COVID 19 startled all segments of the society with its severity and sensitivity. Higher Education sector all across the globe also have been startled by the pandemic. The initial fortnight post lockdown announcement, the entire nation stood still stopping all its activities – higher education was not different. As the nation understood that the pandemic and the resultant lockdown was not in ending soon, measures to cope up and withstand the situation were announced by the Government. Higher Education system got its guidance as to how to move forward from the respective regulatory bodies. University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education gave the preliminary guidelines to keep campuses closed and later to conduct sessions and examinations online. Institutions that were enjoying autonomy and were advanced in visionary thoughts had already implemented methods to keep the learning in their campuses happening though not face-to-face but virtually. Some institutions had the experience of online teaching as they had distance education and executive education. Others with autonomy and excellence learnt it quickly from different sources. Affiliated colleges were depending on universities for clear instructions. Thus, affiliated colleges have lagged behind in adapting the online teaching and evaluation.

Reagan A R Gurung (June 2020) in his article ‘Pandemic Teaching Prescriptions’ talks about CCOMFE that benefits both face-to-face and virtual classrooms. CCOMFE is an acronym that expands as:  Compassion, Clarity, Organization, Multifacetedness, Flexibility and Engagement. In pandemic times it is important that faculty members adapt this method to be prepared for the unprepared. Reagan brings the similarity between the bike ride and that of the online teaching as to how both can be a pleasant experience if everything turns out to be as expected. Both can be horrifying and unpleasant if the experiences are unexpected. Faculty needs to be compassionate as the pandemic is lashing societies and communities around. Everyone has a negative experience with the pandemic and teachers need to take that into consideration. Clarity is crucial as the confusion and chaos around students need to have clarity about at least what they learn. The content offered in a course need to be well organized to facilitate learning. Multifaceted courses that provide students with many ways to learn and to interact with the content, the instructor and other students — such as synchronous and asynchronous classes; breakout rooms, discussion boards, Jamboards, Google slides — tend to keep students’ attention more effectively. Setting courses up to have different avenues for learning can be accomplished by leveraging the affordances of Zoom and learning management systems such as Canvas. Flexibility is required in faculty to alter the course according to the need of the students and to give extended dates or deadlines, also alter the methods of exhibiting the learning outcomes. Student engagement activities are required to make the teachers’ presence felt and can take the form of introductory videos, weekly videos, reading material for reflections, polls, post-lecture activities, emails, etc. 

Objectives of the paper:

  1. To identify if the CCOMFE framework is given importance in the selected higher education institutions
  2. To identify the components of the CCOMFE framework that are emphasized and neglected/ignored in the selected higher education institutions
  3. To know the student and faculty experiences of the online classes
  4. To understand the opinion of the students and faculty on the effectiveness of the online classes

Based on convenience sampling five institutions were identified. Students and faculty members were selected on convenient sampling method. One hundred students and ten teachers were administered with a structured questionnaire to elicit information and opinion. The data gathered is presented as simple percentage analysis.

Students Study:
The students were using various Video Conferencing Software based on the institution they belonged to. Predominantly Zoom and Google Meet emerged as the most widely used VCS. The experience with Zoom was opined as the best, while Google Meet was considered to be good. 38 percent considered the online learning experience better or far better.16 percent found it to be of no difference. 46 percent found it to be poor or poorer compared to face to face classes. The most predominant online engagement activity experienced by the students was quiz. Polls, Word Clouds, Hangman and Crossword Puzzles were also experienced by some. Breakout room experience was there for the elite institutions.

Faculty Study:
The faculty members were using the Video Conferencing Software that was provided by the institution they worked with. Zoom was the most used and most preferred VCS. Google Meet was also being used widely. Cisco Webex, GoTo Meeting and Skype were used in a very limited level. The experiences with the VCS were rated medium between good and best. None of the faculty members found the online teaching to be effective. Majority of them used quizzes and some used Hangman and other methods to engage the students. The other methods mentioned here are Mentimeter, Google Meet Chat Box, Discussions online, etc.  Majority of the faculty members used either used synchronous method totally or predominantly. None of the faculty members wanted to continue the online teaching for the entire program.

Faculty are trying their best to be empathetic with students and are compassionate with students. Unfortunately faculty are not treated with the same empathy and compassion. Faculty are not expected to be expecting compassion and empathy from students, academic administrators or the society. Faculty members are expected to be super humans capable of carrying and managing the stress that arises out of the pandemic, efforts to teach online with poor online infrastructure in the country.

