By Krishnendu Sarkar | Jul 26, 2021

Steering Students’ Success By Dr.Krishnendu Sarkar

Imagine, post-secondary students are set free! From all types of counseling, peer pressure, fear of failures, decision aids, institutional, and other market influences. Instead, they are able to employ their own will, skill, agency, and choice to steer their agencies to reach closer to destinations of their own calling. How? This article is an attempt to provoke some new thoughts.


Moved! To be moved or guided in a particular direction or along a particular course is the role of steering. The motion of education will always need one for its intended direction. Usually, the students are not considered to have the steering in their own hands. That can be a reason why experiences from their education journeys are not overwhelmingly joyful towards externally-guided destinations of success. Success can mean different things to different people. It is that elephant in the story of blind sages whom all got to touch the different parts of ‘success’ ending up with logical interpretations. But, the actual ‘success’ was something else than what they all had wisely thought out to be. Now, assuming that teachers are likely to be blindfolded to the actual identity of success of their students based on their personality traits, personal vision, and best versions of themselves. In that case, there would be an unmet gap between the ‘digital immigrant’ mindset of a typical Generation X-Y teacher vis-a-vis a ‘digital native’ mindset of a typical Generation Z student. Whereas, that gap, most likely, can get corrected when the steering of education is given to students to move with their choices. So that they can identify their actual success that is supported by pillars of failure of their own making.


It can be best understood in the words of Einstein and Edison, “Success is a failure in progress” and “I will find the way that will work”. In today’s technology-led lives, learning and livelihoods, progress seems to be gaining momentum like never before. In stark contrast, traditional education is perhaps unable to match the progressive aspirations of students, which is not aligned to the set metrics.


Successful Failures! It is only when the failures punch hard that the successful lot punch back the failures harder to eventually win as extraordinary people of impact. They make the ordinary feel proud of being human like them. Vincent Van Gogh, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, and people like them perhaps have held firmly the steering of their success despite the dissenting voices. History is replete with ordinary people who have steered through repeated setbacks to make indelible impressions. Harry Potter, The Beatles, Apple, Microsoft, and more such names find an instant connection with young and old alike. While, the creators behind those household names had to overcome failure after failure, till they made their versions of success. It will, therefore, be appropriate to say that each such successful failures were self-directed, non-linear, and backed by inner calling for a larger purpose. Especially, the digital natives would want their kind of education to be progressive and adaptive to their aspirations. According to Nathan Wei Chen, a 3-time world champion figure skater, and himself a digital native, “It is crazy how fast time flies and how things progress”.


Crazy: The New Cool! This decade of 2021-30 is expected to do crazy (a mix of fantastic and fuzzy) things involving humans and machines. Already, traditional education is going crazier by the day under the digital influence and the delusive future of work. It shall also ensure that students are not left out in their identification of choices and preparation for success. However, it is quite acceptable for traditional higher education institutions to hold on to yesteryear checks and balances while contributing to the democratization of education using technology. After all, they have had proven- structures, processes, policies, procedures, quality metrics, regulations. And, in all fairness, they have stood the test of times for centuries, unlike any other business. But, things are different now. The traditional education spaces that were largely physical are now blended with digital spaces. Blended education is here to stay and so will be the efficacy of education technologies. Besides, businesses today are working non-stop for crazier disruptions in the zest to offer new solutions. Well, they also germinate new problems. And, problems or failures make the seeds for education and research. Arguably, in the digital natives’ perspective, such seeds create the right diversity in the ecosystem of education where they can thrive in mixed learning spaces, new situations, new challenges, new skills, and new choices to discover their actual success. In light of that perspective, traditional educational organizations, particularly the self-financed ones have to do every bit they can to foster and sustain a thriving ecosystem for Generation Z students and next that can enable them to steer their career choices. The world is changing and how. A recent study on the skills of the future by the World Economic Forum made it clear that the world is changing – and some jobs are changing faster than others. According to the latest research, soon we’ll only be as good as the skills we possess.


Not to blame, the god damn global pandemic due to the coronavirus disease. Rather, the next generations of technology will stimulate higher education to employ higher-order thinking skills in its teaching, learning, and assessment that will be suited to students. Only, it has to be as per their decision and design. Crazy, yet it might be a cool thing for Generation Z and next.


