We are in the 3rd month of lockdown and now focusing on to resume the economic and allied activities with modifications to move on in the changing environment. The first month of the lockdown had every individual focusing on safeguard and avoid being affected, the 2nd month made us accept it and draw plans to live with it. The realization of the challenges and limitations has also helped to look for alternative sources, resources, and ideas to pick up from where it was left. At individual levels, it is to move on with some lifestyle changes, but at the institutional or the organization level, it is to restart by a rework of the existing system, make the workforce fit for the new demands, design and deliver to the optimal.
With the perspective of the business sector, it is faster for the corporate sector to pick up since they have the systems, technology and digital infrastructure in place with the major challenge being only the employees and customer interaction strategies to be re-drawn. The insistence on effective and strong Digital infrastructure is for the fact that Covid – 19 has immobilized physical interactions and the conventional way of doing the businesses. The education sector would see a bigger impact on the digital front due to various reasons. The major of them is the slow pace of digital integration and the attitudinal shift that is required to implement changes. I have tried to project some of the major hurdles that have hindered the digitization process in the education sector and the cultural change that is required to be brought in the functioning style in the new and changing environment.
It’s not that the digital infrastructure is non-existence in the education sectors, but its usage and application in many of the institutions are limited only to activities like student registration, database management, attendance, marks entry, etc. Some of the top institutes do have a digital way of information dissemination and communication tools to be connected with their students, but, the number of such institutions is very less. When we try to explore the reasons for the limited usage of the digital platform, then, it would narrow down to the fact that the educational institutes are not fully ready to shift to digital learning infrastructure or upgrading the existing infrastructure available.
In the upcoming times, colleges or schools will be reopening in the changed environment and what could support an institution to start seamless and stay ahead of the others? This will be the institute’s digital infrastructure like IT systems, LMS (Learning management system) and the analytical mechanism. Along with the infrastructure there comes other parameters that can help is the availability of the well equipped and skilled human resource that can make use of the digital mediums. It will be the digital skills and the capabilities that would add value to the institution’s goals, mission and objectives. Most important is that digitally literate teachers provide an edge to the institution in standing out.
In the upcoming 3 to 4 months, it will be all the way virtual/online teaching that would require teachers to stay connected with the students all through. The digital learning and teaching will become a norm over the times, but the transition to that has to be effectively done with manageable moderations of the conventional system. The teaching community has to be ready for digital teaching mode for now and then be switching to the mix of online and physical form in sometimes and finally at the end of the academic year for the physical form of teaching, the conventional one. The teachers should be encouraged and guided to master the teaching skills for all the formats. Another most important skill that teachers should equip themselves with is presentation skills. It’s though a little difficult to start with, through practice, it is easy to master. The presentation skill is the important aspect of digital teaching to ensure that student is kept enthused, attentive and participative.
The changing environment will test the teacher’s ability to adapt to the virtual world, deliver high-quality teaching, management of the students remotely in the presence of the parents, moderation skills, subject knowledge and the delivery style. Another very crucial aspect is that teachers have to develop creative skills and be original. In other terms, picking up the entire content from Google, digital libraries, and pouring it on students shall not work. Teachers should enhance their editorial skills and share the latest trends, technology and the curriculum with the students.
From the institution perspective, it is very important to prepare the students and teachers for the transition. The task of developing an environment of online learning for the students and the teacher is indeed big. The challenges like digital fatigue, a short span of concentration, network quality, poor content design and presentation skills of the teachers can lead to non-participation or large absenteeism.
Learning Management system (LMS) of the institute will play a big role in the upcoming times. The LMS system must provide easy to use functions and be both web and the mobile platform compatible. Since the students predominantly use mobile to access information, hence, LMS should be App based. Another aspect that requires a great consideration is the data structure, retrieval of the contents and the document/response upload system. At any given time the students and teachers should be able to post or retrieve the contents in sequence and continuity.
The biggest benefit an institution can draw from the online system is through the content and its utility. The digital library or LMS can be used for reference, research and significantly for the training and development of the faculty and students. This can to a great extent helps in the maintenance of quality, uniformity and the standards of teaching. Professionally developed digital library and the content creators (faculties) can be revenue generators for the institutes if shared with other institutes. In addition to this, a well-developed system and digital presence can also help in brand enhancement and admissions.
To end with it’s always the challenges that bring on the best in us. This pandemic too should be credited for its share to make us realize our innate potentials and face the challenges, working out the solutions and creating newer systems that can be more effective and different.