2015) recognizes the need for innovative ICT-enabled training models and products to address critical gaps in the skills ecosystem. It highlights the case of over one million institutional buildings and 8000 railways stations with adequate infrastructure facilities and extensive optical fiber cable network that may be leveraged for TVET. Google has enabled WiFi in over 110 railways stations around India and has set a target of 400 stations by the end of 2018 (Tiwari 2017). Rollout of 4G data plans starting at $0.33 per GB and availability of 4G mobile handsets starting at less than $25 (Rudradeep 2017) have propelled India to high mobile consumption with a projection of 11 GB data consumption per active mobile user per month by 2022 (Borde 2017).

The next section will explore in greater depth various initiatives that support ICT-enabled teaching and learning for TVET, across the formal, nonformal, and ODL training scenarios.

Formal TVET Training

TVET delivery in India through forma7l institutions is primarily coordinated by the MSDE. Under the MSDE, the Directorate General of Training (DGT) and NSDC are mandated to impart TVET through their network of industrial training institutes (ITIs) and training providers, respectively. While these agencies are under the same ministry, they operate independently and offer different programs. Hence, in this section, the ICT initiatives of these agencies and its training providers will be discussed separately.

ICT Initiatives by DGT

India’s ITI system is estimated to be the largest vocational training infrastructure in the country with a training capacity of over three million (MSDE 2017). However, studies indicate that issues such as a shortage of skilled instructors, machinery, tools, and space to teach modern technologies impact the quality of training and employability of its students (Tara and Pilz 2016).

The MSDE introduced several reforms to tackle the aforementioned challenges through initiatives such as the upgradation and performance evaluation of ITIs, the establishment of model ITIs, development of ICT-based teaching materials, professional development of trainers, and launch of space-based distance learning (MSDE 2017).

To ensure standardization of training across ITIs, the National Instructional Media Institute (NIMI), an autonomous body under the MSDE, develops courseware in the form of print material – textbooks, instructor guides, assessment guides, visual aids, instructional videos, and e-learning. DVDs of instructional videos of practical procedures are bundled with the print material and are available for sale to learners and trainers. The print material is available in English and in eight Indian languages. Another major initiative of this agency is the development of an open-access platform which hosts e-books and interactive learning materials for over 60 courses in English (NIMI 2016).

State governments are starting to support ICT-based TVET, such as the Chhattisgarh state’s launch of the online learning platform (OLP) to promote ICT-enabled skills training at ITIs and vocational institutions (Skill Reporter 2016). Concerted efforts by stakeholders of the skill development ecosystem to promote ICT-based TVET, such as upgradation of required infrastructure, training the trainer on ICT skills and pedagogy, and ensuring availability of relevant ICT-enabled content in regional languages, are essential to ensure effective adoption. There is a need for further research to better understand the extent to which ICT-enabled teaching and training take place at ITIs and how they can best be introduced given the current infrastructure.

ICT Initiatives of NSDC

The NSDC promotes skill development through the creation of large-scale, high-quality, and for-profit vocational institutions through a private-public partnership (PPP) mode. In addition to financing the skill training providers, the agency works to build the capacity of training providers so that they can deliver high-quality training. The agency supports a network of over 330 private training partners and over 7000 training centers in the country. This agency has undertaken several ICT-based initiatives in an effort to support the sustainable growth of TVET, which will be briefly summarized here.

More than 280 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs) or modern skilling centers have been set up to create benchmark institutions that demonstrate the aspirational value for competency-based skill development training. Each PMKK center is mandated to have at least one classroom equipped with audiovisual facilities and Internet connectivity to conduct virtual training, interactive sessions, and industry seminars/webinars.

The agency’s efforts toward strengthening the delivery of TVET, curriculum, and assessments include various ICT initiatives such as the India Skill Online Portal, an online learning portal for skill aspirants to access online content; Kaushal mart, an online skilling resource marketplace, which aggregates skilling resources and bridges the demand and supply gap, and Kaushal e-Pustakalaya, an Android e-book reader app for reading open-access skill content e-books. While these initiatives are at an early stage, it has set the foundation to build a strong ecosystem for the development and use of quality training content by connecting the training partners and students with content and technology developers.

