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Digital, the way forward

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With the growing fear of COVID-19, many facets of life and livelihoods have come to a standstill. Educational systems are not exempt. COVID-19 has hit Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in India at a time when they were going full-swing to complete the last quarter of the semester and conduct the end-semester exams. Rescheduling these unfinished tasks must be done as soon as possible, as an inordinate delay would affect the future of outgoing students.

Recently, the media has highlighted that the occurrence of similar episodes in the future cannot be overlooked. Thus, this requires both the teacher and taught in all segments of educational systems, in particular HEIs, to be prepared to adopt an online system.

Preparation

Children and the youth: With the advent of computer-based learning across the globe and in particular among toddlers who are exposed to such gadgets, it should be easy to implement some of the learning modules in school education. Coming to those in colleges, and how effective IT-based education could be fostered among the youth, this is the right way ahead as colleges and universities are locked down. The modules suggested ought to be carefully thought of and implemented in a phased manner to give desired outcomes.

Capacity building, a necessity: Higher education in India and the world over has seen a paradigm shift with regard to its pedagogy and application. While computer-based education has been introduced in most colleges, it needs to be fine-tuned in certain essential areas to ultimately make it effective. Mere availability of equipment, gadgets and broadband connectivity will not bring the desired results. The most important aspect is to provide adequate training to professors and students on the use of online education and to familiarise them with the apps and nuances of the available material. Strong Internet connectivity, either through cables or Wi-Fi, is fundamental. In future, colleges should embark on a system wherein one-third of the syllabus content will be handled online. This approach should be made mandatory so that there will be a smooth transition from offline to online teaching models. Teachers, at the moment, do not have sufficient exposure and training to handle online classes, and the approach to this endeavour should be serious as its impact will have far-reaching consequences.

Pilot study is a prerequisite: At least in most autonomous colleges across the country, experts should conduct regular pilot studies to assess the efficiency of digital learning so that there are no major hiccups during implementation. Based on such studies, online procedures can be tweaked appropriately by the teachers and students. Feedback can also be obtained from those concerned to refine the platform. Institution-industry connect could be established with well-known agencies, who have commercialised online education templates, besides seeking support from government organisations who have specialised in these areas.

Online assessment, a viable alternative: Since multiple online assessment modules are available to gauge individual performances in several areas (for example, psychometric tests), it should not be difficult to create a robust platform to help understand the learning outcomes. Exam systems in universities and autonomous colleges already have a methodology in place to generate outputs pertaining to consolidation of marks and related terrains. All that they have to be involved in is to frame questions and probes available through online systems, evaluation templates, awarding of marks, and computation of data generated. Integrating this recommendation may not be cumbersome as exam offices in colleges are already computerised.

MOOCs such as Coursera, Educity, and others can be referred to or consulted while developing online modules. Indisputably, online higher education systems are going to reign in the future, as it is easier, faster, cheaper, reproducible and with less personnel engagement.

The writer is Principal and Secretary, Madras Christian College (Autonomous), Chennai.


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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 3:02:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/digital-the-way-forward/article31547379.ece

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