It was March 17, 2020 when the government started hinting at a complete lockdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The longevity of the upcoming event was foreseeable. In response, rigorous brainstorming about minimizing the loss of students’ learning and calendar management started at the institute. The decision was taken to initiate a complete online teaching learning process without delay. The team of faculties along with IT support was organised in haste and given with the tasks of (a) identifying a suitable platform and (b) to develop a mechanism for the online teaching learning process. The team came up with various options. A suitable platform and mechanism was developed. The next challenge was to train faculties and students on the identified platform without delay. Demonstrations were organised and Lloyd Business School became the first institute to start online classes in Delhi – NCR. This seven months journey of online teaching has been full of challenges and opportunities. If we talk about opportunities and challenges, three perspectives emerged; (I) students’ perspective, (ii) teachers’ perspective and (iii) the parents’ perspective.
The faculties felt comfortable and assumed that online teaching will be their comfort zone. They presumed that taking lectures from home will provide them an edge in terms of managing professional and personal life. Eventually the problems of online teaching started mushrooming up. It is realised that there are multiple problems in online teaching in a country like ours. The major problem is the non-consistent internet connectivity throughout the country. In rural and sub-urban areas the internet connectivity issues posed a huge challenge to the students and the faculties found themselves in a dilemma of uniform dissemination of knowledge amongst the students. The other challenge that faculties faced is that all students did not have the required IT equipment such as computers. A good number of students were using their smart phones to take the classes. The faculties teaching technical subjects, using IT Platforms for practical exercises, faced a lot of challenges. The interactivity of the classes reduced significantly.
The administrative pimple of attendance has also grown in to ulcer during online classes. Apart from the direct challenges that are mentioned above there are lot of indirect challenges that showed up. Some of these challenges are (i) senior professors weren’t very familiar with the tech, (ii) observation of quantum of learning through body language of the students was not possible, (iii) the descriptive examinations and tests became a real challenge. The opportunity for the faculties lay in non-delay of academic session. The faculties also get familiar with the tech, moreover they can record their sessions and they can self assess themselves. The major opportunity with the faculties was to disseminate their knowledge across the globe with ease. The global academic network of the faculties has grown during this pandemic. When it comes to students one of the major challenge for them is to get right kind of mentorship. When students keep meeting their mentors, the impact of mentoring is comparatively significant. It became very exhaustive for the students for continuously sitting in virtual classes for 6 – 8 hours a day. The students couldn’t have the feel of college life in actual. The social interaction has also gone for a toss. This might affect the behavioural aspect of team work amongst the students and that is a must trait to learn for management students. The exposure to live trainings and live exercises has also reduced significantly and suddenly the students have to learn through a new teaching pedagogy. The pedagogy was equally new for the trainer. The parents on the other hand were in strange position to make decision about allowing the students to pursue the education in online model or not. There are a lot of parents who were not in favour of online education, while they were fine with their kid dropping an academic year. Parents were worried about the mental and physical health of the students as well.
These have been testing times for the education sector and I hope that the turmoil will end soon. The teachers responded well to the situation and ensured that the students didn’t lose out. The teachers found it really difficult to compartmentalise their personal and professional life while operating from the same place. Students and parents should support and collaborate with faculties and the educational institutions as a cohesive team rather than pulling in opposite directions. The strong efforts of all the stakeholders will definitely take all us out of these challenging times.
Dr. Bhupender Kumar SomDirector, Lloyd Business School