Blended Learning Practices

The data gathered for this section relies on the author’s own survey, interviews, and descriptions of the institutions from the respective organization’s publications. Surveys and interviews were conducted of TVET providers in India between August and November 2017. Training providers were selected based on their reported use of technology, confirmed by the NSDC, to which the training providers are affiliated. The survey consisted of open-ended questions pertaining to pedagogy, the use of ICT in TVET delivery, and its perceived advantages and challenges. Out of six surveys that were distributed through NSDC, four training providers provided responses. Common usages of ICT among the training providers surveyed consisted of projectors to show PowerPoint presentations and instructional videos in the classroom. The survey results demonstrated that the student progress is often tracked using learning management systems (LMS) and assessment portals. This section will now take a closer look at some current examples of blended learning in practice at training centers.

Technology-Enriched Classrooms: Following the survey, a visit to a training center of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Service (IL&FS) – one of the surveyed training providers – was made to observe the use of ICT in training delivery and collect feedback from trainers and students. IL&FS follows a three-part pedagogy system in their TVET delivery referred to as “show and tell, try, and test” (IL & FS 2015). In the initial step, students are shown a video in the classroom using a projector, followed by query resolutions and discussions (“show and tell”). Next, the students try each step of the hands-on exercises while watching the video, till they are able to repeat the step without making mistakes (“try”). Finally, the students are assessed and graded (“test”). The factors shared by the training provider that they found to be critical toward scaling the training model were training facilitators on the pedagogy, availability of well-designed multimedia content, participant handbooks and facilitator’s guides in the local languages, and the physical IT infrastructure. The absence or unavailability of quality content also led the training provider to have a dedicated content development team to create and design instruction content and multimedia modules. Also, they reported that this method enabled students to perform the hands-on exercises independently to a large extent and improved trainers’ productivity as this model reduced considerable redundancy in instruction, allowing them to focus on giving feedback to students. This model was replicated by the training provider across their centers nationwide, resulting in 450,000 students trained in over 100 TVET courses spread over 22 sectors (NSDC and IL & FS, survey and personal communication, October 17, 2017). The model was reported to considerably reduce the training time, improve motivation levels in students and trainers, improve learning outcomes, and reduce training costs.

Flexible mobile learning: Training provider SkillTrain (2016) addresses the needs of school dropouts in rural areas through mobile learning. The mobile platform lets students register for free on their portal and take online courses based on lesson plans and downloadable videos on mobile phones. Students are able to learn at their own pace. Assessments are online or through text messaging capability on the mobile phone. For hands-on exercises, the student is required to register with the nearest vocational practice center and then paired with an affiliated workshop or independent practitioner (British Council 2016; Dubey 2016).

ICT for Teaching and Learning Physical Skills and for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

An emerging area of research in ICT-enabled TVET is to adapt high-tech and innovative technologies that were previously utilized for performance training in highly specialized domains, such as surgery and aircraft flying (Akshay et al. 2013; Jose et al. 2014; Ranjith et al. 2014; Aswathi et al. 2016). Simulator-based training can provide a hands-on experience in a safe environment at potentially lower costs. Introduction of simulators into TVET in India has struggled with the same cost benefit equation that other ICT technologies have done for years owing to delayed returns on investments. With the rapidly increasing number of personnel to be trained in vocational skills even in the formal sector, the benefits in inclusion of simulator-based training is being increasingly recognized by the training institutes and industry in India (Chenoy 2013).

There are several benefits to using simulators in skill training institutes: savings in costs of consumables and instructor contact hours, standardization of training, safety, and the prestige in using technology-based approaches for training (Akshay et al. 2013). Yet another benefit of simulators is in recognition of prior learning (RPL). The reliable assessment of the prior skill level of a candidate can be used to allocate work or training accordingly.

For instance, simulators developed for bar bending and cutting utilize a virtual reality interface and haptic force-feedback that simulate the various skills in rebar bending training. Larsen and Toubro Construction Skills Training Institutes (L&T CSTI) has incorporated these simulators to supplement their skill training programs in concrete-based construction (Menon et al. 2017). The simulators are currently being utilized to train, retrain, and assess recruited personnel in the rebar bending and steel fixing trade. In just under 1 year at two of the CSTIs, the simulators have been trained over 600 rebar bending graduates who have been subsequently employed by L&T.

