The whole world is vexed with Corona the biotic Trojan. There’s an old saying that goes: “when you shut one eye, you also don’t hear everything”. This is a wakeup call!! This virus is assuming monumental proportions the world over, with almost half a million cases recorded with the number increasing by the day, out of which almost a staggering 24,000 dead with redemption nowhere in sight.
Every conceivable business has been disrupted affecting the economy, as no business downturn can. March – April of any year is a very busy time for the students and the faculty.
Universities and Colleges will all be abuzz with activity, not this year though. They have all been hit with the students having returned to their homes and the faculty waiting for the Corona shadows to disappear. Activities that are time bound cannot be deferred. What is the way out? Remember, we are in a world completely networked and connected, be it by the Web or otherwise. Our constant tryst with destiny has made us develop several online initiatives in the past. It is time we fall back on those initiatives. Churchill during the WW-II made a profound statement. “Never let a good crisis go waste” Can we turn this crisis into an opportunity?
Without going into the rhetoric of what this means and keeping it simple, can we suggest that the schools must either own up responsibility of ensuring that the corona does not infect their campus, or they must disclaim that a single student or employee infected as a result of this will not touch seats, or bus handles or table tops which of course is impossible.
We must quickly move to online dissemination of a purposeful education. That alone would be a befitting opportunity to stand up to the crisis and face it and not our self- imposed hypnosis of imagining that this is how things have been running and will continue to! Schools must shift to online teaching. It is simple; the teachers now at their own homes, record their lessons on video and send it to the students on WhatsApp. That also prepares a digital library of content for the schools. The students can visit that content several times rather than over a single limited period in the class. This must include all the teachers and support staff in addition to the students that must immediately be asked to stay at home and learn. This is the paradigm waiting to blow conch unless we want to ignore the war cry of COVID! Like organizations and companies allow their employees to work from home, our colleges too must allow learning and assessment from home in these highly distressing times.
Several Online providers have made their content available free to whoever needs it, at least till end of June. The content of credible players like TCS, Coursera can be used to tide over in the technical education domain. Edutech major BYJUS on Wednesday said it will provide free access to its complete app to school students till April. Free access to Academic textbooks on Cambridge Core, Cengage and Wiley online library is also available. The opportunity must be used by every Institution / College / University to reach out to students so that they complete whatever is left at the time of the disruption. It will optimise education, bring the cost of education lower, release stressed infrastructure and provide much better referenceable archives than the current classroom system provides. Gutenberg invented the printing press and with that the Bible left the church and reached homes. The churches stay as does the Bible in homes. Only the realm of God expanded in the process!!
The universities must also explore conducting online Examinations and Assessment wherever possible. Desperate times seek desperate solutions. A window of promotion to the next class in schools and colleges for those who opt and for such promotion and for those who do not opt, an exit examination conducted, must be explored. The government on its part, may explore zero tax on all expenditure incurred on education & health institutions for the next six months.
COVID 19 and the World Wide Web in one stroke, have turned the world into the proverbial “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”, the former by the capacity to destruct and the later by its benevolence to engage. A most endearing flip side to the malaise of Corona would be, on one side a complete obliteration of the differences that religions, races and castes bring about and on the other, the web uniting all human beings as one.
Corona will not leave the readers any opportunity to fight, let alone the defenses, to continue attending the schools, keeping the children and staff and all those who serve the country to raise our economy and GDP vulnerable. A certain benevolent thought must be shared and a prayer made for all those who still would need to be on the streets and at the borders so that we live to see another day. The article must stay in the records to be held as a mirror to the next impending Corona case in our vicinity.
Where one can reach them:
Cambridge free access to text Books
5. Wiley online Library: https://novel-coronavirus.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/