Monday, 8 August 2016

How to transfer across universities

How to transfer across universities
Have you spent a year or two at a college that still just does not feel like it was the right choice? If so, you could consider a campus transfer. A transfer can mean changing the institution you’ve been attending or transferring colleges within the same university.

The transfer application process is slightly different from fresh applicants, who have recently completed Class 12. The overall acceptance rate for transfer applicants is also lower due to space limitations and academic requirements.

Among domestic students in the US, a common transfer path from a two-year community college to four-year degree granting universities, is through a 2+2 structure. Community colleges offer associates degrees from where students can complete their core requirements with a smaller financial burden and develop a strong academic profile for transferring to a fouryear, bachelor’s degree granting college for the final two years.

When evaluating transfer applicants, colleges are interested in the students’ grades at their current college. They often do not require standardised testing (ACT/SAT) or high school academic records. However like first-year applicants, students are expected to write personal essays, and submit résumés, grades and recommendations.

Not all universities accept transfer students, therefore it is important to find out what possibilities exist early on. Each university has a different policy on transferring credits and accepting students as well. For example, courses taken in the first year may or may not be accepted by some universities for their credit requirements. This may mean unnecessarily repeating courses or potentially extending your course of study. Also transfer requirements and acceptance rates can differ between different colleges in the same university. For example, a transfer from NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences into NYU’s School of Education (Steinhardt) versus its School of business (Stern) differs in its expectations and overall rate of acceptance.

Students at US colleges who decide to change majors within the college should do so within the first two years so there is enough time to finish all the requirements. Do not wait too long to settle on a major (3rd or 4th year is too late) otherwise you may not have enough time to finish credits. This can mean having to take summer school classes or maybe even add a semester and graduate later than your peers. Out of all the types of transfers, changing majors is the easiest and can be done from within the institution — no external records should be required.

All in all, while transferring colleges is common enough, it would not be advised unless you are really unhappy with your current institution. Some questions to ask yourself if you are considering a transfer:

Can I meet my goals at this college? Have I tried exploring ways to make my experience better? For example, you could join extra-curricular student groups (college experience doesn’t have to be only about academics) Can I be successful enough here to meet my postgraduate goals (such as a desired job or master’s programme)?

If your answers to these question still lead you to seek a transfer to another college then keep the following in mind:

1. US college transfer deadlines are typically in the beginning of the year, around February to April. Check each college deadline carefully.

2. Research the college well, and make sure it is the right fit for you. If there are only a handful of transfer seats available, you need to convince the admissions committee that you are certain this is the right choice for you.

3. Do not be negative about your current or past institutions. Instead emphasise how they prepared you to take the next step to a different college. The best strategy is to make the most of where you are and take advantage of opportunities that can enhance and supplement your academic experience. Often students assume they can transfer into a better college after completing a year or two at their current institutions. This is not necessarily the case unless they have really excelled and shown significant potential in their current college. Transfer requires significant logistical preparation as well as social and emotional changes –nothing to be entered into lightly.

Source | Hindustan Times | 3 August 2016

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

How to align corporate learning with artificial intelligence

How to align corporate learning with artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) which was once upon a time largely implemented in video games and select complex advanced scientific and industrial applications, has now invaded the corporate world.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) which was once upon a time largely implemented in video games and select complex advanced scientific and industrial applications, has now invaded the corporate world. It is befriended by different functions of the business as an aid for decision making, simulating scenarios and in gaining new knowledge and insights about various facets of business on a scale and magnitude never before experienced by organisations. Robots which were considered very complex to build and were mostly positioned in large manufacturing companies have become significantly more impactful powered by AI and are also able to socialise recognising human body and voice. Hence every business, small or large, is beginning to think of the impact AI could make in enhancing customer experience, innovating their products and offerings with the help of deep analytics, reducing costs and losses by avoiding potential pitfalls in taking smarter decisions. It is also time to consider the role AI could play in the talent development function and make learning and development of professionals more exciting and impactful.

The biggest value add AI could bring to corporate learning is better understanding of learners, their learning styles and their evolving learning needs. AI may replace trainers in some cases fully or partially and by following the learning patterns of the trainees, will empower the training managers to come up with customised and varied offerings. Often times, learners do not wish to be exposed of their weaknesses and therefore may be reluctant to learn. AI powered environment facilitates learning through trial and error methods and encourages the learners to experiment without fear or being intimidated.

