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Assessing the impact of lockdown on undergraduate teaching: A survey based approach

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Abstract

Education sector presently is going through a crisis. The lockdown has restricted classroom teaching and students are completely relying on on-line content and remote learning features to study these days. The various platforms through which students are interacting with their mentors are variable. The present study evaluates the impact of the educational institution closure on undergraduate students. The study has been conducted through a survey sampling using Microsoft office forms. The data evaluated from seven hundred students has been evaluated. Teachers are using Zoom, Go to meetings, Hangouts and other platforms to deliver their content and lectures. However, there are many issues regarding availability, access and affordability for the students. The students are stressed on account of various things as many of them are from distant places. Lack of interaction with teachers and peers is affecting the learning process and may have consequences on the results. The concern regarding the examination and evaluation is the major cause of concern. This data is useful in assessment of bottlenecks in the online teaching in crisis and aims towards addressing the means and methods to overcome such hiccups in future.

Introduction

The entire world is going through a crisis on account of the Global Pandemic. After the surge in the cases in the early March 2020, the policy makers, the doctors, and the experts in the field of Virus Epidemiology took a call of nation -wide lock down. Since, there is no immediate cure available, physical distancing is seen as the only solution to curb the spread that could create a panic. The nationwide lockdown has consequences on various spheres of public life, government, and informal sectors and also on the education sector. The lockdown has resulted in schools, college universities being shut for more than a month now. The academic session in the schools was about to end and examinations had started in some schools and some were in the middle of the examination process. Universities work in full swing during this time of the year as it is the time for semester assessments and completion of the syllabus is on wheels. Educational institutes across the length and breadth of the country are temporarily closed to contain the spread of Corona infection. The decision of the Government needs to be appreciated as the schools and other educational institutes cater to the younger, dynamic, and most productive chunk of our population and it is the duty of the Government to protect the youth and hence the closure was inevitable. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the present lockdown is not going to end soon as the infection rate is escalating in almost all states.

Over the past few days the number of infections and deaths have shown steep rise which suggests that lockdown will continue. Even if phase wise lockdown is announced, educational institutes may open the last as students’ lives cannot be put at risk. Foreseeing this, many schools have announced extension of holidays and clubbed summer break with the lock down. In the central universities, such as University of Delhi, the loss in terms of classes has not been much as the University has always been keeping its calendar. The practical examinations had to start from second week of April, so the teachers were in control of their syllabus. However, the evaluation that is an important component of learning, is still not done. When and how the process will be carried out has not be resolved yet. For the completion of the remaining syllabus for sciences, arts, humanities and commerce, the University and UGC; MHRD, Government of India have sent some guidelines. The guidelines suggest that the classes should be conducted on-line so that the teaching learning is not affected much. The students of University of Delhi come from all over India. Before the Covid crisis acquired the monstrous shape, the mid-semester break during Holi, which is a part of annual academic calendar was announced and many students had gone to their hometowns or their local guardians. The announcement was abrupt, students went home without being fully prepared. Many students did not carry the books related to their course curriculum as they were expecting to resume classes soon after the break.

In such circumstances, the lockdown announcement has hindered the process of learning. Teachers of colleges started gearing up for on-line teaching and contacting students, but the process has not been smooth. Some students stay in far flung areas. Some students have no access to the internet and there are other issues that have been a cause of concern with respect to on-line communication between teachers and taught. It is important to know how the present lock-down is affecting the learning progress of the students enrolled for undergraduate degrees and whether the present methods are appreciated by the students. Anxiety levels of students who are in the final year of their course is high as some of them had already got the placement letters. They are not clear about how things will shape in near future. Considering that the teaching community was also not well prepared for the new system, their capabilities and adaptation to new technology also needs to be understood.

The present paper is based on the survey conducted by us to find out the impact of the lockdown on undergraduate students, their learning and on their job prospects. The study also looks at how students perceive this lockdown and various means through which teaching is being imparted at present.