In affiliated institutions where there is not much clarity on how to deliver with shrunken hours of classes is a barrier to provide clarity. When the delivery hours are cut by 20 to 30 percent and the same content need to be delivered, clarity becomes the victim.

It has become crucial to deliver organized content to students during this unprecedented time of confusion and chaos. Well organized content always ensures effective learning, more so in the pandemic times. The one hour or 90 minute sessions are to be planned and organized effectively. The entire class time need to be broken into chunks of 15 – 20 minutes, during which the activities and the method of delivery to students must change. Thus a class of 60 minutes needs minimum 4 parts with minimum two activities alternatively, of 15 minutes each.

Multifacetedness requires more tech savvies of teachers and continuous learning. In order to be multifaceted teachers need to adapt variety of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Faculty members cannot learn it by themselves and cannot identify and explore them by their own efforts. Unless it is introduced by the higher education institution as a compulsory component or through a Faculty Development Program it is not easy on the part of the faculty to adapt these multifaceted techniques and tools that make the learning process multifaceted.

For the different types of learners in the class teachers ought to provide the variety of experiences that appeal to the students. Flexibility in methods, flexibility in delivery mechanisms and tools, flexibility to permit students to advance in their pace and style of learning, etc. are important. Being compassionate to students also demands flexibility. Accommodating changes in target dates, change in forms of reports, change in learning experience output methods, etc. is required.

The final and most predominantly emphasized aspect of online teaching is engagement. Student must experience engagement with the sessions in order to learn effectively. As there is no face to face communication in online sessions faculty members must ensure that they walk into the students’ homes with engaging learning experiences. Student Engagement is a crucial part of the online teaching-learning experience and need to be focused upon. Multifaceted approach helps in student engagement. Multifaceted approach is aimed at student engagement.

Compassion, Clarity, Organization and Flexibility as part of CCOMFE in teaching courses online demands multifacetedness and engagement. Engagement and multifacetedness are found to be the anchor for the CCOMFE framework that ensures a pleasant online teaching experience. The multifacetedness and student engagement are ensured by the additional features of Video Conferencing Software such as breakout rooms, whiteboard, chat box, hand raising, polling, appreciation symbols like clapping, thanking, etc. Apart from the VCS features there are several online platforms and applications that make the online teaching effective with multifacetedness and engagement of the students.

Online Platforms and Applications for CCOMFE:

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, used as educational technology in higher educational institutions as well as others. Its learning games, “Kahoots”, are user-generated multiple-choice quizzes that can be accessed via a web browser or the Kahoot app. Kahoot! can be used to review students’ knowledge, for formative assessment, or as a break from traditional classroom activities. Kahoot! also includes trivia quizzes. The questions answered are evaluated for their correctness as well as for their quickness. There is a feature in Kahoot to organize the answers in the order of importance, which is a different experience.

Socrative supports up to 150 students and allows 20 private or public rooms. It permits up to 20 activities to be launched simultaneously assessing students’ comprehension as they are learning and keep track of it in real time. Only those with specific class id as specified by the instructor will be permitted to the class. It also provides easy shareable link making it possible to share it with others. It permits the import of the class roster and the silent hand raise. It also allows the teacher to discuss the answers at any time. The type of questions and number of questions are decided by the teacher. There is great room for flexibility and there is zero cost involved.

Questions on Socrative can be either multiple choice, true/false, or free response, so teachers can mix up the format when quizzing students. Furthermore, multiple choice questions can be programmed to have more than one answer, giving teachers even more variety to work with when making quizzes. The basic quiz format is great for working in groups or as an entire class, as the teacher determines when to move on to the next question. This provides a lot of opportunity for discussion if students are confused on a particular question. There is also a quiz mode more focused on individuals: each student essentially takes his own quiz and he determines when to move on to the next question.

Socrative is a great example of a program that makes learning clearly visible for students, helping them figure out what they know and what they don’t know. With Socrative, they are able to learn whether or not their answer to a question is correct immediately in normal quiz mode or Space Race, or whenever the teacher decides to reveal the answer in group quiz mode. The group mode offers an opportunity for a class discussion at any time if there is confusion about a certain question. Because the teacher decides the pace, not the software, students can get immediate feedback on why their answer is incorrect and use that feedback to improve their understanding of the material.  