AI systems could provide expertise and answer queries intelligently and through this process become smarter and more intelligent with every transaction thus slowly becoming a synergistic companion for the learner as well as the trainer whose role over a period of time will become that of a facilitator. AI systems could even take on the role of grading, evaluating the students and providing feedback from time to time. At times, the learning content and pedagogy may not be just right because of which learners struggle with their grades and the learning outcomes may not be satisfactory. AI systems enable large organisations to study these patterns to arrive at the exact course corrections that are required to be made to bridge such gaps and thus make learning purposeful. They bring together the vast amounts of data about individual learning, social contexts, learning contexts and personal interests and makes it possible to derive insights from interactions to make learning adaptive as well as contextual.

When knowledge is served up to the employees as required and contextualised, it becomes much more valuable than when it is static and has the same flavour at all times to everyone. Contextual support at the time of addressing a customer query or resolving a problem at customer site not only enables the executive to be productive and tap into the knowledge just in time, the organisation knowledge repository also constantly grows in this process and becomes more intelligent over a period of time.

The examples of Siri, Cortana, Deep Mind acquired by Google and driver less cars are well known, all of which highlight the potential of machine learning unleashed by AI systems applied in different ways. IBM’s Watson is a classic example of the deep commitment to ongoing learning—which has seen brilliant results in a variety of fields such as oncology, travel, law and finance. The device can perform text mining and complex analytics on huge volumes of unstructured data and serve up knowledge that we are seeking. OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company invested by Tesla founder Elon Musk is aiming to build a new model of free training “gym” for computer programmers. Known as OpenAI Gym, it’s an open source tool to get developers around the world to train computer systems in better ways to learn and develop more complex reasoning systems.

Training managers motivated by the potential of AI interventions in the talent development process could start by identifying a specific area where a pilot could commence. With the help of a relevant AI tool and ongoing analytics, it would be possible to assess the progress the learning programme makes. While the possibilities are exciting, there has to be a commitment from the top to accord importance for AI powered learning and continuous engagement with the view to making processes intelligent. Rules would have to be defined, domain expertise needs to be formulated and control structures require to be outlined in order to make the programme robust.

The measure of success in such an exercise is not just the short term outcome, but the impact it is capable of creating on an ongoing basis. In addition, the longer term intelligence that the tool acquires helps in coaching and providing expertise that surpasses the impact traditional training programmes and trainers can deliver.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

Source |

Cultural integration must be dealt with the same seriousness as technological or digital integration

Cultural integration must be dealt with the same seriousness as technological or digital integration
The last decade saw the evolution in cross-border trade. As communications technology breaks down barriers, MNCs will continue to expand their footprint. This has facilitated the movement of global talent, with most MNCs encouraging cultural diversity. For HR professionals, attracting global resources would mean staying abreast with the evolving talent needs and devising strategies to not just attract, but also retain a diverse talent pool.

As business leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves is are we equipped to handle a multi-cultural workforce? Capability building is a part of the HR tapestry in any organisation. We need to encourage employees to be curious about cultural nuances and work towards establishing a ‘cultural quotient’. The cross-cultural flow of talent first started with the proliferation of the IT industry as talent moved across the country. That has now extended beyond national borders, making the whole process of inculturation even more critical.

For our business to thrive, we need people. To ensure that our workforce can deliver to its optimum potential, we need to invest in an environment that enables them to flourish. This can’t happen through makeshift solutions.

Often, people confuse orientation sessions with actual cultural induction. Cultural integration must be dealt with the same seriousness as technological or digital integration. At times, it is the smallest of efforts that can make people feel welcome. Living on foreign shores makes people crave for home and even a simple initiative like subscribing to a newspaper or magazine from various nationalities reassures people that they are being taken care of. Team lunches with global cuisines can serve as a trigger to cultural conversations. It is also a good idea to work towards an ecosystem that is culture agnostic. In fact, we make a conscious effort to invest in creating opportunities for employees to travel and expose them to international offices.

The process requires engagement of various stakeholders. HR teams will have to educate managers on how to leverage the presence of global colleagues while ensuring that cultural nuances in terms of interpersonal relations are not misinterpreted. Fostering a collaborative culture could be a great step in this direction where the company’s values and commitment to diversity is communicated across geographies.

The advantages of a multicultural atmosphere are plenty. Diversity of any kind, be it skills and experiences, linguistic, grassroots exposure, helps organisations service their consumers and clients better. Since people come from different backgrounds, they bring with them a variety of perspectives and this helps in solving problems creatively. A heterogeneous mix of people can also add value while making strategic decisions and eventually in improved execution, which, in turn, has a positive impact on productivity as well as growth.