Prior to the use of the simulators, the CSTI reportedly found it challenging to justify the poor benefit-cost ratio of their training programs owing primarily to the high attrition rate in their bar bending graduates who migrated overseas and to the Middle East for higher-paying jobs. The average cost of training borne by the CSTI for the bar bending course was a little over $450 per candidate, one third of which is attributed to the cost of rebars consumed in training process. The simulator helps reduce this cost. Another interesting observation is that the simulators are housed indoors which eases the initial hardships the trainees have to endure while training outdoors in the hot sun. The CSTI reports that the reduced hardship helped the candidates to resist the urge to discontinue the program. L&T also shared plans to utilize the bar bending simulators for offering retraining on the construction site and for RPL of the contractual workers who seek employment at the construction sites.

The most widely used virtual reality simulators in the industry in India are welding simulators (Knoke 2016). Welding simulators are being adopted primarily for workplace training, assessment, and RPL purposes by various industries that have a requirement of welding and by training institutes to prepare new welders and offer retraining where required. Students trained using the simulator are able to learn the basics of welding in a controlled environment without exposure to the harsh and challenging conditions of the trade such as smoke, burning eyes, and other severe accidents (Kulkarni 2007). After welding training on the simulators, the students are reportedly more confident and find it easier to transition to the real-time environment (Okimoto et al. 2015). VR welding simulators like the ones developed by SkillVeri offer a standardized lesson plan to teach a basic skill level with ease and accuracy (Skillveri 2015). All training modules are developed in line with the National Council for Vocational Training standards. For an entry level, 2-week program in welding, the simulator is reported to save more than $300 per student. From the viewpoint of a training center which prepares students for international certifications, welding simulator becomes an effective mechanism to save cost and time.

Recent schemes of the government to support innovation and manufacturing within the country such as the Make in India initiative have encouraged training institutes and industry to consider advanced technology-based training and skill development. The country looks to ride this new wave created by inclusion of haptic simulators and augmented and virtual reality applications to address its needs in the present and future.

In this section, ICT for teaching and learning within formal TVET scenarios was discussed. The ICT-enabled teaching and learning initiatives for open and distance learning TVET will be discussed next.

Open and Distance Learning

Distance learning institutes in India have experienced a significant rise in student enrolment, with an estimated ten million currently enrolled (Team Careers, 2017). India’s ODL system consists of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), State Open Universities (SOUs), and other institutions and universities which include the Correspondence Course Institutes (CCIs) in the conventional, dual mode. Government and private ODL schools offer a range of skill-based programs. There are currently over 245 institutions that offer courses via distance education, of which about 100 are TVET courses (Vaid 2014).

Public institutions such as IGNOU, NIOS, and other private institutions that offer ODL in India have launched online certificate and diploma courses. They utilize an array of ICT in the teaching and learning process such as MOOCs, OER, education radio, and video broadcasts, among many others. The ICT trend is likely to continue with GoI initiatives like “SWAYAM,” an integrated platform and portal for online courses for TVET, secondary and higher education levels. There is strong funding support from the GoI to develop and deploy MOOC courses that meet rigorous development standards and feature built-in monitoring mechanisms to ensure quality. This is further supported by the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations which now recognizes and allows transfer of credits for courses done online (University Grants Commission Regulation 2016).

ICT Initiatives of IGNOU: Established by the MHRD, this institution is one of the largest open university in the world, with three million students enrolled. Sixty-one TVET certificate courses and 53 diploma programs in distance education mode are currently being offered through its network of 3000 study centers across India. Hands-on exercises are conducted at the study centers or through affiliated workshops or industries. The ODL organization uses ICT in various ways to supplement the print-based self-learning materials – such as Egyankosh – a national digital library that houses digitized self-learning print material developed by a consortium of ODL institutions, YouTube channels, wiki pages, blogs, live educational programs through video and audio broadcast channels, teleconferencing, and learning management systems. The institution is in the initial stages of delivering a large number of certificate and professional online courses through the SWAYAM platform (Singh 2017).