Mentimeter is an easy-to-use presentation software used by more than 25 million people. With Mentimeter you can create fun and interactive presentations. We help you make your events, presentations, lectures, and workshops innovative and memorable. The main benefits of Mentimeter are simplifying the creation of presentations, collecting data in real-time, and optimizing data analysis. Learn more of its advantages by reading on.

Mentimeter helps in a good way to gauge the sentiments of your target audience – whether the target audience be employees, students, or custom target demographic. It is easy to use both for the poll creator and the people who answer them. Answers and results are gathered and presented in real time. This makes engaging with audiences easier and faster. This speeds up data gathering and enables users to tweak their decisions according to real-time data. Trends can be analyzed, insights can be gained, and predictions be made. Mentimeter makes presentations more professional, dynamic, engaging and visually pleasing. The presentations can be intertwined with polls and assessment, which makes time of presentation engaging and interactive thus facilitating collaboration. Mentimeter ensures that data gathered is simplified and presented in more visually appealing way.

Hangman game helps to test if the students have understood a concept. Based on the clues given about the concept students will identify the concept by giving one letter at a time. If the letters given by students are wrong the person to be hung will step by step get ready to be hung. This game gives the excitement of protecting the person from being hung and to ensure that the students guess the right letters and words.

Quizzizz helps faculty members to test the understanding of students on pre-class reading, during classroom sessions and also post-lecture assignments. Quizzizz has the feature to explain concepts or answers as the question gets answered by the students. Quizzizz provides the facility to teach also through interactive presentations.

It provides the opportunity to create crosswords based on the concepts taught in the class. It can be an activity to warm up the session with a brainstorming introduction or it can be a summing up session to review and recollect everything discussed in the class that day. It is very interesting for groups to compete with each other in finding the correct answers.

Proprofs is a platform that offers a variety of tools for faculty members to choose from. The purpose of Multifaceted sessions can be fulfilled with the support of Proprofs. Wordsearch, Crossword, Word Scramble, Chess, Tic-Tac-Toe, Jigsaw, Sudoku, Sliding, etc. are some of the facilities with Proprofs.

Puzzlemaker Discovery Education:
Discovery Education Puzzlemaker offers a wide variety of puzzles for improving the online engagement and multi-faceted requirement. The puzzles include Word Search, Criss-Cross, Double Puzzles, Fallen Phrases, Math Squares, Letter Titles, Cryptograms, Number Blocks and Hidden Messages.

Slido makes the online meetings with students more interesting and interactive. The application of Slido to online teaching can transform the whole outlook to it. It can help in crowd sourcing and answering the most pressing questions of the class. Regardless of the location the students become part of the class and best ideas can be collected and curated using Slido. Question and Answer sessions post lecture can be made lively with Slido. Powerful panel discussions are possible with Slido. Improvement in student commitment to learning, celebration of star students, student highlights, etc. can be done using Slido.

Simulations are closer to reality situations offered to students to make the learning more intense and long lasting. There are several simulation games offered in different domains of management from different Business Schools like Harvard and also from different EduTech firms. These simulations are highly engaging and involve the full presence of students into the games and are highly effective.

Quillionz is a platform that supports AI powered quizzes and notes. Quillionz enables to generate high quality quizzes to check recall, multiple choice and short descriptive questions. Quillionz generates questions based on the content provided and allows the faculty members to curate. It allows even for request of better quality questions. Among the other advantages Quillionz offers the predominant following benefits: Better Questions with human touch, generated by data-driven approach than structured questions. Time and cost saving in terms of efforts spent by SMEs, Instructional designers and quality check teams. Lesser dependency on domain experts for curation and quality validation of questions.

Faculty Experience on the tools of engagement:
The tools of engagement are exciting for faculty when presented to them. They have the intention to use the tools and techniques that they are trained in and introduced to. Not all the tools and platforms are easy to use. It needs certain level of expertise and exploration mindset to use them regularly in the class. Faculty members once facing a difficulty in the use of a tool are not keen to explore the same again unless there is a handholding facility available.

The tools after a certain period of being continuously used bring boredom in students. The students look forward for a variety of engagement methods, tools and techniques. This means the faculty need to keep exploring, learning and introducing new methods of engagement. The puts immense pressure on the faculty to search, learn and become an expert in using the tools, techniques and methods of engagement apart from the subject. In a session of one hour a faculty is required to give minimum three such engagement activities to keep the students attentive and alert. This requires the faculty members to understand and use a minimum of twelve to fifteen tools and techniques of engagement without allowing boredom to set in the students. The pressure of time and efforts on teachers is high.

