It has been just about five months since 11 March 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. In some quarters this is already seen as a historical divide, BC (before Corona) and AC (after Corona). Across the globe educational systems at all levels have been seriously impacted even in this short span of time. The virus has affected all schools, colleges and universities. By mid-March mostly, these have all been shut: classes have been suspended, examinations, research work and virtually all laboratory experiments have been forced to hit the “pause button”.
Although many Higher Educational Institutions have quickly decided to conduct classes and examinations online, its implementation in the country is not an easy task. Access to smartphones and the internet is still very limited. At the same time, it is undeniable that technology can play a big role in offering alternatives to regular academic activities, so one effect of this pandemic may well be to bring significant changes in the traditional education sector in regards with the use of technology as a tool for learning.
Elets Technomedia and digitalLEARNING Magazine organized ‘Higher and Technical Education Conclave, North India’ to highlight the new innovations and future of higher education in the country. The conclave was graced by eminent speakers from higher education sector.
The inaugural session was conducted on ‘Conductive Policies & Regulatory Frameworks: Current Scenario & Future’. The welcome address was delivered by Dr Ravi Gupta, Editor-in-chief, digitalLEARNING Magazine and CEO, Elets Technomedia Pvt Ltd.
Col Kailash Bansal, Director, All India Council For Technical Education (AICTE) said “More than life, livelihood has got affected due to Corona. Higher Education is hugely impacted as all the things are halted. All the students are stuck and leveraging the usage of digital education. Education is a service not a product. There is a hidden component in the education sector. There are huge education enablers in the sector and they are overtaken by digital platforms. We are forced to adopt the digital usage due to the pandemic.”
He also said “We are working to leverage the online education. AICTE has opened the NEET platforms for many. The SWAYAM MOOCs platform is offering quality content. Funds have been enhanced for the online classes. The approval process has been done online.”
He even said “From next academic year things will not be the same. The lost time will be covered in coming days. We can extend some more number of credits. The fun part is missing from the campuses which are a great stress buster. “
Collaboration is the need of the hour. Internships can be made mandate for students, he added.
Prof K K Agarwal, Chairman, National Board of Aaccreditation (NBA) said “All the schools and colleges delivered the content during the pandemic. Blended mode of learning is very important. Online education can be used as crisis management. We must prepare for any such crisis. Teachers must be empowered to deliver the content. Exams pattern has to be changed. We need to assess the students. “
He also said “We need to provide interdisciplinary subjects for students. Interdisciplinary will be very important in coming days. We need to convert this COVID crisis to opportunity to improve education sector. Universities must provide credits to everything. AI will be the new thing.”
He also said we need to make ourselves very flexible. The COVID-19 has given us opportunity to reformat our education system. Things will take time to come back to normal.”
Hemant Sahal, Founder & CEO, CollPoll gave a brief presentation on “Digital Campus on the Cloud for Education” after the inaugural session.
In another panel Lessons from Edu Leaders – Best practices in ensuring seamless education amid Covid-19
Dr Madhu Chitkara, Pro Chancellor, Chitkara University, Punjab said “Admissions is a challenge for private colleges. These days we have started giving virtual tours of our campuses to students. We have started virtual counselling of students. The situation will not to stay long and in coming days there will be new norms. Things will become normal and admission will start soon.”
She also said “Teaching is always a challenge for teachers. The challenge has increased as parents have reached the classrooms. We are waiting students to come back to campuses.”
Blended learning will be the new normal, she added.
Sahil Aggarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Rishihood University, Haryana said “Most of our processes have shifted to online from counseling to admissions. We are trying to reach students through online mode. Most of the exams will be taken from home to ensure the safety of students. Some of the programmes will rise in coming days and we have some of them. We are in start-up phase and will continue our plans. We have to work according to the situation.”
Sudhanshu Varma, Chief Operating Officer, Bennett University, Greater Noida said “There are two parts firstly the admission side and secondly, the other side of training, exams, infra etc. We have drawn SOPs for everything in the university. When the university is not running the costs shoot up. “
He also said “The COVID is not a crisis, we have seen worst than this. The exams cannot prove a child is good or bad. The biggest challenge is the delay of state university exams. Parent and child will be the only two who will suffer in this pandemic.”
