A first-generation entrepreneur, Dr Jitin Chadha is the Founder Director of the Indian Institute of Art and Design and the Indian School of Business and Finance. Dr Chadha was awarded his Doctorate in Finance in 2011, in a grand ceremony chaired by the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal and Prof. Dinesh Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University.
Even as technology complemented teaching and delivery of lessons in physical classrooms, the scenario changed completely post-pandemic. Online teaching methods now needed to incorporate teaching philosophy, objectives, subject matter and student demographics along with finding a balance to simplify the delivery of content. Simultaneously, it meant addressing different learning styles (visual/auditory) when delivering complex information and ensuring student engagement.
According to the ICEA-KPMG report Contribution of Smartphones to Digital Governance in India, from 500 million smartphone users (2019) in India, it is expected to grow to 820 million by 2022. The traditional PC market (inclusive of desktops, notebooks, and workstations) too grew by 27% (YoY) in 2020. Their growth was mostly driven by online learning and remote working along with increasing affordability, adoption of internet and data services in urban and rural areas, low data rates, a rise of applications in regional languages and various government services. While this is impactful, connectivity, accessibility, purchasing power and the know-how to effectively use technology to exclusively impart education online is still a huge deterrent.
Current reality and its challenges
The majority of students used smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops as learning devices. Teachers and instructors too underwent a steep learning curve – from initially replicating online what they normally did in classrooms to being trained to explore newer approaches to teaching to overcome the challenges the current reality gave rise to.
Not all students (or teachers) had access to reliable devices, uninterrupted electricity, internet connectivity or high-speed broadband at home. Parents and students struggled alike to compete for the same services and home environments weren’t always conducive to learning.
To deal with the fallout of the pandemic schools and institutes invested in newer educational platforms for delivering and sharing interactive content. Students had access to online class recordings and open educational resources (YouTube videos, TED Talks etc). However, when viewed from the students’ perspective, some gaps were noticeable.
- As passive learners, while being able to study at their own pace, revision and studying became solely the students’ responsibility.
- Self-discipline is a basic requirement for independent asynchronous learning. Yet, many became anxious and struggled to remain focussed and effectively comprehend lectures.
- Effective learning emphasised the need to actively learn, think critically, amalgamate technology, software, and data within a discipline and apply that knowledge to meet the demands of the evolving nature of work.
- Course-specific learning objectives and assessment practices left much to be desired. Access to multiple resources (offline and online) increased knowledge but required careful selection, timely and appropriate use to impact measurable learning outcomes.
- Students felt socially disconnected from their peers. Loneliness and uncertainty led to a lack of motivation. Peer group connections were missing and enthusiasm waned.
Steps to create a positive learning environment online
Technology is now a natural part of the teaching-learning environment. To ensure the least disruptions in future it’s important to create a space where students feel safe and comfortable, have access to the same set of data, can self-learn and be curious. They need to feel less anxious and more confident about applying their learning in future to earn an income.
- Teaching experience can be enhanced with tools (GSuite Apps, Concept maps, Storyboards, Infographics). It’s crucial to learn ways to maximize their utility.
- Students should be allowed to interact, take notes and ask questions in real-time. They should be encouraged to share their thoughts, have open discussions during class. Often, this is discouraged to ensure the syllabus is completed timely. Yet it can strengthen the teacher-learner connection.
- Inform students about the plan for each class and share it before the lesson. Explain the online etiquettes to follow so they know what is expected of them. Cloud storage of documents and files neatly organised and labelled ensures easy access and availability.
- Students should be allowed to learn independently as it allows retention and understanding of concepts better. They feel confident about processing and comprehending information.
- Reinforce the use of online communication platforms that allow students to work together, discuss lessons and resources, and help with assignments amongst themselves.
- Attitude and outlook towards assessments also need to change.
Online teaching has paved the way for newer models of learning. Blended learning*, ‘flipped classroom’ (where students are required to review class material before the actual lesson) are strategic approaches while game-based learning is known to significantly improve engagement and develop technological literacy skills. Even as the pandemic has accelerated the process of remote learning, it requires a collaborative effort, entrepreneurial mindset and open-mindedness to be effective in the future.