In Kerala, college education steps into new domain
Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel gave the inaugural lecture on ‘Renaissance’
Colleges in Kerala logged in en masse to online classes for the first time on Monday amid several teething issues. The occasion also ushered in a change, albeit temporarily, in the class hours — from 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. in place of the usual 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
Problems were aplenty, as expected, for both teachers and students on the first day. While several teachers struggled with online tools, many students faced connectivity issues with certain colleges reporting as low as 30% attendance.
Large sections of the faculty felt the Directorate of Collegiate Education could have helped in educating them on such pedagogical techniques in advance. Many were not familiar with the features of the videoconferencing platforms. A teacher at a government college in Ernakulam admitted that many teachers had no clear picture of the number of students with smartphones and connectivity. “However, the idea is to provide at least two hours of e-content daily department-wise from tomorrow [Tuesday] onwards,” he said.
On the the other hand, students ran out of their daily data allocation midway through the lecture sessions. Many students complained that they were facing frequent power disruptions with the onset of the monsoon. Those without good broadband connectivity are also not able to download videos with large file size. Aleena S., a student of the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, who struggled to access online learning materials from her house at Kalavoor, Alappuzha, said universities must enable students to utilise their facilities for the purpose.
While some colleges focussed on completing unfinished portions, others managed to progress on to the new academic year.
The government has directed Principals of all government, aided and self-financing colleges to permit students who do not have smartphones or laptops with Internet connectivity at home to access the classes on campuses. But, some Principals said they would require more time to enhance Internet connectivity in accordance with the spike in demand for online sessions.
Jaleel launches classes
The ‘virtual classroom’ got under way with an introductory session by Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel, an Associate Professor of History at Pocker Sahib Memorial Orphanage College in Tirurangadi, who donned the lecturer’s hat after 14 years.
The class was live-streamed from the Online Resources Initiatives of Collegiate Education (ORICE) centre at the Government Sanskrit College, Thiruvananthapuram.
Prior to embarking on his lecture on the Renaissance, Dr. Jaleel said: “Despite being a necessity of the times we live in, the online classes will not become a substitute for the traditional classrooms.”
On changed schedule
Though Dr. Jaleel said that no decision had been made to persist with the new timings when colleges resume functioning offline, his words hinted at a slant towards adopting the reform as a long-term arrangement.
“The decision to advance class hours was taken on the basis of growing demand. The change is expected to benefit students and provide them an opportunity to pursue other courses after class hours. The additional time can be used to imbibe skills that could make them employable,” he said adding the issue would be discussed threadbare.
(With inputs from G. Krishnakumar in Kochi)
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