Digital Learning System Is Going To Be The Key Driver Of The Educational Framework: Asheesh Gupta, JKLU

In an exclusive interaction with BW Education, Asheesh Gupta, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University, talks about the institution and more.

What are the initiatives being taken by the university to build confidence among parents and students to join back classes? 

At JK Lakshmipat University, we believe in offering a comprehensive contemporary curriculum and experiential pedagogy in addition to maintaining the best environment for our students to flourish. To enable conversation around the current situation and an underlying fear amongst parents, we have started hosting online town halls. These town halls help us interact with parents and students while making them aware of the various initiatives taken by the University to deal with an unprecedented COVID situation.  

We are also maintaining continuous sanitization and disinfection of campus so that the staff and students can continue to innovate with a sense of safety. We have deployed support staff with various safety equipment such as face mask, face shield, regular temperature checks at the entry point. Our various measures have been strategically placed at each access point like classrooms, mess, labs and other common places so that they are easily accessible and visible to all the students.  

Additionally, extra space has been allocated for students in dining areas to ensure social distancing during lunch and dinner time. All the students will be under strict vigilance to maintain basic hygiene and distancing during their time spent at the campus.  

 What does the future hold for digital learning systems in the current educational framework especially after UGC advised universities to shift 25 per cent of the syllabus online? 

Digital learning system is going to be the key driver of the educational framework. This move has been anticipatory even more as the pandemic hits the globe. Like every other sector, the education sector was on the cusp of evolution and the current situation proved to be a catalyst in bringing in the biggest change of all times. In this shift, the key drivers will be the preparedness in skills and technology, and the ability to invest resources, and the mindset of the educators and students. The adoption of digital technology will have several implications in all parts of the value chain in higher education. Admissions and mass tests will get affected, institutions will need more flexible and broad-based measures. For example, JKLU’s design admissions have been meticulously created which makes it unique, highly student-centric, and allows ID to pick the most suitable candidates.   

Research has shown that hybrid class models are more effective. There is a whole range of tools and content formats available to educators. However, the significant challenge of using hybrid pedagogy is that it requires new skills and capabilities from teachers and administrators. Apart from this, the change of mindset is another formidable challenge for both administrators and teachers.  

The adoption of digital technology will have several implications in all parts of the value chain in higher education. Admissions and mass testing will get affected, institutions will need more flexible and broad-based measures. How is JKLU coping with the situation? 

We at JK Lakshmipat University is following the guidelines shared by UGC. In order to make digital learning more engaging and effective, we have provided special training sessions to our faculty. These training sessions were designed to upskill the existing teachers so that a smooth learning experience can be provided to our students.  

Additionally, we have brought experienced and passionate teachers from around the world to use a new technology-based teaching mechanism for our students. We have combined a project-based learning approach with an online pedagogy which has proved very effective in optimizing learning among students. An example of this is seen in our course in design education. This course has always been largely project-based, and students learned courses like design process and colour online. We are hopeful that we will see many interesting developments for higher education going forward. 

How responsive and curious have parents been since the lockdown? 

We recently conducted online town halls with our undergraduate students at JKLU and their parents, in which several hundred parents participated. While there is clearly a lot of concern about safety amidst COVID-19, parents are equally eager to see their wards return to studying ‘normally’ on campus which they believe provides better education. We believe for students of professional programmes, parents are torn between keeping them on-track for careers and employment on one hand and the desire to keep them home on the other. For middle-class families, the former is a big focus. In contrast, students of our international programmes, who were to go to Amherst US for their second year, are more likely to consider deferrals. 

What is the role of technology in training teachers to carry out online classrooms and how the experience has been for them so far? 

Technology plays a vital role in developing as well as adopting the online teaching, evaluation and monitoring process. In the past decade, universities have been talking about online learning as support or substitute, but current situations changed the whole scenario which leads to adopting online learning as a main way of teaching. Many faculty members were needed to be trained in using online methods. We have developed an infrastructure to support online learning tools like software, subscription, and many more. We have ensured that the challenges in terms of online classes, skills, or technical support are addressed in time so that nobody has to compromise in their learning experience. Our students and teachers have reported satisfactory results so far.  

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