To enable successful management of diversity, organisations must go beyond training the HR team and ensure that the messaging trickles down to every individual. It is important to get a sense of how employees deal with it. Simple steps like exposing employees to short-term assignments across geographical locations, making them work on global projects or encouraging them to learn the basics of a new language can all add up to the goal of creating a workforce that has truly imbibed the multicultural spirit.

There is no denying that a multicultural workforce is here to stay. Besides bringing together a diverse pool of talent, it gives organisations competitive edge. An inclusive work culture not only helps in retaining talent, but also attracts new talent. Organisations that have employees from different cultural backgrounds, more often than not, offer a broader range of services. All of this leads to a healthy working environment.

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Four Ways to Keep Students' Attention

Four Ways to Keep Students' Attention
Creating classroom experiences that grab and hold students' interest is not only good teaching, it's good science, writes Karen Costa.

Want to learn the art of attention from an expert? Visit a kindergarten classroom. Clap-clap-clapclapclap! The sharp, intentional and unexpected rhythm rang out through the library while I was volunteering with my son’s class. And then, a retort from the now-quiet children. Clap-clap-clapclapclap! The children’s eyes settled on their teacher; the jubilant conversations had ceased. Attention was ready to be paid.

Consider this common expression: Pay attention. Currency is exchanged. There is an offering (our teaching) and a cost (students must divert their attention from other sources). Reflecting on both sides of this equation in the context of what science knows and what our teaching does can help us to improve the classroom experience for teachers and students.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, reminds us of the stakes: the greater the attention that is paid, the more we learn. The neural mechanisms that influence attention are complex; Medina states that our attention is influenced by a combination of memory, interest and awareness. Our prior experiences (and how we remember them) affect attention. Whether or not we define something as aligned with one of our interests will also impact if the brain latches on to the new information. Finally, if we are so focused on something else (a cell phone, perhaps) that we lack awareness that our teacher is calling our name, we aren’t able to give our attention where it’s due. Creating classroom experiences that grab and hold students’ attention and teaching students the connection between attention and learning is not only good teaching, it’s good science.

Medina offers four critical components to becoming an attention-savvy educator.

Emotions as Chemical Post-it Notes

Think of emotions as chemical Post-it notes, Medina says. Emotions paint an experience in fluorescent orange, making us more likely to notice and retain the information at hand. How? Emotions trigger a release of dopamine into our system, and dopamine improves our ability to remember. For example, you probably remember vivid details from your wedding day, the birth of your first child or defending your dissertation. But do you remember the day before or after those momentous events? Probably not. Now reflect on your classroom learning experiences; your most vivid memories are probably tied to happiness, excitement, shame or fear.

How can we intentionally incorporate emotions into our classrooms to increase attention? First, share your enthusiasm for your subject with your students. What made you fall in love with the study of psychology in the first place? Why do you believe that the humanities will save the world? How did you feel the first time you looked into a microscope? This is as important as the theoretical or practical content you’re about to teach them.

Next, tell stories. If you don’t have a story, find someone else’s online (TED talks are a great emotional resource). Draw students into the topic emotionally to attach a Post-it note to your instruction. Think that your subject matter prevents you from incorporating emotional stories into your teaching? Check out the work of the late Randy Pausch, a computer science professor who considered storytelling one of his most powerful teaching strategies.

Do the Why Work

Daniel Pink, an expert in motivation and the author of Drive, states that “why” is “the most underused word in the modern workplace.” Could we say the same of the modern classroom? Pink goes on to assert that people are “thirsting for context.” According to Medina, we can gain our students’ attention by quenching their thirst for why.

Much of this “why work” starts in the course development and lesson planning stages of teaching. Begin by answering this question in one sentence: What is the purpose of your course? Ideally, this will connect to the why of your program and the why of your institution. If you can’t articulate the answers to these questions, how can you expect your students to understand the big picture of their course, program, and college?

Concept mapping (or mind mapping) is an excellent next step. You can find a great free mind-mapping tool at Text 2 Mind Map. Draw your course. How do the concepts you’ll be teaching in week one connect to the overarching why of the course? How does week two connect to week one? If these connections aren’t there, build them or reconsider the value of including them in the first place. I’ve noticed teachers getting better at the what; many will place an agenda on the board at the start of a class or at the start of a new module in an online classroom. But for our brains, more important than the what is the why. Medina argues that brains are hierarchical and prefer to learn from the top down. He won a teaching award for designing 10-minute lectures that applied this model.

Medina also cites the work of John Bransford, emeritus endowed chair in learning sciences in the College of Education at the University of Washington, who argued that the difference between an expert and a novice is that an expert can explain connections between ideas, while a novice can only list the ideas. Step into your role as an expert. Don’t just tell -- teach.

