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In the age of e-learning

Students using Tablets. Photo: Brad Flickinger/Flickr  

Technology has completely revolutionised classrooms. Whether it is submitting assignments and projects, or making classroom teaching more interactive, the applications are manifold. Instead of carrying heavy bags, students can now carry an enriched digital textbook which contains all the study material.

Several initiatives have been taken to enhance teaching and learning methodologies. One such initiative by Ram Gollamudi, Prasanna Boni and Ramesh Karra, founders of Edutor technologies, aims to take digital learning in India to the next level.

“Our focus has been on developing a robust set of technology to enable schools and colleges to go digital,” explains Ram. “We thought, instead of teachers doing a lot of paper-based assessments, is there an easier way for them to assess where the class stands? Can the experience of reading textbooks be made more enriching?”

Five to ten years back, companies like Educomp and Everonn introduced smart classrooms, where teachers could show interactive content through a TV or an interactive board. But the students were largely untouched by it and still had to carry heavy bags. This led the founders of Edutor to come up with the innovative idea of introducing tablets instead of heavy textbooks.

Going digital

“We work with top publishers such as McGraw Hill, Oxford and Cambridge, among others. The textbooks by these publishers are available on the tablets and are enriched. For example, wherever there’s a static picture on the page, it is converted into a video or an animation. So, the experience is much better than reading a passive textbook,” explains Ram. “If a student takes one hour to get a grasp of a topic from the textbook, he can do it in 15 minutes through the tablet,” he adds.

Not only students, but teachers can benefit from this as well. Usually, teachers test the level of understanding of students through worksheets. But correcting so many worksheets can be a tedious task.

This problem can be solved by using a tablet.

“What we have is an automated assessment solution where the teacher can ask a set of questions to the students with a single click. These are automatically corrected and the teacher can immediately know how many students understood the topic and how many didn’t. Based on this, she can decide whether to move on to the next topic or explain the same one again. She can also identify the few students who are struggling and carry out remediation for them separately,” says Ram.

Cloud services

There are several other methods that are being used by schools and colleges to integrate technology into the learning process. Edusync, a cloud-enabled service launched in 2014, is enhancing the learning and teaching experience of students and teachers through a mobile phone application.

The app provides a central platform to teachers to manage their classrooms digitally and makes it easier for students to access study materials.

“Edusync is a socially aware platform created to make education simpler. It is divided into four simple divisions — class schedules, assignments, library and chat. Edusync also allows parents to sign up to keep a better track of their wards' academic performance and track records,” says Kushal Chudiwala, CEO of Edusync.

Teachers can create multiple classrooms on Edusync’s platform, distribute and receive class assignments, make class schedules, put out announcements and have a personal talk with the students if needed. Students, on the other hand, can view their assignments, get access to all the study material, get quick solutions to their queries from their respective teachers and so on.

“Connecting students and teachers together and organising course materials on both sides has really helped them both. It has also enabled students to understand their subject better,” says Kushal.

Challenges

Traditionally, technology has been seen as a deterrent to studying. Several colleges prohibit the use of mobile phones and tablets in the campus and classrooms. Their apprehension is understandable. Often, students use their phones for texting classmates or friends, rather than paying attention to what is being taught. How can this problem be avoided?

“It is important to make the key stakeholders such as parents, teachers and principals understand that tech devices in classrooms are not a distraction, but a powerful tool. To address this issue, we have enabled the device to be locked so that students will not be able to access anything apart from their textbooks and reference material. This will ensure that they focus on their subjects and not on Angry Birds,” explains Ram.

It is also essential to train teachers to use the devices efficiently which would help them to adapt to the new technological changes. “Teachers will have to evolve from being the sage-on-the-stage to a mentor-on-the-site. Most teachers are able to adapt without much difficulty,” says Ram.

For students, the transformation has been easier. “They are inherently quite comfortable with technology. We advise them about what it takes to be a good digital citizen and teach them the best practices. Though the device would be locked, it is important for them to understand that it’s for their own safety,” says Ram.With technology progressing in leaps and bounds, the time doesn’t seem far when classrooms would get replaced by virtual classrooms.

“Some subjects and courses might fare well, but I don't know if it’s possible to replace normal classes. However, supplementing regular classrooms has met with positive results and we must push that boundary continually,” says Kushal.


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 7:53:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/in-the-age-of-elearning/article7438174.ece

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