The range of its ICT-enabled learning initiatives has enabled better access to learning resources and services, contributed to increased student retention rates and reduced dropout rates (Dowerah and Kanta 2011). However, there are also studies that indicate low adoption of ICT for academic purposes measured in terms of course material download, subscriptions to broadcast/video, and so on. This has been attributed to factors such as lack of awareness, lack of access to Internet services, and quality of the audiovisual content (Awadhiya et al. 2014; Gaba and Sethy 2010). In order to increase the outreach and promotion of ICT-enabled learning, the institution is setting up 5000 digital learning centers utilizing the broadband network created by the government to connect one million villages in India (NDTV 2017). The open university has also signed an MoU with Common Service Centers (CSC), a network of over 200,000 centers with ICT infrastructure across India that will increase the outreach of TVET through open university, its digital learning initiatives, and other services (Hindustan Times 2017).

The following section discusses ICT-integrated TVET delivery practices implemented by nonformal education training providers.

Nonformal TVET

In India, nonformal education (NFE) has more commonly encompassed programs that address basic literacy, i.e., reading, writing, numeric literacy, and life skills development, supported by the MHRD and Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE). NFE programs under initiatives such as Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS, originally an adult literacy program that caters to tribal groups), the National Literacy Mission, etc. are illustrative of the traditional approach to literacy education. Several of these programs have since evolved and shifted focus to TVET.

I-Saksham (2015) is one example of NFE that provides a certificate course in basic tutoring to youth in remote villages. The trained youth, in turn, teach children in their village using digital tablets with learning content sourced from various providers. I-Saksham reported through the distributed survey that their training model has led to improved learning outcomes and reductions in training costs and dropouts, making it possible to scale. Some of the reported challenges were high repair/maintenance costs of low-cost tablets and poor connectivity in these geographies resulting in increased spending on logistics for delivering content, monitoring, and evaluation (NSDC Representative and I-Saksham, survey, October 17, 2017).

While ICT-enabled NFE in India is a recognized research and intervention area with respect to literacy and life skills programs, practical evidence appears less extensive in the area of vocational training. For example, AMMACHI Labs is an organization that designs and delivers NFE skill development and life skills to women in rural India via ICT (UNESCO-UNEVOC 2017). The organization provides vocational and life skill development through ICT and mobile platforms as a means to women’s empowerment. The organization shared lessons learned in implementing nonformal, ICT-based vocational and life skills education:
  • Usability among users with low education attainment and digital illiteracy: Deployments of the organization’s approach (UNESCO-UNEVOC 2017) demonstrated effectiveness in achieving independent and self-paced learning, motivation to learn new subjects, interest in repeated use, recommendation of the course and learning tool to others, heightened sense of self-esteem and confidence, and feelings of personal dignity in connection to learning a skill through technology (Bhavani et al. 2010). Issues of digital illiteracy were addressed by contextualizing the design of TVET e-content and software to the target demographic (Sachith et al. 2017).

  • Flexible deployment scenarios and blended learning models: Several trials were conducted to explore combinations of student to technology ratios, such as one student per ICT tool (desktop computer, laptop, or tablet) in high-resource settings versus two or more students per ICT tool, in resource-constrained areas. It was found that peer interaction in the computerized classroom helped students overcome their inhibitions to learn and created a safe space for collaborative learning. Furthermore, the sharing of a common experience by learning a vocational trade through computers, the discovery of personal and shared perspectives through collaboration on tasks, and in-class group discussions helped to socially bond learners, which found to be critical toward personal development and a sense of professional identity. The organization’s pedagogy was accordingly designed to strengthen a community of learning and practice within and outside the classroom (Bhavani et al. 2010).

  • Required infrastructure and human resource inputs: The presence of a facilitator, who functions as the center manager and mentor to students, was determined essential. The extent to which a subject-matter expert is actually required was found to be intermittent (depending on the complexity of the course), for periodical hands-on practical training and assessment.