Create a Device-Free Zone

When I was teaching in a land-based classroom, I used to allow laptops. It felt forward thinking to give students this option. I’ve since changed my mind. Brain science has confirmed that our brains cannot multitask. Each time we switch tasks, we have to restart that brain sequence. Medina estimates that multitasking takes 50 percent longer than focusing on one thing at a time. The recent findings on laptop use in classrooms support the idea that decreasing classroom distractions and limiting opportunities for students to attempt to multitask are valid teaching strategies.

I recently sat next to a young woman during a lecture where I was in a student role. Every 10 minutes, her phone buzzed. I would glance in her direction, pulled away from the teacher’s words. She didn’t flinch. I wondered to myself if we’ve entered a phase where we are so desensitized to our devices that vibrate is the new silent. I now have a personal habit of keeping my phone set to do not disturb unless I’m expecting an important call. I have a landline where I can be reached alternately. I get to choose when I turn my attention to my device, not the other way around.

Create distraction-free classrooms, but do so as a teacher, not a tyrant. In the first days of your course, share the research on distractions with your students. Talk to them about screen addiction and attention, and show them the value of focusing on their course instead of their device.

For online students, the stakes are even higher. If your online courses aren’t teaching students how to limit distractions while online, you are doing them a disservice. Teach students to turn off notifications and devices while working on their online courses. Again, do the why work here to show students the value of paying attention.

Rest and Digest

Does it seem like the number of course objectives associated with your course grows each term? Do you feel increasingly constrained by time? Many professors do. But beware of the urge to cram more content into your courses. Medina equates this to force-feeding and argues that brains need more time to digest. Because the brain is, as Medina explains, a “sequential processor,” it needs to fully process one idea before it can move on to the next. Simplify. Students will paradoxically learn more when you teach less.

Medina offers an outline for a typical 50-minute lecture-based class period. Break the class into five sections, because most people start to lose interest after 10 minutes. The first minute of each section should be spent on an emotional-meaning maker. Hook them. Writing teachers: you know the value of a great hook. Grab them with that first minute in order to hold them for the next nine when you can focus on details and explanation. Repeat.

Continue to do the why work throughout the lecture, bringing students back to the central purpose of the class so that their brains don’t have to switch tasks. Professors can swap out lecture segments with other strategies like individual journaling or small-group activities. The same overarching model of hook, big picture and details still applies.
By incorporating these rules into your teaching and your classrooms, you can begin to harness the power of attention. And remember, we are students, too. Reflecting on the role of attention in your own life can only serve to improve your ability to teach these concepts to your students.

Source |

Bridging the digital divide

Bridging the digital divide

India is among the underperformers on access to Information and Communications Technology

One of the parameters of assessing societal development of a country is the extent to which there has been penetration of information and communications technology (ICT) through the Internet, mobile phone subscriptions or through the degree of press freedom given to the journalists, news organisations and citizens of a country. Access to ICT also gains relevance in the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 of the United Nations, with greater relevance for the least developed countries to be able to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet to its people. 

Over-performers, underperformers

Though ICT has promoted development across various dimensions of society from connecting individuals to spreading across businesses, and governments, there exists a digital divide in its accessibility between the high income and low income countries, with high income countries typically showing greater penetration of digital technology as compared to less developed countries. While in high income countries such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden, over 90 per cent of the population is using the Internet, in lower income countries such as Afghanistan, Sub-Saharan African countries such as Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Malawi, less than 10 per cent of the population uses it. Similarly, with regard to the extent of mobile penetration, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest mobile penetration of 73 per cent, compared to 98 per cent penetration in high income countries (World Development Report 2016). 

Given a high degree of correlation between the economic progress of a country and its access to ICT, there are countries which have over-performed relative to their economic peers in providing digital technology. One such country worth mentioning here is Costa Rica, which is the world’s top over-performer, known for its communication technology and also press freedom. Similarly, there are countries which have underperformed among their income peers on access to information and communication. For instance, Cuba, which has the lowest number of mobile phone subscriptions and lowest press freedom index, has been the most underperforming country on access to information and communication. Further, two of the world’s most populated countries — India and China — are also among the few underperformers on access to ICT. India, which has been appreciated globally for providing IT services, faces a huge digital divide, having a relatively low percentage of population with access to the Internet. In 2014, it had only about 18 people per 100 using the Internet (World Bank Data). China on the other hand has a very weak press freedom index, resulting in its overall low performance on access to ICT. Apart from the digital divide existing between countries, there also exists a gap in adoption of digital technology across different demographic groups within the country. 