The tools and techniques of engagement are not always free. If the free versions are used there are restrictions to use the tools and techniques with all the exciting features. For example Quizzizz provides the possibility of providing additional clues for students to get the answers figured out only if it is a paid version. Mentimeter permits only two or three questions during a particular time, the teacher cannot have the freedom to use the tool as much as he or she wants.

The internet connectivity issues are challenge to faculty members too. The infrastructure in every city and village in the nation is not similar. While those in the cities are privileged to have the best connectivity facilities, those in remote parts of the country have troubles. Teachers have a requirement to upgrade their homes with the best connectivity and electricity availability. Not every teacher has the resources and possibilities to do that.

Student experience on the tools of engagement:
Students are thoroughly enjoying the experiences offered by the engagement efforts taken by teachers. The classes are interesting and help students to be more focused and listen to the sessions with a purpose. The interactions and engagement, fun element and interest that the engagement tools bring into the classroom are helping students look forward to classes and to learn more effectively during the sessions.

Once certain tools and techniques are over used or repeated used without much change that brings boredom in students which again takes away the interest initially created. Students tend to become more predictive of the sessions and tend to become more used to the session than being excited about the sessions.

The internet connectivity issues seem to be a great trouble to students in engaging with classes and keep a high interest during the classes. The frequent interruptions caused by the internet connectivity do not allow some students to participate in the engagement activities. To respond to questions raised by teachers in the class even is a difficulty due to the internet connectivity.

Inferences from the study:

Objective 1:
Teachers are compassionate in their approach to students while teaching online. Clarity and Organized teaching efforts are ensured by teacher while planning the lessons during delivery it gets disrupted due to infrastructure failures such as power disruption, internet connectivity issues of the teacher and the students.

Teachers are constantly trying to make the sessions of online teaching multifaceted. There is trouble in that effort too due to internet connectivity issues and other technical issues.

Flexibility and Engagement are given much importance by teachers. Yet engagement activities need greater support to teachers. Engagement activities need teachers’ time and efforts. Further some of them need.

Objective 2:
The components of CCOMFE framework are not given equal importance or uniform priority in the institutions concerned. Engagement gets the maximum emphasis. Compassion, Clarity and Organization happens to a great extent as teachers are trained and tuned for that even during the regular classes. Multifaceted aspects during online classes are a challenge, as switching from one facet to the other consumes time and the infrastructure does not always support the seamless switching from one activity to another. Though student engagement is highly emphasised and given a lot of attention, getting students involved and active is not found to be very easy.

Objective 3:
Though online sessions are comfortable on many counts such as no travel, not time spent in traffic, no stress of public transportation, etc. there are challenges faced by faculty members and students in online teaching-learning. The experiences are not pleasant that the teachers and students would embrace it for long.

Objective 4:
The effectiveness of online teaching is not very clearly visible. Though students and faculty members agree that there is not much difference between face to face sessions and online sessions, there seems to be a disconnect despite all the efforts to connect with students. Students in the comfort or their home or in the midst of a home that has a totally different environment from that of a classroom many times does not provide the right ambience to learn. When students are at home learning online parents also do not give the significant importance to the process and thus may disturb them in between. The infrastructure difficulties at some remote locations are also a serious concern on the effectiveness of online learning.

The study reveals that teachers in order to excel in online teaching need continuous coaching, training, mentoring, technical support and handholding. In order to use the multifaceted approach and engagement tools and techniques more generously faculty members need to be trained frequently and every day support on technology must be available for faculty members. The gadgets that would improve the effectiveness of delivery of the online sessions must be provided by the institution as faculty members may not have the knowledge and the resources to have the gadgets. Faculty must be treated with compassion and encouraged to be clear and organized in their online content.

There need to be a change in the outlook and perspective of students. They need to realize faculty members are equally affected by the pandemic and complaining does not help. Amidst the pandemic how to thrive and excel must be the approach and outlook of students. They must make the best out of the situation. Online sessions can be enriched by excellent student participation and involvement. Responding to the faculty member as and when required can make a huge difference in the powerful delivery of the online sessions. I had the privilege of attending the workshop organized by Black Card Books offered by Gerry Robert. The energy level of the audience was so high – audience had their videos on, there was lot of action and response to the resource person whenever there was a request. Online classrooms need vibrant students who would continue to learn through interactions and asking questions.

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