Mobile TVET Classrooms

Mobile, solar-powered classrooms equipped to deliver computerized TVET lend to greater accessibility, flexibility, scale, and inclusion (NITI Aayog 2017). While mobile classrooms could potentially substitute brick-and-mortar infrastructure in geographically remote areas, there are several technical and operational constraints that make it impractical to do so completely. For example, while mobile classrooms are effective in reaching underserved communities, skill development programs often require a greater investment in the targeted community, of a resource that is more economically effective for shorter term interventions. Mobile classrooms do, however, allow for less dependency on human resources, greater flexibility in training, increased geographical coverage, and relatively lower investment in operational costs that give this solution a competitive advantage. Effective implementation of TVET, therefore, relies upon carefully planned interventions that take into account the time investment required in the targeted community (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3

Conceptual design of the MoVE mobile TVET delivery vehicle designed by AMMACHI Labs © Amrita University

Very few agencies in India run mobile TVET classrooms (Raghavan 2007). These mobile setups are evolving from substituting conventional classrooms to complementing traditional training (Nagarajan et al. 2012). A few considerations that underscore the evolution of mobile TVET include:
  • Changes in the traditional hub and spoke operating model to accommodate dynamic needs from the field.

  • The role of the trainer has evolved into the role of a facilitator who is not necessarily a subject-matter expert but a person with the skill set to manage an ICT classroom.

  • The ideal vocational courses are those that require less intense TVET hardware.

  • An emerging focus on twenty-first century skills training, such as problem solving and design thinking as a complement to TVET.

Revisiting Promises and Constraints of ICT in TVET

The discussion thus far has demonstrated how ICT-integrated TVET is an active area of practice and research in India. Various ICT initiatives across India’s learning continuum were discussed along with their promises and constraints, as summarized below (Table 1). The listed enabling factors summarize current efforts in India that support the integration of ICT in TVET. While these enabling initiatives are still at a nascent stage, they offer promise toward achieving improvements in inclusivity, standardization, and quality.
Table 1

Summary of promises of ICT along with the constraints and enabling factors

ICT Benefits

Current constraints and enabling factors

Scalability of TVET

Constraints:

 E-content is not available for a majority of courses despite the demand due to costs associated with the development

 A requirement for courseware in various Indian languages

 Internet connectivity issues

 Poor training practices and IT infrastructure

 Finances – Initial costs involved in setting up IT infrastructure and  licensing of ICT-enabled tools and courseware

Enabling factors:

 GoI initiatives to develop ICT-enabled open-access resources

 Promotion of OER by agencies like CEMCA and COL

 Participation by industry to develop and market ICT tools and courseware

 Improved internet connectivity through GoI initiatives

 Opportunities for utilization of existing infrastructure, e.g., CSCs, railway stations, government institution buildings, and resources

 National level thrust such as digital India mission campaign to provide digital literacy to all Indians

 Policy support for ICT enablement through the National Skill Development Policy

 ODL courses through the Swayam portal and other ODL initiatives utilizing ICT

 ITI modernization efforts

Accessibility to TVET

Constraints:

 Socioeconomic barriers to technology access

 Digital illiteracy

 Lack of courses in required languages

 Paucity of training providers serving rural and tribal areas where it is not cost-effective to set up centers

Enabling factors:

 Digital India initiatives

 Low cost of 4G mobile data and handsets

 Mobile TVET and similar innovations to reach remote areas

 NIOS and open schools initiatives

Quality of training and certification

Constraints:

 Lack of well-trained teachers in training and using ICT and subject-matter expertise

 Lack of availability of standardized and quality content and E-content

 Quality and suitability of OER

 ICT-enabled training can contribute to passive learning (i.e., videos and digital texts)

 Lack of access to active learning tools and courseware

 High costs of development

Enabling factors:

 Increased awareness about the use of OER and its advantages

 GoI focus on Swayam courses by industry and academic experts and private agencies resorting to online training for ODL and the use of ICT for classroom training (as seen by demand)

 The use of simulators for RPL and certification

 

 Mandate for good instructional design frameworks and rigorous focus on quality assurance of content and its periodic revision by industry certified experts

 Industry involvement in content development

 Job connect through job portals

 Effective blends and access to ICT technology

 Community of learning and practice to sustain aspirations

 Mobility across vocational and higher education streams

Preparing Youth for the Changing Place of Work

Even as ICT addresses various infrastructural and pedagogical issues with traditional TVET, a holistic solution must also address some of the biggest issues facing the domain of technical skills development in the near future, the increasing adoption of automation technologies driven by advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Many jobs requiring routine cognitive and physical skills, especially in the technical trades, are quickly being replaced by algorithms and machines (World Economic Forum 2016). Success in the vocational trades in this century will mean mastery and constant upgrading of technical and soft skills to fit more advanced and integrated positions.

