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Thursday, Jul 02, 2020 12:00 [IST]

Last Update: Thursday, Jul 02, 2020 06:18 [IST]

Changing scenario of conventional education in pandemic COVID-19 situation: Gurukul Shikchha Padhati to Future Blended learning model


We all know that every situation-favorable or adverse has some positive and negative aspects depending on the perception of an individual. For example, even a dead clock shows correct time twice a day, if one looks from positive angle. Traditionally and in general, Indian attitude is to look at the situation first from positive side. Highly contagious Pandemic COVID-19 although created havoc on humans, some intelligent groups converted the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity in the course of Lockdown making it situation productive. For instance, organizing Webinar, online video conferencing, online education, etc  saves time, resources and energy. Pandemic COVID-19 compelled us in changing our life style and behavior towards more discipline oriented side. People have been compelled to become digital literate and let understand the power of digital devices to access the online educational resources (OER) during complete lockdown. Indeed, we become disciplined out of compulsion to mitigate risk from natural crisis.

Highly contagious pandemic COVID-19 has shacked and shocked the whole  world and there is hardly a  country left  unaffected by this unseen deadly virus. Entire economic activities of the globe have been affected which may take years to revive to its original status as happened in H1N1 Spanish flue in 1918. Government has taken number of measures  such as complete lockdown, maintaining social distancing, compulsory wearing of  mask, use of sanitizers, restriction to  visit  crowded places, downloading of AROGYA SETU App, no sneezing and spitting in public places, etc. to protect the citizens against  the deadly pandemic. Things to be done have been done by the government. Now the time is  to take care by  ourselves. However, no need to be panicky of this deadly virus but the need of the hour is to follow the government prescribed precautionary measures and advisories strictly and sincerely. As the virus  is going to live around us , we must  learn how to live with it following the DO’s and DON’T’S and move forward with the  economic activities to revive the economy of the country by learning a lesson as to how India has overcome the impact of 1918 (H1N1 Virus)/Spanish Flue and  revive the lost economy. Educational institutions are remaining closed since the last three months or so and still not certain when the pandemic menace gets over and normal teaching and learning process begins. 15.35 lakh Schools’ 26 crore students  and 3.7 crore students of higher Education institutions covering 45 thousand  colleges and nearly 1000 universities have been affected by pandemic COVID-19. Even if normalcy returns, parents/guardians are skeptical in sending their wards to schools, colleges and university. Moreover , there is a further risk of second wave COVID-19 resurgence in a  way its infection case is increasing day by day crossing half a million record in India. Life is precious than economy or future careers of students that justify by the saying ‘Jan haito Jahan hai’. As we know that the three pillars of survival are education, health and profession; activities pertaining to education cannot be stopped at any cost. As such, there left no other option than to start engaging students’ communities through online mode of dissemination of E-learning materials at their working space. Solely online education is the only option in view of contagious nature of the virus that demands social distancing and isolation of individuals. Pandemic COVID-19 broke out all of a sudden as the natural calamities are never in the calendar. Teachers, students and educational institutions were not prepared for the worst days. Even then and amidst uncertainty, our respected and dedicated teachers have continued the teaching by engaging students through online mode using various digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google class rooms, video conferencing tools like Zooms, Webex, etc. This COVID -19 impacted online education pave the way for change in the century old conventional mode of chalk- talk and face to face class room education. For logical conclusion to the change, we need to review the progressive transformation in relation to the sequential advancement of technologies pertaining to education.

Ancient Indian Gurukul Education system: visit of disciple (disciplined students) to become a part of Gurukul

As we all know to acquire in-depth knowledge for development and prosperity, one has to do a lot of exercises and experiments. Human instinct is to acquire as much skill and entrepreneurship quality as he can on each passing day where the role of education is significant. In order to enhance skill, creative arts and innovative skills disciple in ancient India visit the GURUKUL KUTI to adopt the gurukul sikchha. Probability is that with the advancement of civilization, GURUKULA SIKCHHA progressively transformed with time that led to the establishment of schools, colleges and present day universities in India. In fact, systematic dissemination of education was successfully carried out in India through Ved sikchha for the first time in the world.

