The dark clouds of Corona virus pandemic have covered the globe impacting more than 200 countries and warranted closure of schools and colleges all over during the last three weeks. This situation is snowballing into a new opportunity in education sector to shift from conventional chalk and talk learning to contemporary online learning.
Indian higher education is one of the most significant sectors because of the single reason of its size with over 500 million population in the age group of 5-24 years falling the learning age group. If we consider higher education numbers as per 2017-18 statistics 36.64 million enrolled in higher education with a Gross Enrolment Ratio of 25.8 per cent.
The second scenario is the existing higher education infrastructure with close to 40000 colleges and 935 universities is equipped to cater to only one fourth of the aspiring population of higher education if we consider 25.8% GER. Promoting online education and providing necessary ICT infrastructure appears to be one of the most sensible options to accelerate the access of higher education to the advantage of deprived majority of such opportunity.
This is the logic that has been going round among intellectuals and planners and there are quite a few significant steps initiated by central government in the direction of promoting online education during the last five years.
However, the response is apparently not the desired pace because of various reasons like ICT infrastructure, budgetary support to government run higher education institutions, incentives to private sector institutions and more importantly bringing in desired recognition to distance and online education which is often considered as a low quality option when compared to main stream classroom based education. It is also extremely important to be addressed by the government is the issue of digital divide in India where considerable number of people are not having access to internet.
COVID 19 which has resulted in a massive shutdown has certainly brought a new wave of speed in adapting quickly to online education options and now everyone is seeing online education options with a new and different lens of necessity. One of the glaring examples is US based MIT’s move to convert all 1259 class rooms into online by 30th March, 2020.
During the last few weeks many Indian universities and institutions are initiating steps to shift to online learning. This reactive step to an external factor and in one way seems to be a strong force working in favour of online education. Now education institutions are looking at online learning as a viable option to save the academic year. Another challenge is to position online education as a strong advantage to support mainstream education among students who are seeking admissions in the next academic year. Certainly online education has tremendous potential to match the new generation students who have access to top end computer and mobile devises.
The timing of this pandemic is also capable of pushing educational reforms swiftly towards online education and in a blended form because of two reasons. Firstly, this is the fag end of academic year for current batches which are left over with few weeks of instruction, internal assessments, projects and semester end examinations. Secondly, this is the peak time for admissions into next academic year where the students and parents may be considering the institutions’ online learning preparedness since this pandemic may have a prolonged impact on regular education. Parents may feel insecure to send students to colleges and universities and may prefer online education. At this point of time we need to remember that online education is not going to replace conventional class room teaching and it cannot replace. Online learning is to be seen as an accelerator and a strong complementary force.
Now, let’s examine role of online education interventions in main stream education system comprising of Universities and colleges. At institute level, one need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place with well-equipped Information Technology Department to lead and anchor launching of online education programs.
There is also very important need to prepare and train students to move into an entirely new learning arena in which there will not be any supervision or control by the teacher since the teacher is teaching from a remote place. Normally, in conventional class scenarios the teachers disciplines students if they are not attentive but there is a challenge in online sessions.
This issue need to be addressed with intense lecture planning by faculty members and a new delivery strategy considering the remote learning situations where teacher and taught are remotely connected. For example, a 60- minute session requires a faculty member to plan as to how he/she will be spending class time as engaging students in an online session is extremely challenging.
It is not advisable to have 60 minutes lecture only. It becomes paramount to create interest and sustain the same throughout the session duration. The session may be divided into four or five parts as mentioned below:
- First 5 Minutes : Introduction and Flow of Session
- Next 20 Minutes: Lecture on the Topic
- Next 5 Minutes : A short Quiz MCQs on the topic
- Next 20 Minutes: Lecture Part II/ Video from a subject expert/ industry expert
- Last 10 Minutes : Display Quiz answers and wrap up the session.
It is important to consider giving an assignment after each session so that student comes prepared for next session and the chain continues. In online teaching, faculty members, in addition to extensive planning of session delivery, also required to prepare for the topic thoroughly with necessary notes/ PPTs, identify and keep videos and quiz questions and answers.
It is equally important to prepare students for Online Sessions thoroughly keeping in view the distinct nature of online sessions.
1. Students shall be briefed about the need for higher degree of discipline during remote learning.
2. The students shall be informed about the technical specifications of laptops/ desktops/ with web cams, mobile devises etc., that they should possess with configuration and features like webcam, battery support etc.
3. The students shall be instructed to keep the learning support materials like recommended textbooks, notes, calculators, pen, pencil, papers etc., needed during the session and to ensure that the session area is silent and not disturbed during the session time.
4. Students to be told clearly that they shall not leave the session during the scheduled time and prepared to remain seated before the computer for 60 minutes.
5. The dress code for the sessions shall be formal like in any classroom session.
6. They should be informed to follow the class norms strictly and should not meddle with the session process like muting while session is on or exiting while session is on.
7. Punctuality, Discipline and adaptability to remote learning are to be addressed by institutions through administrative heads, heads of departments, faculty coordinators and faculty mentors.
8. Periodic review of session progress and the technical or other problems shall be taken up by the institute managements.
It is highly important to communicate students and parents the necessity of quality internet and power support at homes. Institutional support may be planned for the students from economically weaker sections in the form of providing students with laptops.
REVA University transitioned swiftly from Conventional Offline Education to a strong enabler of Online Education beating COVID 19 Shutdown.
The Future Ready Plans:
- REVA University started taking several initiatives in transforming University into a completely digital ready for the last two years.
- The University has declared 2018 as the Digital REVA and invested in creating digital class rooms with latest infrastructure which has brought in a revolutionary change in teaching.
- The next important step was to introduce paperless examination system replacing conventional paper based examination with a swift migration to complete online examination and evaluation process.
- This has been initiated to the entire examination processes starting with Internal Assessment Examinations to Semester End Examinations.
- In this Tab Based Examinations the entire process of examination end to end from examination application to declaration of results and printing of marks statements has been digitized. Another important development is using MOODLE platform for students assignments, projects and internal assessments.
- Using LMS to the best possible way in attendance and making communication with parents with seamless ease, accurate and transparent.
- All these measures have been initiated to the entire university covering all 15000+ students.
- All these measures have made the university future ready and the University is not loosing any academic activity even when the country is under lockdown.
- Now all 15000+ students and 1000 faculty members are connected with the help of MS Office Teams and faculty members are conducting classes from home while students are learning from their homes.
- The Internal Examinations Scheduled from 6h April, 2020 have been conducted after a smooth transition from conventional class room based to online mode successfully with some modifications in exam patterns.
Making Classes more engaging through mobile phones:
My Experience in the last Semester BBA Class:
- I made my students to use mobile phones in the class to discuss a real time case on successful innovations in which students had accessed about 50+ case studies participated in a lively discussion. All this was possible in a span of 2 Hours session.
- The students were given a link of India’s top 50 innovators and asked to take one innovation story and read it for 30 minutes and make a two page note on the entrepreneur and his innovation and how he made it commercially big.
- Then students were made into some 7 groups of 8 each to discuss and make a consolidated list of factors that drive innovations and identify common characteristics of innovators in the group for next 30 minutes.
- Here also they used their phones to make a short PPT of their presentation.
- Next, 50 minutes each group made a presentation with about 5-7 minutes per group.
- The Case was summed up in the last 10 minutes.
Dr.SK Prasad, with more than 35 years of experience in management education field of which over 20 years in the role of Director/Dean/Principal is an accomplished institutional builder. He has also held positions as Chairman Board of Examiners, Chairman Board of Studies, Member Academic Council in State Universities and some prominent Private universities.