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COVID-19 Response Tool Kit for Indian Higher Education Institutions Released By JGU And AIU

The report was launched at the conclusion of the Annual National Conference of Vice-Chancellors on “Reimagining Indian Universities”, which was inaugurated by the Union Cabinet Minister for Education, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

The International Institute of Higher Education Research & Capacity Building (IIHEd) of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) in collaboration with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) released the “COVID-19 Response Tool Kit for Indian Higher Education Institutions: Institutional Resilience for Academic Planning & Continuity”. It has been developed to help build Institutional Resilience for Academic Planning and Continuity for Indian Higher Education Institutions (HEI) during COVID-19. 

The publication was released by Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Hon'ble Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), President of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. The report was launched at the conclusion of the Annual National Conference of Vice-Chancellors on “Reimagining Indian Universities”, which was inaugurated by the Union Cabinet Minister for Education, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

The Tool Kit is a 7-part document that comprises Usage guidelines, Analysis of the Indian Higher Education landscape, Understanding of the challenges in continuity planning, Academic continuity of classrooms, Academic continuity of Research, Non-Academic Continuity, and a Proposed Way Forward.

Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice-Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) & Director, International Institute for Higher Education Research & Capacity Building (IIHEd) observed, “The vision of this Report is to provide a national framework and institutional mechanism to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis with a view to providing academic continuity keeping in mind the interests of the students as paramount. The Report has been prepared with the objective of supporting Indian universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) in these difficult times of the global pandemic. This report was conceptualized and created to provide the Indian HEIs a structured method to approaching the challenges they face during the pandemic, and aims to empower them with the necessary institutional resilience to overcome the barriers of COVID-19 and ensure that they do not miss out on any important parameter for consideration of their academic continuity and planning.”

"We are grateful to have had this opportunity to collaborate with the Association of Indian Universities to create this report, which we hope that the academic community and higher education leaders will find this useful in navigating their institutions towards a more stronger and resilient future. We also hope that this document serves as a starting point for further initiatives and joint efforts that aim to improve our collective academic performance in uncertain times”, said Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice-Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University.  

“We are delighted to partner with O.P. Jindal Global University in producing this valuable Report. The Report written in the format of a Tool Kit is meant to serve as a step by step guide along with a checklist for reopening of HEIs in online, physical, broadcast or hybrid mode while dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, whenever the situation so permits. This was made possible by the efforts of academic and research teams at the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and the International Institute of Higher Education Research & Capacity Building (IIHEd) at JGU.” said Dr. (Mrs.) Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General, The Association of Indian Universities (AIU). 

Professor Sridhar Dabiru Patnaik, Registrar of O.P. Jindal Global University said, "I would like to congratulate and thank the outstanding contribution of the faculty members and researchers at O.P. Jindal Global University and the Association of Indian Universities for producing a fantastic Report that provides a blue print for academic planning and continuity during COVID-19. The meticulous attention to details in the Report reflects academic and intellectual rigour and most importantly, a deep and pervasive understanding of the diversity and complexity of Indian higher education institutions. The Report will be a foundational document for all Indian HEIs as they think about the future of higher education during these challenging times."

With a large student population in India, the Indian Higher Education System is faced with a challenge to redefine and reinvent itself to overcome barriers in the times of uncertainty posed by the current pandemic (COVID-19) in delivering the education promised to the students. The biggest of these challenges was concerning the accessibility of education and availability of resources besides issues relating to curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. 

The pandemic related challenges add additional layers of complexity. Several million students hail from remote, rural areas with minimal access to electronic devices, reliable internet connectivity, or stable electricity supply resulting in a digital divide. This means that Indian institutions need to go one step beyond online classrooms to build strong institutional capacity to maximize outreach. And while we respond to the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, we also need to start planning for the future of HEIs for a time during and post COVID-19. 

Given the diversity in Indian higher education institutions and challenges faced by them, we cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all strategy. Different approaches will need to be applied while planning the re-opening of HEIs and continuing the classes post re-opening until a COVID-19 vaccine has been developed and administered to control the ongoing pandemic. 

Four key approaches have been identified for academic continuity of classrooms including Physical, Online, Broadcast (Radio/TV) and Hybrid. As one single format may not always be feasible, the Hybrid mode has been identified which has accounted for 5 case scenarios that may require blended learning. For each format, the approach has been carefully structured to address the five key pillars of classroom continuity planning - Teaching and Learning, Assessments, Non Classroom activities, Infrastructure and Protocols.

This comprehensive toolkit is aimed for the HEI Leadership, including Vice-Chancellors, Rectors, Pro-Vice Chancellors, Registrars, Deans of Schools/Departments, Principal of Colleges, Academic and Administrative Deans, Directors, Faculty Members, the Student Community and Student Councils and the Administrative Leadership and Administration Teams. This document will also play a role in helping the regulatory bodies, accreditation units, and government authorities to take policy decisions for maintaining academic continuity and to assess the corresponding support required. 


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