Crazy. Can we have in education something similar like 26 Alphabets (A-Z) and 10 numbers (0-9), which provide unlimited possibilities to express in the English language? For instance, if we can standardize as codes the discrete units under teaching, learning, assessment, etc. around which ‘expressions’ can get formed and universally understood. A thought for a newer set of hypotheses, which all can be tested, tried, and later can be trusted.


Cool. Flexibility in daily class-routines that can also promote blended learning and include participants also from workplaces. For instance, in the graphic below, there are 3 time-bands for curricular and beyond engagements in face-to-face synchronous modes along with asynchronous post-productions as well. The said flexibility can also involve teachers and experts from different time zones, in one-to-many, many-to-one interactions. Besides, there can be a consortium that would like to adhere to the same teaching-cells array for effective outcomes with optimal resources. Many other such possibilities can follow suit.



Students as Buyers? The industry of education is fast becoming a buyers’ market in addition to the noble knowledge market. Where the buyer is differently interested to pursue the knowledge, skills, and abilities continually in their chosen order concerning Bloom’s Taxonomy. That buyer wants to buy the academic credits as per choice to custom-built the requirements of a degree award. For example, the buyer can be only interested in a start-up or a venture and would like to be educated and assessed differently than the other who might be looking for further or higher education or research and another who might be looking only for jobs. It will be, therefore, prudent for the market to rework its strategies. The moot point here is to value the buyer’s dynamic set of achievements– skills, understandings, personal attributes, and accordingly allow the buyer to curate the semester-wise credit baskets. And, in that way to facilitate a buyer to self-steer the choice of buying the Edu-products, from time to time. In this regard, certain imperatives like on-demand plasticity of learning and doing spaces and issues like last-mile digital inclusion can be expected to get addressed by the market for inducting and retaining the buyers. The market will continuously expand to include the yearning for lifelong purchases.


Flip. Flip! Instead of markets influencing the buyers to buy their products they can rather work out innovative ways to profit from buyers’ lifelong involvement in their opting and using of custom products. For example, picture this instance. A Buyer B chooses to assemble a computer rather than buying it as one piece. Because B wants to learn better by problem-solving and get a better computer with a higher return on investment. In that pursuit, B explores the requisite and applicable knowledge, skills, mentors, other resources from sources of B’s choice, at B’s time, pace, and space. B makes the decisions – configuration to vendors to end-user. Now, B might also fail, B can then try again, B can further innovate, and in all likelihood, B can get closer to the intended Success!


“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal” – Anonymous


Goal. At the cusp of the new decade 2021-30, it will be effective if professional higher education can commission transformative goals, one at a time, and implement each such goal as part of its continuous quality improvement mandate. That goal should not be to abjectly replace the traditional practices of teaching, learning, and assessments. Rather, it should help to adaptively extend the width and depth of teacher-teacher, teacher-student, and student-student engagements beyond the requirements of a semester’s credit points and the student’s choice of credits. The rules of engagement around a student’s choice of problem or project or theme can get formed organically. The academic rigor can be ascertained by way of critical evaluation of outputs and outcomes, where the collaborators, peer groups, and partners can play a cogent and constructive role till the discovery of the actual success of a student.


The said goal has to serve well the contemporary and emerging demands of Industry, Research, and New Businesses by way of building and/or aggregating a Bank of Credits (BoC), which can scale to form a BoC of a consortium. That way the emphasis shall be more on students’ choice-based exploration for custom products, choice-based instructors, and interest groups around their choices.


The evidence can be in form of intra-cohort and/or inter-cohort-based learning and praxis. The students in the same program and the same batch can be the sum of different cohorts, sub-classes within a class! Each such cohort will draw its needed facilitation and mentoring for continuous movements with activity-based – inquiry, curiosity, problem-solving, in-depth questioning, evaluating solutions, fishing credit-points from various streams, multi-modal and micro-learning, creative and critical thinking, applications, and outcomes. Besides, the evidence can be in form of the parent institution’s highlighting various support and reward schemes to equitably include and inspire students to secure more than their requisite Credit Points per semester from the BoC. Furthermore, Credit Points accrued from a mixed cluster of BoC shall bring multi-disciplinary insights. Given that kind of a transformed ecosystem, students’ success will be much about experiencing the journey, enjoying every step along the way!

– Krishnendu Sarkar 

Reader’s comments shall be most welcome. Not to mention, the author acknowledges the information and knowledge that was gained from various other resources including relevant research articles of various authors on the internet.

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