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  • Writer's pictureSarang Bhola

Electronic Learning – Voyage of Educational Transformation

This write up is for stakeholders belonging to state university affiliating Higher Educational Institutions (HEI).

The pandemic Covid-19 is bringing best out of faculty towards developing and delivering knowledge and skills using electronic medium. Nothing has stopped; the teaching and learning process is going on. A few HEI have proudly notified use of e-learning in local newspapers and promulgated it through social media. E-learning and teaching from home is novelty for all stakeholders.

Shifting the Track:

I am happily surprised to see many faculties dealing with professional education and also especially from conventional education system, have started sessions using virtual classroom platforms viz. Zoom, Webex and Skype. A few have prepared the videos and hoisted on their YouTube channel. Abundant use found of audio clips, presentations, Google forms, Google classroom to reach out to students. The pandemic is also bringing best out of team HEI. Few HEI’s are taking care of faculty up-gradation by arranging online workshops, webinar, FDP’s and guest lectures. The educational activists are keeping in touch with stakeholders by providing info-graphics, secondary sources of study material, links of free reference books, online courses, journals and so on, many of these otherwise were unknown and untouched till time. Every day during lock-down WhatsApp knocks with some e-learning resource. Online meetings to take decisions in academics are also being held. Few corporate have opened up their online courses free of cost. The present performance of e-learning is awesome in this unprepared circumstances and it is going to be wonderful game changer in future with the help of high end technology.

I have seen the healthy competition amongst the educationalists and HEI about launching e-learning resources and arranging online events. Or can it be called as imitation of what others do. Or is it showing off their contribution in this endeavor? Anyway faculties are motivated to take up online platforms for teaching and concurrent evaluation of students is a welcome development.

Countless e-learning resources are now in the platter of students and faculty, this leads confusion about what to select and avail.

The Painful Past:

The entire gamut of e-learning efforts could have been taken earlier also, but then, that would have been become an issue of criticism, now it is a matter of appreciation.

There is no point of discussing, why the electronic platforms have not been adopted earlier besides numerous directives by apex academic bodies and policy makers. And further whom to hold responsible for this actually?? Digital boards installed at many HEI are still unused and ICT based teaching expected by NAAC is in question. In-spite of ample potential in manpower working at affiliating HEI it has not been exploited timely. In India, for academic reforms, specifically with affiliating HEI being selectively reactive and proactiveness is curse.

The proactive directives by policymakers and by few educationalist towards use of Moodle, Swayam, virtual classrooms, attendance systems, e-library were overlooked by decision makers and the same decision makers are now reacted to adopt the equivalent systems on the backdrop of lock-down. The people who proposed e-learning reforms years back in teaching and evaluation were then become a subject of criticism, discussion and disdain.

To put it in marketing terms, every product need right time to launch --- too early it doesn’t work and too late it becomes bitter pill.

Better Late Than Never:

The saga of academic digitization and e-learning should continue and should have perpetual life; this might come up with new educational model. I have a fear in mind that few academic leaders of reactive nature will continue with prevalent teaching and learning methods after lock-down by sidetracking these e-learning methods. Only after stringent directives by policy makers; they may act. Many contemporary reforms adopted by HEI are out of compulsion made by apex controlling bodies (again reactive approach).

E-Learning Challenges:

The gradual shift towards e-learning brings afloat few challenges.

  1. Technology up gradation needs investments.

  2. Availability of uninterrupted power supply and backup facility.

  3. Network connectivity is a big issue.

  4. Training to handle e-learning issues.

  5. Mindset of entire stakeholders should align towards a common goal.

I am concerned about HEI catering conventional education popularly called mass education. They do not have infrastructure to cater to thousands of students. In class education i.e. professional education where students’ strength is limited, even they are not upgraded with required technology. And this is evident that prevailing norms laid down by apex bodies have not followed.

Spatial Visualization: Hope Visualization Comes True:

  1. Online examinations, Online open book examination, viva-voce through video conferencing, online meetings, once were a myth for class education but now it has in discussion for a mass education as well. Even Apex bodies are talking about these reforms.

  2. Future educational model would be a blend of classroom teaching + hands on experience + online learning. Similarly online platforms will help for concurrent evaluation of students and hopefully university evaluation as well.

  3. Choice based credit system is now within reach. Students don’t need to travel but join online classes.

  4. Sharing expert faculty lectures to the students at university, national and international level is possible.

  5. Inviting guests, professional from any corner of the world through video conferencing is within reach.

  6. Every university will have its e-learning platforms like Swayam.

This pandemic at least gave confidence through experience that development and dissemination of e-learning resources are possible, though little difficult.

New educational models based on e-learning are going to save huge resources i.e. traveling time and expenses which can be reinvested in technology up gradation.

At the end of Tunnel -- Tay of Hope:

1. B-Schools are supposed to be residential schools. Now without spending in physical infrastructure, it is possible by investing in technology. Let every student have at least a tab with her.

2. Students and faculty got introduced with different online platforms which hopefully remain in use in future also. The format of time table would change to 24 x 7 teaching learning.

3. 24 x 7 may help to strengthen bonding between faculty and students. This will help better understanding of students.

4. Flexi-time for faculty as well as for students is possible which may help in maintaining work life balance.

This pandemic busted comfort zone of faculty. And a new quest of survival begins in e-education era.

Controversies put to Rest:

1. Contradictions – much has been talked and debated on the use of smart phones in college premises. The boards were displayed; mobiles are strictly prohibited in the same premises the boards conveying wi-fi campus has also displayed. Now these Wi-Fi campuses are for whom? We are talking about university affiliating non residential HEI’s. Where students usually do not carry laptop or tab but the smart phones. This prohibited devise has become mainstream instrument of teaching and learning process. Smart phones be deploy in teaching learning process provided they are properly directed for its use.

2. The thought of ‘think globally and act locally’, ruined, now we have at least started acting globally, quality is the next issue on board to discuss.

3. The thought, ‘think out of the box’, also ruined. This pandemic reveals us to act out of the box solutions.

Covid-19 leads to embark e-learning era for HEI’s from 2020.

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