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Simplifying Digital Learning In The Hybrid Classroom

An increasing number of Edtech players entering the market provides countless options for educators and students alike. However, with pandemic settling, not all institutes are looking for the most advanced system but simplified digital tools in their classroom.

Hybrid learning is not an invention of the pandemic, but rather a developing concept that was pushed into gear with the crisis. Several institutes were already integrating technological solutions into their classes long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Therefore, it is no surprise that even when the crisis stabilises not all courses will return to 100 per cent classroom teaching. It is questions of percentage, how much will be online, and how much in the classroom. 

The Many Forms of the Hybrid Classroom

The transition to online classes was sudden but did not necessarily pose a challenge to all higher education institutes. While not all were prepared to go online full-time, institutes did have some procedures in place, resources that could be used even in the early days of the pandemic. Today,  there is a multitude of options between online classrooms, edtech companies, e-Learning platforms and even foreign collaborations. Needless to say, there are many creative solutions to the crisis of distance education.

ITM, Khargar chose to create ‘teacher-learning studios’, a place on campus for teachers to come and conduct their online lessons with all the tools and resources available for them. Lakshmi Mohan, Director, ITM – Kharghar, however, states that while they are prepared for a hybrid classroom, the students do not necessarily have the same resources. She asserts, “You should have the best of gadgets to be able to connect with your professor during remote learning, so that's again a big question because we have not provided gadgets to the students, it's all been so sudden that I don't think any institution as really thought about it.”

Prof. Rakesh Mohan Joshi, Professor & Chairperson, Research and International Collaboration, IIFT informs, “We were working on digital learning more much before [the pandemic]. Only thing is that the lockdown accelerated the whole process.” Further adding that as examinations are the only roadblock, for which the institute is “hiring a number of agencies.”

Srinath, Principal & Dean Skill Development, KL Academic Staff College, reverberates, that their institute has been using virtual labs for up to five years and had blended several modes of learning pre-dating the pandemic. He explains, “Except for medicine, it can be done in almost all the science, humanities, management and engineering schools.” Adding, “Students are expected to learn to practise and become lifelong learners because they need to implement all those technologies and tools, which they learn in this higher education sector.”

Tarun Anand, Chairman & Founder, Universal Business School, asserts, “I always believe that operations will be taken over by machines in the future, and that's a good thing. It brings in efficiency.” Anand however, believes that higher education is more than just what is taught in classes. He shares his experience with students, stating, that “80-90 per cent of students said they hate remote learning. Yes, we got what we wanted out of it. We want to be there back on the whole campus life. 50 per cent or more, sometimes, is learned outside of the classroom. Students miss that.”

All educators believe that the aim is to provide students with quality education as seamlessly as possible. Tech companies have also stepped in, to not just provide online teaching/learning tools, but methods that are simple, easy and take into account all stakeholders.

The Teaching Tools

Lenovo solutions are not only aiming at remote learning students but is enabling IT staff to evolve cloud-based management system. Lenovo has transformed 360 degrees of the product-led organisation to solution-led not organisation. Addressing the most critical needs with the technology-centric handholding of its customers. It is a smart technology that is evolving every moment, addressing concerns of all the stakeholders:

  1. Teacher: Digital learning has become the new normal and these things are very important to track, manage and monitor students. Lenovo Smart classroom uses an intelligence tool to provide high quality digitised content that reduces the burden of lesson preparation and enhance student interaction collaboration, easily track, manage ad monitor the educational content that is displayed to students in an effective learning management system.
  2. Student: Students are always looking for fun, interactive class experiences. Through Lenovo Smart Classrooms, learning can be an enjoyable experience. With access to great immersive education content directly on their device, students can learn from anywhere. AI-based technology helps boost student confidence by helping them practise English speaking at home. 
  3. IT Admins: Lenovo SmartClassroom gives a solution and IT admins the power to optimise operations, ensure compliance, data security and asset accountability. Furthermore, the institution administration can make data-driven decisions to manage the curriculum overall in performance through an intuitive dashboard: What are the software that can and cannot be used?
  4. Parents: Information on student learning progress and class performance is shared with the parent on a regular basis. Parents also have the authorisation to control applications on the student device to ensure the physical mental wellbeing of their child. There has to be a tool that can actually control and show the contents being searched by children on their devices. 

Mukesh Nihalwani, Sales Head- Pvt Education, Lenovo India states, “We are in the position to break the digital divide and involve Education Institute for a bigger IT ecosystem, our hybrid classrooms are an opportunity for online teaching and learning revolution.”

What are we missing?

For every technological need, there seems to be an available solution. However, there are still concerns among educators, who question the sustainability and effectiveness of hybrid classrooms. Mohan asks, “how about digital dementia? How about video conferencing fatigue that teachers and students face?” Staring at a screen whether it be at home or in classrooms cannot yield healthy in the long run. Anand, highlights a more fundamental dilemma, “The bigger problem is student motivation to be a large challenge.”

Prof Joshi points out that digitisations will increase the divide between people and question the authority of the educator, “There is a knowledge life cycle, you know the student is getting updated and the professor is not updated. The generation gap is accelerated by the digital divide between the understanding of the people of the two age groups.”

Device availability and accessibility is also an issue that education institutes need to tackle for remote, hybrid learning to occur seamlessly. Srinath, however, insists, “The present generation of students, wherever they are in whatever remote location they are, even though they may not have the net connection. Everyone has a mobile device with them.” Placing the onus on the tech companies to provide software that is operational by everyone.

Conclusion 

Mukesh Nihalwani says, “We have the tool, but the right tool has to be used in the right manner.”

Regardless of the pandemic, the hybrid classroom was inevitable for moving forward, at least in the eyes of some higher educational institutes. While there are challenges, such as device availability, the mental health of students, social aspects of learning, etc. most institutes and tech companies have taken it upon themselves to find the solutions to make education accessible to everyone. Even though the pandemic has made hybrid classrooms and blended learning a necessity, the education and tech industry is quickly catching up to meet the demands. 



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