He also said Times have changed and we need to change with it. With changing times teachers are becoming best communicators.
Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Chancellor, Shobhit University, Meerut said “Admissions will happen, this year through online. There is a digital divide not only in India but across the globe. The admissions will be an issue for new institutions. Admissions will be slow in coming days. There will be a change in selection of courses.”
He also said “The only solution of this crisis is handholding. An institution is a complete eco-system. The social angle is also temporary. We need to talk to our parents, society members. Things will become normal. This crisis can be used as opportunity for new experimenting.”
Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive-Vice President, Aisect Group Universities said “This opportunity has given us to re-image and rejuvenate the Higher Education sector. We deal with 80 pc rural students as there was a short-term response. There were classes happening on Zoom, Google Meet and on other platforms. Assessments have gone online and now classes are shifting to LMS platforms. “
He also said “We must upgrade the studio facility to record the lectures. Blended learning will be a new thing for students. Some of things will change permanently in coming days.”
Over placements, he said there are virtual placements going on.
Vibha Mahajan, Vice President-Strategic Growth & Alliances, Ken42 delivered a brief presentation.
Prof Prem Vrat, Pro-Chancellor, NorthCap University, Haryana said “We have adapted the online education way before it all started. The core of teaching is teachers and no technology can replace them. The efficiency of teachers and students have surged a lot during the online classes. With online classes you can have any teacher from any part of the world.”
He also said the blending learning is here to stay for long time.
The online selection is very cost effective. The mind-set for distance education has changed a lot in last few months, he added.
Due to the online classes, institutions in far flung areas can get best teachers from any part of the world he added.
Dr Sunil Rai, Vice Chancellor, UPES, Dehradun said “The issues were with mind-set of parents and students and will teachers deliver the lectures on time. We did online exams and internships. The online learning will be here to stay and more efficient. With technology, the classroom has come home. The whole world is a virtual lab for students.”
Online assessments can be used for learning. It can enhance things in coming days, he added.
Prof Vinod Kumar, Vice Chancellor, Jaypee University of Information Technology said “We started online lectures for most of the subjects. Large number of students connected to online classes. Electricity is an issue with most of the students and to negate it we provided them with PPTs. We make smaller groups of students for online classes. We have also conducted MCQs for students.”
He also said “We are using virtual labs with physical ones. We did video recording of labs and our students shared the computers.”
He also said we have conducted online exams and hired a third party to proctor them.
Payal Rajpal, Founder, Hack the Crisis India, South Asia Head Robotex said “We have already seen a spike in usage of technology. The COVID has created an opportunity for experimenting new things. The usage of technology will surge in coming days. Technology has the capacity to ensure the quality of education. The blended approach is already there and it is preparing students for future ready. “
Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University, Punjab said “We have conducted the exams successfully and the results will be out soon. We have our own LMS system for our students. A lot of AI has been used during the online classes. We have a huge AI data to monitor the progress of students. Blending is the word not online learning.”
Dr DNS Kumar, Vice Chancellor, Ansal University, Haryana said “We focused on alumni and industry friends during the pandemic. We started collaborations to help our students. Students can learn according to their pace during the online classes. Enough material was available for students online. There is a change of mind-set within students. “
It has given new opportunity for students, he added.
Dr RS Bawa, Pro Chancellor, Chandigarh University said “Punjab Chandigarh University has been using blended learning from the beginning. It was a smooth transition. We have also Procter exams for 7000 students. All the tests have been conducted online. Blending learning will be the new norm. We need to empower faculty members during this pandemic.”
We have also started online placement. We can take advantage from this situation and prepare content beyond the syllabus for students, he added.
Dilip Puri, Founder & CEO, Indian School of Hospitality said “Student adaptability to online classes is the main thing in this pandemic. Usage of technology in education was there from day 1. We used our entire campus as one lab. During online classes it is very difficult to assess the outcomes. This has given us an opportunity to study students.”
The boon of Covid is usage of technology. We are trying new things during this lockdown. Blending learning is here to stay, he added.