The World Development Report 2016 highlights such differences in accessibility to the Internet in Africa, where gaps arise out of differences in factors such as income, location, gender and age. For instance, greater access to the Internet is seen in the top 60 per cent of the population based on income distribution compared to the bottom 40 per cent. Further, women use less digital technology compared to men, and gaps are even greater between the youth (20 per cent) and the matured population (8 per cent). 

Increasing access to ICT 

To be able to promote greater social progress in the world, it is imperative to increase access to information and communication technology universally. With the world presently scoring 62.99 on a scale of 100 in access to ICT, higher overall social progress could be achieved by overcoming the digital divides that exist between the countries regardless of their level of economic progress. 

One of the ways to bring about greater penetration of digital technology in society is to make it more affordable. This could be realised through support from multilateral organisations to the underperforming countries by helping them build their communication infrastructure. Moreover, promoting greater market competition in Internet provision and encouraging public-private partnerships in building ICT infrastructure could increase the affordability of digital technology and thereby improve access to it. Further, digital divides could be bridged to an extent by bringing greater awareness among citizens about the use of digital technology which could help in reducing information inequality in society. 

While increasing penetration of digital technology by bridging the existing digital divides is associated with greater social progress of a country, it is also essential to build up the corresponding human capital necessary for making optimal use of the technology. ICT can benefit the economy through increasing productivity gains only if people having access to the technology also have the requisite skills for making optimal use of it. 

Amit Kapoor is Chair of the Institute for Competitiveness and Deepti Mathur is part of the team working on the Social Progress Index for India.

Source | Business Line | 28 July 2016

Taking IT skills to the masses

Taking IT skills to the masses
DISHA, an ambitious government initiative, strives to impart IT education to more than 50 lakh individuals by 2018

New Delhi: The quest to make India a digital superpower requires that its citizens understand the basics of information technology (IT). So, to equip citizens with knowledge of IT basics, the government and its various agencies such as the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) came up with the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in August 2014. The idea was to train 10 lakh citizens of the country.

A similar, but in some ways bigger, initiative, called DISHA (Digital Saksharta Abhiyan) was announced in November 2014 with the objective of imparting IT skills to at least one person from every family until 52.5 lakh people are educated by December 2018.

While NDLM has achieved its target of training and certifying 10 lakh candidates, DISHA is well on its way, having certified 20 lakh students so far.

DISHA, having become one of the key projects in the build-up to Digital India, has been nominated for the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s mBillionth Award 2016 under the learning and education category.

It is basically a learning management system and is being implemented by CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013.

DISHA works by inviting individuals to register on the website or the DISHA app, which was created to reach a wider demographic. The app was developed in-house by CSC using open source tools.

“We used internal resources and tied up with various agencies and stakeholders for the development on a need basis,” said Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, CEO, CSC.

The app supports English, Hindi and Bengali and is available for free on all Android devices.

Users can watch video-based classes, download and read e-books in offline mode and also self-assess their performance on the app by taking tests. The tests have been classified into three categories based on the level of difficulty. Students can register using their Aadhaar number.

Since both the website and later the app were developed using open source technology, there was no cost incurred in the development of software. But as the number of users grew, CSC had to buy more hosting space for the website and hire more people. Currently, the DISHA team consists of 30 project consultants in the central team and one consultant in every state and Union territory.

To provide training, it has tied up with over 1,900 training partners and over 80,000 training centres. The job of these partners and centres is to provide training. While the content used by them is provided by the programme management unit of CSC, certification is provided by well-known institutions such as National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, National Institute of Open Schooling and ICT Academy of Tamil Nadu.

To ensure the initiative functioned smoothly, DISHA received a grant of Rs.440 crore from the Union government.

The results have been very promising. As of June, 20 lakh candidates have been trained and issued certificates.

The biggest challenge DISHA faced was reaching candidates in areas with poor connectivity. Then there was the matter of scale as they had to cover all states and Union territories in the country. For this, they had to find the right training partners and centres. The easy availability of smartphones has helped the initiative reach out to a wider user base.

DeitY is looking forward to channel the campaign into the Digital India initiative. One of the seven pillars of the Digital India initiative is e-Kranti which promises electronic delivery of services. DISHA will get a big boost once it is clubbed with e-Kranti.

“Digital literacy is a key component of the Union government’s vision of building an empowered society as envisaged under the Digital India initiative. Spin-off effects of digital literacy, especially in the context of rural India, would address a number of socioeconomic issues,” said Sanjay Kumar Vyas, additional director, DeitY and the officer handling the DISHA scheme for the government.

Source | Mint – The Wall Street Journal | 27 July 2016