Repositioning And Change-in-design For Effective Online Teaching-learning

The value-addition factor of higher education, especially, has been depending on 're-imagining' and 're-learning' in the world that is overturned by technology.

For more than a decade now, several deliberations, reports, surveys, research studies, and white papers have established the importance and benefits of online learning. Mobile learning has established the advantage of ubiquitous learning signifying the benefit of teaching-learning as ‘anytime, anywhere, and anyway’. The value-addition factor of higher education, especially, has been depending on “re-imagining” and “re-learning” in the world that is overturned by technology.

However, what has been a matter of better-choice, and easier-accessibility so far has suddenly become a necessity for survival. the Pandemic has amplified the need and importance of online teaching-learning in leaps and bounds as this has become the mode of survival and existence for educational institutions of all levels worldwide. Hence, the 2019 Corona Virus Pandemic has instigated compelling global experimentation in remote teaching-learning. Educational Institutions started renovating and re-inventing measures to be ahead in the league by hurrying into emergency-online teaching in order to maintain continuity. Those who rose to the requirement faster and immediately could satisfy the students and other stakeholders better. 

It is important to note that the tactical and strategic shift from physical to virtual has not been about teaching the same content in the same manner via ZOOM or any other web portals. The strategic design change that was immediately taken up to completely shift to remote/online teaching are discussed below. The measures that are discussed here are tactical and specific to the EDII Institutional experiences. However, the significance of the interventions will be relevant for Indian or another Asia Pacific regional scenario. Following is a list of changes that were readily incorporated to bring the necessary impact, and though the repositioning initially was started as a crisis-management measure, eventually it has created a sturdy platform that can continue to produce knowledge resources and repositories meant for remote-teaching.

Classroom Environment

First necessary intervention was infrastructural transformation. There was a transition of the usual classroom to a more robust digital infrastructure. A studio was set up with a soundproof room, a smartboard, a sound-system, and double computer screens, one for the faculty member to see the PPT Slides in front of them, and another to see the students appearing on the web-portal. The Upgrade was done to provide a good online environment. Just as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar needs a good cricket-bat to play good cricket an effective online environment cannot be delivered unless there is a good infrastructure and it was wise to comply with the necessary investment. In addition to this, the newly set studio also became advantageous for video recordings to create asynchronous teaching-learning experiences.

Re-imagining the Course

Thorough planning was done to rearrange the course content to fit into the online mode. The session duration was reduced and the number of sessions was increased keeping in mind that it may be difficult for students to look at the computer screens for a longer duration. Every faculty member prepared a detailed session plan with specific pedagogy and teaching-cases for every single session and the same was presented before the academic committee for approval. There was a need for selecting new shorter teaching-cases or anecdotes that were different from what was used so far in physical classes so that proper discussion through online mode may occur. Apart from that, it was planned that the lecture session consists of multiple activities, such as a poll, or a quiz, rather than a continuous, monolithic video.

The students always need to have a “classroom” feel and besides the Zoom portal, the addition of a learning management system or an LMS portal indeed has been beneficial. The “Quiklrn” portal supplement every course as it offers a hub for the collection of PPT Slides, notes, reading materials, assignments, etc. for the students to use whenever they wish to and thereby giving them a feeling of a virtual classroom. The Institution’s digital library is of massive help too.

The ‘Live’ Journey

It has been important to get adjusted to the new mental map of a new virtual classroom where all the students couldn’t be seen at one go, many videos are switched off, and the student-positioning is constantly changing as whoever is speaking is coming upfront and the dormant one is going to the last. Keeping the constant connection with all of them and engaging them throughout has been a constant effort.

Moreover, the most important non-verbal cues like eye-contact, or a smiling face to energise the faculty member aren’t always possible. Hence, to make the best of the situation it is important to encourage people to keep their videos switched on. In between lectures cold-calling is a good method to keep the students engaged. For web-portals like ZOOM, encouraging the use of available nonverbal emoticons is a good way of keeping the class engaged.

Using a combination of voice, chat board, visual cues, and keeping all of it in sync is advisable. The ‘breakout-room’ feature can initiate group work and the students have always liked the experience as it enabled peer-learning. Also, whenever that has been a need to get more voices involved, the use of ‘chat’ really became useful.

Another payback of online teaching is the opportunity to have students engage even when class isn’t “in session” via Emails, Whatsapp group, or LMS. A proper plan to utilize these by taking advantage of the asynchronous time will facilitate an engaging in the learning experience.

The Digital-divide and the Need for Practice

Most often it has been difficult for the faculty members to get adjusted to the online mode as they, often belong to the Baby-boomers or the Gen-X group. To keep pace with the students who are

the millennials, or the Gen Z, an extra effort must be taken by the faculty members to learn the nitty-gritty of the technology. Starting from navigating between PPT Slide-deck, online video, and whiteboard on the SmartBoard to getting to know the online learning management system (LMS) before students arrive has been crucial.

Grounded to the Institutional Vision

In preparing for an unprecedented year, remaining grounded in the institute’s fundamental values and vision of educating entrepreneurial leaders for society has been important. It has constantly reminded the faculty members to bring innovation to the pedagogy to remain relevant and effective. Integrity and ethics on behalf of the institute to ensure learning isn't lacking in the online environment has made the future appear certain and steady.

The New-normal Future Trend

In the end, it can be said that what started as a short-term response to a crisis could well become an enduring digital transformation of higher education. Even though the crisis-emergency due to the pandemic is diminishing, it is foreseeable that remote teaching is going to stay especially in higher education. And therefore, a serious design-change, a sincere repositioning in teaching-learning is essential for sustainability, and success.

As of now, in a country like India where the accessibility to smartphones and steady web connections are still doubtful in certain areas, only a blended or hybrid model seamlessly combining the synchronous with asynchronous, the online with the on-campus, the lecture-based with the discussion-based, the teacher-directed with the self-directed will prove to be valuable.

However, it is advisable for Indian Universities and Educational Institutions to build stronger and foolproof digital capabilities and a technological, ready-to-change mindset that will have the resilience to effortlessly swivel through any crisis, whether that’s a prolonged Covid-19 eruption or any other challenges in the future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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