Amit Attry, Vice President, Marketing & Corporate Relations, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Delhi said “The education system is bit different in India. There will not be any issue with enrollments with universities. There will be many students who will not willing to travel, so we have to thing new ways. Most of the placements were done before the lockdown and we have also placed some during the pandemic. “
He also said “We have started online classes. The COVID has given us a jump to adapt online classes. The reach of internet will take some time. “
Silky Jain, Executive Director, Tula’s Institute, Dehradun said “We have already upgraded our medical facilities and sanitization is going on in our campuses. We have created a taskforce to educate people. We have created SOPs for the campuses. We are hoping for having a good admission session. “
Students initially had issues but now they have adopted the new norm. The internet connectivity is an issue which needs to be addressed, she added.
Amit Phull, Chief Marketing Officer, Ansal University, Haryana said “The whole admission cycle is divided into two cycles- one is pre-exam results and other one is post exams. From March we have to change our strategy for admission. The challenges remain the same for all institutions. This is a challenge for institutions to try something new.”
He also said “We are getting good number of admissions for creative courses. There are new opportunities in education sector. There is a paradigm shift in education sector. There are 40 million students for admissions and we need to use it. This is a wholesome opportunity to cash on.”
Dr Pankaj Sharma, Director- Admissions & Outreach, SRM University, Haryana said “This will be longest admission cycle for students. The govt is doing a lot of thing to negate the effect of corona. We need to involve everyone and execute our plans to fight the pandemic. We will start our classes from next month through online. We will use the technology for our classes.”
Blended learning is here to stay for a longer period, he added.
Ashu Diwan, Head Outreach, BML Munjal University, Haryana said “Going online was not an issue for us. It’s not easy to plan the first batch during the pandemic. We have to cope up with the Corona pandemic. For a student it’s not easy to cope with the changing format. The digital infra is more important in this crisis. It will be a good time for Indian Universities.”
It’s a blessing in disguise for education sector, he added.
The last panel was conducted on “Delivering learning outcomes among students considering Future job skills & emerging trends in higher education”.
Dr Vikas Singh, Executive Director, ITS Education Group, Greater Noida said “Learning depends on the experience of the learner. Now scale and experience can be made interesting. COVID has become a huge accelerator. Faculty members can act as facilitators. Students will start adapting to blending learning. The future universities will be different and they will be driven by collaborations.”
Vishal Sood, Executive Director, Maharishi Markandeshwar (Deemed To Be University), Haryana said “Higher Education needs to focus on industrious rather than syllabus. We need to create an impact with the quality content. We must prepare students to focus on goals. We offer around 200 programmes. It has accelerated the acceptability of technology in the education sector. We have to improve our technological innovations. But, certain things can only be learned in physical classrooms.”
He also said the regulatory body and corporate world must come together. Peer learning is must to provide complete education, he added.
Karan Kumar, Head-IT, OP Jindal Global University, Haryana said “The crux is how to use digital tool to improve digital skills. Online education needs lot of attention from students. It can be a very good supplement. It is important to under the business impact during the initial part of career. “
Prof Sarit K Das, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar said “The Covid has accelerated the usage of technology. The quality of content is very important during the online classes. We don’t have the means of brining the best teachers as we don’t have a clear mechanism. We must identify good teachers to prepare quality content. We need to focus on quality of content.”
Raghav Gupta, Managing Director – India and APAC – Coursera said “The Covid has accelerated the need of technology in education sector. In India we have grown by 14 pc. The regulator will play an important role across the globe. Around 1.3 million students have been benefitted from the Coursera platform. Blended learning is here to stay for longer period.”
He also said “We will add more 600 MOOCS to platform.”
Atul Khosla, Founder & Pro Vice Chancellor, Shoolini University, HP said “There is academic inflation across the globe. This is an unsustainable world and we need to change the way of the education sector. This will change a lot in coming. We have to prevent the digital divide and bring more learning.”
Prof M.M.Gore, Dean (Planning and Development), MNNIT Allahabad said “Over 60 pc students know their goals. Because of digital platforms lots of barriers have been broken. The students have adapted the online platform very swiftly. The technology will make students smarter.”