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Prof PB Sharma, Vice Chancellor, Amity University, Gurugram: Digital learning- A great compliment to collaborative learning

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Prof PB Sharma

The lockdown due to Coronavirus or COVID-19 till April 14 has come as a blessing in disguise for universities and institutions of higher learning in India. This has given us a new opportunity to explore and implement digital learning solutions in a big way to compliment higher education during these hours of national crisis and protect the interest of the students. Work from home is both easy and best suited at a time when personal safety and isolation is the rule of the game. The prime question, however, is whether working from home and delivering online classes would we as effective as face to face teaching in the classroom. It is this consideration that for a long time heralded the rapid growth of digital learning as a valid and viable alternative to higher education.

Experience gained at Amity University Gurugram and in all Amity Universities around the country (There are now 11 Amity Universities in different states in India) confirms that the fear of digital learning being less effective was not well founded. Amity university had, of course, the distinct advantage of having all its academic and administrative services managed through a well-developed, time tested and intensely tech-savvy Amity Intranet platform, Amizone that was being used for years by faculty and students for academic activities including examinations and results. Further, with its eyes on a rapid march on pathways of digital education, Amity universities well before the advent of COVID 19 trained its faculty for use of Microsoft Team and LMS integrated to Amity Amizone portal.

As such as the universities were closed down from March 14 onwards, a smooth shift to online classes from home by the faculty could be made without any loss of time. More than 400 faculty members who are working from their homes are able to conduct 100 percent of their classes online with an overwhelming response from the students’ community. It is because of our continuous focus on advantage technology in higher education and research, the Amity University today is fully equipped for handling teaching-learning on the online system even after the total shutdown of physical operations nationwide.

The system was monitored at various levels by heads of institutions and the top management and it was highly satisfying that the attendance of students in online classes was almost 95% in all classes, the students were greatly satisfied as the lectures were also recorded and uploaded for further study. The online classes also facilitated interactive teaching learning environment.

The Zoom meetings also allowed the faculty to engage in collaborative research. Online quizzes and online submission of assignments made it further easy to do internal assessment. What more, the midterm examinations have also been conducted using online examination system and by now the course work is also covered to almost 90% and above.

I am also very happy to note that very many universities in India have been able to conduct online classes during COVID-19 lockdown of academic campuses. The great advantage of Digital Learning is that it promotes self-learning too.

As such with the integration of DigitalLearning in universities, we shall fast move towards a learner-centric academic environment and shall reap great benefits of education for accelerating our march on the pathways of growth and development.

Education would then become, in true sense, the driver of nation’s prosperity. My judgement is that we in India are sitting on a gold mine of opportunity to tap the great benefits of Digital Learning at all levels from schools to universities.

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