When technical skills are combined with the 4Cs – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, along with pedagogical strategies like project- or problem-based learning (PBL) – peer to peer teaching, and design thinking, it not only prepares students for a career in the technical space but also gives them the essential creative and teamwork competencies needed to succeed in the twenty-first century workplace (Trilling and Fadel 2009). One key enabler for this is the idea of a “makerspace,” a space furnished with rapid prototyping and computational tools that enable the rapid realization of solutions. For this reason, the Indian government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, is in the process of establishing makerspaces throughout India known as the Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL). As of 2017, more than 900 schools have been selected for this program. The NITI Aayog has associated the ATLs with the Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) scheme to provide pathways to encourage the formation of start-ups.

Twenty-First Century Skills Workshops in Andhra Pradesh

The twenty-first century skills training workshops organized in Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) are the ongoing case in point (Times of India 2016). The workshops focus on creating and disseminating educational tools and curriculum for teaching computational thinking, robotics, and maker skills, along with “softer” skills like social problem solving. Listed below are the three main technical skills taught in the school workshops:

Computational Thinking Skills: With computation merging into almost every area of human activity and vocation, a literacy and fluency in computational thinking is crucial. One method of imparting these skills is through the use of serious games (Unnikrishnan et al. 2016). The game teaches the basic concepts of computational thinking including sequential commands, loops, and conditional branching (ibid). The game was found to have reduced the cognitive “leap” students need to make to understand the basics of computing which makes the valuable skill of programming easily accessible to all.

Maker Skills: Rural India is well regarded for its “jugaad” spirit or the ability to come up with innovative products and solutions given highly constrained sources of finance and materials. This spirit must be harnessed and channeled in the present age so that the inventors and innovators of rural India can better participate in the globalized economy and job market. The curriculum for teaching these “maker” skills follows a grounded approach by teaching design and thinking principles through hands-on exercises, 3D modeling, and sketching skills to help design products and practical prototyping skills.

Robotic Skills: Work in robotics involves both the abstract skills of computational thinking and the skills of making and engineering. The LEGO Mindstorms kit and the Hummingbird kit are two educational toolkits that are commonly used for introducing robotics to students, with Mindstorms providing a versatile and interactive medium for rapidly creating and designing programmable robotic solutions and the Hummingbird bringing a more arts and crafts approach. These two kits are demonstrating promising success in teaching robotics skills and at the same time allowing robotics to become a social tool for technical explorations accessible to diverse student populations.

Conclusion

ICTs in education and skill development are undergoing a rapid change. As advances in computer graphics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies rapidly evolve, the future of TVET will invariably be impacted by a more sophisticated integration of ICT. Advances in motion tracking through the Leap Motion and Microsoft Kinect, among other technologies, which were primarily made for the entertainment industry, will serve as conduits for artificial intelligence-enabled tutoring systems to understand the students’ context and student performance through multimodal learning analytics (Blikstein 2013). These tutoring systems will then modify content delivery strategies and pedagogical and testing approaches so that every student gets a customized learning experience suited to their needs (Sarrafzadeh et al. 2008). Content delivery will be transformed as the primary media for instruction and communication will shift to cost-effective mobile devices enabled by the spread of 4G networks through the country. This would circumvent the problem of loading media-rich content onto phones and tablets with limited storage capacity. Technologies being used in social networking sites can be used by content providers to club together students based on their geographical location, interest, etc. so that the virtual learning environment is supported by robust communities of practice in the real world.

Based on the discussion thus far, it is apparent that while ICT-integrated TVET is a rapidly emerging practice across India, further research is required to better understand best practices and replicable delivery models. While the GoI and several industries are strong proponents of ICT-driven solutions, it is vital that their support also extends to investing in monitoring, evaluation, and research-driven development of innovative technology to complement the changing nature of work. Additionally, to prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts that are already costly, a synergy among agencies that develop open-access ICT resources for TVET is imperative.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ajay Balakrishnan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Srividya Sheshadri
    • 1
  • Akshay Nagarajan
    • 1
  • R Unnikrishnan
    • 1
  • Sreeram Kongeseri
    • 1
  • Rao R. Bhavani
    • 1
  1. 1.AMMACHI LabsAmrita Vishwa VidyapeethamAmritapuriIndia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Robert Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NottinghamStamfordUK

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