Methodology

For the present study, a questionnaire was prepared. The questions were framed to check various attributes regarding the present ways and means used by students for studying during the lockdown. Some questions on the ways of content delivery, access to information, the platforms students are using etc. were posed. A few questions regarding issues and access to technology and the familiarity with the present platforms were also asked. Some questions on the teacher-student interaction remotely and how students perceive these were also asked. The forms were prepared on Microsoft platform and circulated through various WhatsApp groups. The Microsoft platform form received around750 responses which were used to conduct the analysis.

Results and Conclusions

The respondents of the survey are more than 700 students belonging to different streams and different years of the course of study, pictured as under:

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The first case of Covid-19 pandemic was reported in India in January end and the situation became quite alarming by the beginning of March. It was the same time when most of the institutions were about to disperse their classes for the mid semester break and the students were all set to go back to their respective hometowns with their mid semester break assignments and projects and also enjoy the festival of colours. The semester was midway and so were the syllabi. The survey reports that most of the courses were left with around 45% of the syllabus content, supposed to be covered after the break, when the pandemic broke and the first lockdown was announced. However, for science courses 70% course was covered in most of the subjects. This random survey sample reveals the following:

percentage

 

Percentage of syllabus left when the pandemic broke
Mean 45.34843
Standard error 0.777226
Median 50
Mode 50
Standard Deviation 21.2994
Sample Variance 453.6645
Range 100
Minimum 0
Maximum 100
Sum 34056.67
Count 751

 

A couple of days went silent, assuming the situation would get back to normal and physical classes would be resumed shortly. In the survey, the students report to be missing their friends, classes and other activities in the college during the lockdown. At present, most of the students report to be connected to their concerned teachers online through platforms like google classrooms, zoom, whatsapp, messenger, college portals for study material, youtube etc. but at the same time express the lack of satisfaction and difficulty in learning through online modes of learning.

managing studiesfaculty

connectivity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When asked about the semester-end examinations, a totally heterogeneous set of responses popped up which is captured in the scatter diagram as under:

CGPAexam pay roll

Although majority of respondents feel that exams play a role in overall learning but in this lockdown phase there is no correlation even between high scorers in previous examination and the ones who do not want promotion without examination. In fact as per the data sample, the correlation coefficient between the two is a negative value of -0.02793, which shows that there is a mixed response from different students in terms of their scores in the previous examination and how they perceive the idea of promotion without examination due to the lockdown. On one hand, some low scorers want examinations to be held and on the other hand, some top scorers want promotion without examination. There is another class of students who are not sure either way. This heterogeneity in the responses can be accounted to the shaken confidence of the students in the absence of physical classes.

The present study clearly indicates that internet connectivity, acquaintance with the usage of on-line platforms and acceptance to this method of teaching which has loomed abruptly are hindering the process of teaching and learning. It is also clear that students feel that peer to peer interaction and meeting the students and interacting in a class-room environment is far better way of learning than solitary learning with technology. In order to make e-learning or remote learning more acceptable it is imperative that we have counselling sessions with the students in the next semester and appraise them on the new technology.

Though this study is a preliminary exercise, an attempt made by our team to understand how students are taking digital learning platforms in Phase I and Phase II of lockdown when many students are getting exposed to technology for the first time. However, a more robust evaluation can throw light on some of the aspects that will help educational institutes and policy makers to gear up for the challenges in education sector.

Acknowledgements

Authors acknowledge the constant support received from the Principal, Hansraj College. Authors also thank Mr Amit Moza for helping with MS office forms preparation and Ms Vidhi Madhava, student B.Sc. Life Science, Hansraj College for helping in sending the forms to many students for data collection.

Monika Koul, Department of Botany, Hansraj College, University of Delhi

Jyoti Bhola, Department of Mathematics, Hansraj College, University of Delhi

*drmkoul@gmail.com: Corresponding author

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