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Elets Exclusive | Educators: Time to embrace blended learning as new normal

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Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1.5 billion students and youth across the globe are affected by school and university closures. The outreach of educational programs is improving day by day with the digitalization of education. Digital education is providing both teachers and students new opportunities to teach and learn thereby ensuring greater participation in the overall learning process.

The penetration of digital education into the rural market is evolving fast. Affordable high-speed internet and direct-to-device technologies are empowering rural students to study courses online and improve their skills and knowledge. The Ed-Tech firms have saved the day for many educational institutions as thousands of schools were finding it hard to complete their syllabus.

Once COVID-19 passes, will institutes across the globe reopen their doors and resume classes as before, or will the education model be changed forever? Has online learning overthrown traditional campus learning? The questions are yet to be answered.

Elets Technomedia and digitalLEARNING Magazine organized a webinar on “Blended Learning and Digital Examination to boost Effectiveness and Efficiency in Academics” with esteemed speakers from the Higher Education sector.

 

Dr. Pankaj Gupta, President, IIHMR University, Jaipur said “Our productivity has surged in this pandemic. Our syllabus was over in time so there were no issues. Initially, the faculty members were very reluctant but now it seems everything on its track. We use music, meditation as therapy for students. We have created more outcomes in this crisis. We have even created an individual development plan for students to handle the pressure.”

He also said everything cannot be taught online and universities must adopt blended learning when they re-open their campuses. Universities have to adopt new ways to keep students engaging as it’s been difficult times for all, he added.

Over exams, he said the concept of long answers have to must be removed. Varsities must focus on mental health and well being of students. He even said no technology can replace a teacher.

He emphasized to focus on the effectiveness of education system.

Dr. Mahesh D. Goudar, Professor & Director MIT Academy of Engineering, Pune said “We had a digital infrastructure in our college. Earlier, we were doing it in a very small scale but now we have to adapt it extensively. Initially, it was a huge challenge for faculty members. By the time faculty members adopted it gracefully and conducted over 1500 sessions.”

He also said the institution has made classes very interactive for students and outcomes were very promising. He even said institutions must adopt creative ways to engage students during a virtual class.

He even said engineering is nothing but applied science. He also emphasized on adopting ERP for exams.

Dr S S Mantha, Chancellor, KL University, Andhra Pradesh and Former Chairman, AICTE said “Five years ago, AICTE introduced blended learning. We have implemented blended learning in KL University six months back. Every student has to select one course and will have to complete it online. The feedback is very good and completion rate is very high.”

He also said “The content is the main challenge in online education. The expanse of digital content is very large. Challenge to conduct exams especially in remote areas.”

He even said institutions need govt support for conducting exam and cable TV can be one of the potential solutions for exams.

The mindset has to be changed for digital exams. People have to learn through both offline and online, he added.

There will be acceptance of digital education. Three things will dominate the education sector- online education, blended learning, distance learning, he added.

Mode of learning does not matter if credit only matters for students. Still, there is no accreditation for online education in India and a lot of works needs to done in the sector. There is a huge potential for online learning and virtual labs can bring new dimensions to the sector.

Prof. (Dr.) Navin Sheth, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad said “We have started blended learning from mid-March. We have trained our faculty members for blended learning. Earlier, only 3 pc teachers were acquainted with e-learning.”

Over exams, he said “We have conducted mock test for students and around 98 pc registered for the exams. Through mock test, we have shown that exams can be conducted online. Blended learning can be adopted widely and the best solution in this crisis”.

E-learning has been accepted in every sector. The virtual classes have witnessed about 99 pc attendance during the lockdown period. E-learning can be seen as the best solution in the crisis, he added.

Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Chancellor, Shobhit University, Uttar Pradesh said “Technology was always with us but we were reluctant to accept it as a substitute. The Covid-19 crisis has given us the chance to experiment and technology has become a substitute. These days we are talking about blended learning not teaching as teachers are also learning new things.”

Over challenges, he also said in rural areas there are huge issues with students including internet connectivity and gadgets. We are not ready with the infrastructure to provide study materials to students. The challenge of availability is persistent. However, attendance has surged during the virtual classes.

He asked to emphasis on quality of content.

We need to have blended learning with 60-40 pc. There was a concept of meta universities has to introduced in the system, he added.

In this crisis institutions must have curiosity, courage, calmness, collaboration, compassion, he added.

He even said the energy will be missed on campus as there will be restrictions in the coming days.

Rajita Kulkarni, President, Sri Sri University, Cuttack said “Corona has accelerated things in last two months. When lockdown announced we shifted to online teaching in two-three days. The crisis has translated the sector. The transition was seamless and 98 pc of our students took online exams. This has been very productive time for teachers.”

She even said faculty members provided many free webinars for students during the lockdown.

Over challenges, she raised a few concerns. How can we make it sustainable? How students are going to come back to campus? Will students suffer online fatigue in the coming days? The mental wellbeing of students is a challenge that universities have to tackle.

She even said Education is building the character of students. Teachers cannot be replaced by Artificial Intelligence. AI can be a substitute, not a solution. AI cannot provide empathy for students.

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