What are the advantages of digital education?
COVID-19 has brought a big change in the Indian education system. Education organisations, parents and students have moved towards online solutions to continue learning and continue the curriculum. A webinar on ‘Rethink the Future’ in Education highlighted how the sector views the crisis for the education fraternity.
Schools, colleges and universities have had to suspend physical campuses and rely on digital campuses in the wake of COVID-19. It can be called crisis, challenge or opportunity at the same time. But one thing is clear that the digital maturity of the sector going forward will be tested on many fronts. Digital transformation, connected campuses, user experiences, online blended learning and much more are now the ‘new normal in the Indian education sector.
Until now, online education was considered a second class citizen in the education industry; Hence, it was limited to lesser educational institutions. Moreover, limited internet access and connectivity problem in remote places is still the biggest obstacle in the way of blended education. However, the sudden outbreak of coronavirus has pushed the digital transformation in the sector to a great extent, forcing the adoption of various edtech and virtual solutions for business continuity.
Future of digital transformation in school or colleges
Leaders from the education sector discussed their preparedness for digital transformation during the crisis. He highlighted in a webinar how the sector views the crisis for the education fraternity. Most of the experts agree that the future of education is that of blended learning and technology has played a big role in changing the education structure from offline to online and from campus to home.
Blended learning is the integration of face-to-face instruction and the use of online channels for classes.
Addressing the panel’s questions, Sri University President Rajita Kulkarni spoke on the sudden change and 100 per cent virtual learning environment, “We had an idea of the situation before the lockdown started. Thus, we were mentally prepared for the upcoming digital transformation. We send 98 per cent of the students back home within four days of planning. And now we are conducting 100% online classes and exams.”
According to him COVID-19 catalyzed the process of essay on online education. “COVID-19 has been a real journey for us. Although online education was not in our roadmap for the next year, COVID-19 has led to the process of digital transformation for Sri Sri University.”
On the same note, Hindustan Technical University (HTU) Vice Chancellor Dr KP Isaac while sharing his views on his virtual visit said, “The situation was not anticipated at all. Educational institutions were not ready to go online. However, in this situation online education is an essential tool to continue the education course. Along with this, it is equally important to increase IT infra. We have been working on this for the last two years. We integrated LMS system; We are also using video conferencing solutions for online classes.
For conducting online classes, HTU has recently implemented Microsoft Teams. Isaac added, “MS Teams is a handy tool to start teaching. We ran trial classes on the platform from the first week of April. By 15th April, we went completely on stage on a regular timetable with 22-25 sessions per day. It is only for theoretical classes and internal assessment except practical.”
Data according to Isaacs
According to Isaacs, in his belief, virtual practicals do not appear to be a viable option for engineering students. Thus, management is sought after completing the theory course online, whereas a practical resume will be introduced once the environment is suitable for reopening.
“Although we are using cloud solutions for computer practicals. For other subjects, virtual lab doesn’t seem to be a viable option. At the same time, the university is completing the theory part before the practical session. We want to reopen for the next semester operations by June 22, but it depends on the situation. “
Isaacs is also of the view that online classes as well as 30 per cent of campus life are mandatory for students to maintain balance and ethnicity in college life.
“This is a sudden change. We didn’t expect it to last long. Campuses look vibrant when there are students; without them, campuses look terrible.” Mohan Kumar CM, Assistant Director- Systems at VIT University expressed himself.
He also advocates that a mix of online-offline learning is the way forward for the education business. On the preparations, Kumar informed that he was already on digital infra for online learning. Thus, being completely virtual was not an issue. “Students were already using online platforms for classes and virtual labs for practicals. Also, keeping in mind the freedom to learn anytime, anywhere, we have deployed VDI VMWare solutions.”
Through this solution, students can work anywhere and at any time. Also, students do not need to go to the labs to access the tools. So far, 35 engineering applications have been tested on the platform. VIT also follows a totally flexible study system: students are independent to select the subject, the teacher and the schedules at their convenience. They are also interested in virtualized graphics applications that run in a virtual environment through a grid, now 3D applications are also available on mobile devices.
With the digital destination in mind, VIT has also started to use prediction-based analytics tools to improve services.
On the other hand, few universities like Apeejay Stya & Svran Group and Lovely Professional University were fully virtualized on their premises. They were well equipped before the pandemic situation caught up with us all.
Apeejay co-promoter Aditya Berlin shared: “Our IT infrastructure was completely virtual on VMWare solutions in 2004 and in 2010 we were 100% in the cloud. Additionally, we have been at Zoom Conferencing for the past four years, and our faculty is well trained in the LMS system. “
Raising technology gains
However, the unprecedented transition from campus to home suddenly surprised them, and their technical team day and night to get back on track. “Expanding the infrastructure for 40,000 students was a problem. It took them a few days to resolve the problem. Thanks to our technical team, we were able to re-run the entire schedule seamlessly with online LMS, video conferencing, and other online installations. Online learning solutions reading books from home, recreating the classroom environment is working well for us. ”He added.
Similarly, Aman Mittal, director of Lovely Professional University speaking at the webinar, says that LPU has already invested in IT infrastructure. Its data centres are powered by VMWare software. “As LPU is a technologically advanced university, I was prepared to tackle the deadlock situation. All of your solutions were in place; for example, we set up LMS in 2007-08 and have our messaging app connected to LMS. Through this platform, content is shared “.
Mittal further adds that BYOD is practised at the University and students do their internships online. Therefore, the transition was smooth for them when the crisis occurred. “Faculty members have also played a very important role in the successful transition from full virtualization. The first week was tense in terms of fully virtual operations from home. While bandwidth and Internet connectivity remain a challenge. “
According to education leaders, it is a wake-up call for education regulators to redefine the education sector, taking into account existing digital learning and pandemic situations. Most experts advocate rewriting education policy for these reasons, as the policy is still in the blue.
In addition, the paradigm shift in the sector has led students and teachers to bond ionically. According to Sri’s Kulkarni, virtual classes have forced students to be more attentive, which has improved attendance and timely completion of assignments.
Virtual lectures and webinars are also capturing student interest, and there is an increase in demand for educational videos and industry lectures. HTU’s Dr. Isaac says they are holding numerous lectures every day. It’s easy to communicate with the spokesperson and students virtually while saving costs and money. In addition, mentoring activities have improved considerably through digital platforms.
According to Berlia de Apeejay, replicating the presence of the command in the classroom is virtually difficult. Teachers innovated while working virtually, for example, bringing family members to explain concepts.
On the other hand, connectivity, bandwidth and Internet access are challenges in digital education. It is a fundamental assumption that everyone has a reasonable Internet connection that is not valid. Also, shared devices; Shared spaces and other distractions are also obstacles in the way of digital education.