The Impact of Pandemic on Higher Education

There was an overwhelming response to the webinar where participants from different Universities and Institutions of the country engaged in critical deliberations
The Impact of Pandemic on Higher Education
Screenshot of a zoom callSource: Author

The learned speaker during the course of his presentation informed the participants about a national level survey which he had conducted in July-2020 during the first wave of pandemic as well as other related surveys viz-a-viz online education and accordingly shared some of the important findings of the same. He said that there may be plans to push for the online education after the pandemic is over, due its cost effectiveness but the students across countries have not many preferences for the digital classes. In these surveys, the learned speaker highlighted that the students are suffering from mental and physical health which probably both teachers and administrators have failed to take note of. There is not much clarity what should be the pedagogy of teaching in a digital ecosystem and how can the students challenge the teacher in these classrooms in terms of asking the questions etc and there are certain applied disciplines where online pedagogy cannot work. The response of the Government of India was that it has launched an e-Vida program for schools, colleges which has benefitted 3.4 crore students and top hundred Universities were also allowed to conduct online classes. The learned speaker further said, that there was one program called Manodarpan which was supposed to provide the study material to the specially-able students and at the same time UGC allowed work from home and also announced 15-advisories during last few months and of course one of the recent announcements has been to allow universities to teach 40%-percent of their course through online mode. Despite all this, there has not been any evaluation about how much these programs were successful on ground, the speaker said.

The learned speaker said that during his survey it was found that many institutions do not have the wi-fi facility available especially in the rural institutions. Nearly 70% of the teachers in higher education have very low capacity to deliver classes online. So for as the accessibility to smart phones is concerned, the speaker informed that 40% of students in rural areas and 22% of students in urban areas do not have access to smart phones in India. Thus, clearly indicating the huge digital divide in India and to bridge this gape should be one of the important concerns of the government. He further mentioned that teachers in higher educational institutions do not have the full preparedness to launch the online classes in India owing to the lack of IT infrastructure and other allied reasons. The learned speaker concluded with some suggestions that there is a need to reduce curriculum by some percentage; may be between 10 to 20 percent and blended mode of teaching/learning could be adopted to cope with the current situations. He mentioned that, one of the important points that came though the international surveys was the great role the institution leaders can play in such extreme circumstances like the pandemic. It is very important that teachers, both in Universities and Colleges, need to be given the training by IT experts. He concluded his talk saying that “engagement with students not only on account of syllabus completion but on many other things including mental health should be initiated for the better understanding of student’s problems.”

Earlier, in the welcome address, the Principal of the college Dr M. Amin Malik, while introducing the guest speaker talked about disruption in educational activities in institutions and the problems faced by the students belonging to remote areas. He said that digital-divide results in loss of academic learning and may result in increased drop-outs that need a fresh look and solutions from government and the civil society. He emphasized that teachers need to trace out those students who cannot effort to join the online classes and provide them with books and notes. He talked about the importance of technology in education and how the classroom teaching can be augmented with ICT. He maintained that technology in education is emerging as a creative tool for knowledge dissemination, open-ended learning and search for new knowledge and that, quality of education can be enhanced only if the teachers are equipped with the core competency skills of the ICT technology. The lecture was followed by question-answer session, in which a number of questions on online learning, NEP-2020 and student issues were discussed and responded. The lecture was organised by Head Deptt of Education of the College Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Parey, who conducted the proceedings of the webinar and also compiled a part of this report. The technical support was provided by Dr Parvaz Ahmad, Deptt of Computer sciences and the session concluded with the vote of thanks by Prof. Shabeer Ahmad Parey, Deptt of Political Science.

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