When education goes digital

While digital learning platforms are currently substituting for regular learning methods, they can complement the traditional in the future as well

May 16, 2020 07:56 pm | Updated May 18, 2020 10:11 am IST

E-learning and Online Education for Student and University Concept. Graphic interface showing technology of digital training course for people to do remote learning from anywhere.

E-learning and Online Education for Student and University Concept. Graphic interface showing technology of digital training course for people to do remote learning from anywhere.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected teaching-learning in academic institutions across the globe. India is no exception. Traditionally, teaching-learning happens in brick-and-mortar universities and there have been efforts during the last decade to adopt online education. The MOOC developed by various universities, NPTEL and Swayam platforms of MHRD, Government of India, are some examples

The COVID-19 outbreak has led educational institutions to adopt several of the following digital technologies:

Record video lectures of teachers and upload them on YouTube or similar platforms for students to view and listen at their own pace. This is an easy way of making it an open resource but the issue is whether all students will make use of it or only those who are motivated will do so.

Provide notes and content related to the courses to students through email, WhatsApp, etc.

Lectures can be delivered on digital platforms at scheduled slots when students join to listen and interact.

The facilities for interaction with the teachers depend on the platform used. There are many platforms including MS-TEAM, CISCO Webex, ZOOM etc. In some of these, it is possible to see and interact with each other. Ideally, the platform should have the following facilities to achieve the same or better feeling of a face-to-face classroom environment.

(i) Provision to see each other. The students should be able to see the teacher always.

(ii) Presentation of slides and content.

(iii) Use of white board.

(iv) Discussion forum.

(v) Marking attendance.

(vi) Conduct of assignment and assessment.

(vii) Conduct of laboratory sessions.

Some concerns:

But there are certain concerns to be addressed. The first and foremost is the non-availability of desktop/laptop to participate in the online lecture. The percentage of students using Android mobile in online classes is 75%. Further, virtual labs require a laptop/personal computer and it is proposed to hire and provide computing devices in the cloud so that the learning can be hassle free. It is also appropriate for AICTE to think of a shift in the policy of insisting on a minimum number of computers in the institution.

The second concern is the transparency in conducting assessment online for which we should go by the “honour-code” way or limiting the time for closed book examination or encouraging open book examination.

The entire education system in the country is moving towards Outcome-Based Education and the Blooms Taxonomy levels of Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyse, Evaluate and Create are applied to the learning outcomes. The present system limits, to a great extent, the first three levels of Remember, Understand and Apply and is mostly confined to Remember and Understand in which the capability to reproduce alone is tested. This is known as rote learning. What is required is to have all the levels tested by appropriate techniques. Hence the assignment and assessment shall be test, quiz, review, etc for the first three levels and study, reports, experiment, models, projects, peer and self evaluation, etc for the higher levels. Several other innovative techniques can be used to assess learning outcome levels. The open book examination system of short duration and reports/projects requiring longer duration could make the assessment transparent and improve the knowledge and skills of the learners required by Industry 4.0.

The writer is, Vice Chancellor, Hindustan Institute of Technology, Chennai (former Member Secretary, AICTE and founder Vice Chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University)

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