Impact of Covid -19 in reversing the conventional education to online education: Virtual Guru visits the students working space through the vehicle of information communication technology (ICT)

Conventional education is Chalk-talk and face to face class room interactions of students with teachers.COVID-19 compelled education institutions and teachers to reverse the mode of education from traditional to purely online in view of the highly contagious nature of deadly virus. In the new setups, Gurus/teachers have to deliver the learning materials to the students in their working space through ICT mode. Thanks to the Gurus who have converted the corona crisis into opportunity for making this happened to maintain the continuity of education during dire straight situation without prejudice. This doesn’t mean that COVID-19 gave birth to Online education which was already in place but the one here is Corona impacted one. Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) left no alternative than to begin deadly virus impacted online education to protect the careers of students. This reverse mode of education dissemination from conventional to online mode has passed through historical developments of distance learning.  Online education may be considered as a part of open distance learning.

Changing Scenario of Conventional Education: Education to all

Transformation is in every sector of economic activities through technological advancement. In education sector too transformation has taken and taking place as in other parts of the world  but in different ways. In last part of eighteenth century, education of colleges and universities were not accessible to all students. In order to reduce this gap, colleges and universities have taken the help of post offices to disseminate the education to student community through letters and parcels. This may be regarded as the beginning of distance education. With the fast development and advancement of technologies, dedicated radio stations were used to disseminate education in 1919. Technology continued to improve and in 1930, distance education was made possible through television. In 1967 number of radio stations and televisions were dedicated to access the education by masses. In 1982, Western behavior Science Institute started delivering distance education through computer system and in 1989, Finix University for the first time started disseminating education through internet. This has opened the Pandora’s box of online education to many HEIs. In 1998 onwards, number of universities in the western world started online education.  In India, IGNOU started Open & Distance Learning education to disseminate education  to masses who cannot afford for regular classes for various reasons.

Online education through internet: E-revolution:

It is not that COVID-19 brought the online education all of a sudden in a dire straight situation. Current   Internet Technology is the refinement of three growth stages of ICT and E-content developments.

In an around 1830-1900 gave the birth of telecommunication which enable transfer of data through copper wire cable, telegraph and fixed line telephone service. In 1900-1990 birth of wireless satellite based communication made the data transfer possible through fiber optic cable and 2G mobile phone came into existence. Modern age of ICT and e-content (currently in place) gave the birth of Internet Technology through which high speed data transfer is currently taking place using 3G and 4G smart mobile phone devices.

Online education depends on ICT which is the indispensable need of the hour. The life-line of ICT is e-content. E-content exist in various forms: audio, video, images or text. Current trend to meet the demand of the situation is to make the video of a class room teaching and post it in the internet but the e-content should be more than that. E-learning and e-content are inseparable partners for dissemination through internet. Success of e-learning depends on quality of e-contents which besides  informative, must be exciting, enforcing, enhancing, engaging, enabling, envisioning, empowering and encouraging to make the e-content attractive to students.

In fact, the ending part of twentieth century was influenced greatly by two developments. One is Open Education Movement and the other is Integration of Telecommunication Technology both of which are complementary to each other and changed the entire mosaic of teaching- learning process in HEIs. Explosion of online educational resources(OER) and the use of online and offline web environment helped  to the emergence of several possibilities of digital designs of  learning strategies to suit the ever changing learning and learner requirements in the global network. Current trends of Webinar in HEIs are the gift ICT Technology compelled by COVID-19.

Current trends of education in HEIs under experimentation: Search for sustainable learning models.

MOOCs based learning model

MOOCs or massive open online courses have become the game changer for providing education to masses through internet. The learning materials placed on the MOOC platform are in the form of recorded lectures, videos, text materials, etc. National programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) a colloquium of seven IITs provides distance education through MOOCs platform.

Blended learning model

Almost all higher educational institutions have introduced internet based teaching into their conventional teaching mode as well  as in the ODL mode. Conventional universities experimenting with Blended Learning found the blended arrangement was  more effective than using only face to face or only online learning.

Flipped Classroom learning model

Flipped classroom is an interesting arrangement brought about by merging the learning value in both online and face to face interactions. In a flipped class room, student swatch online lectures to understand the basic cognitive values as in lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and  collaborate in online discussions and come to the physical class room to get clarification of concept pertaining to the  subject matter under study for  a guidance of a mentor. However, the effectiveness of the flipped class room pedagogy is  dependent  on how creatively and effectively the interactions are planned and executed in HEIs.

Mobile and Flexible self- learning strategies

A significant   proportion of learners use mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and laptops for use in the classroom to facilitate   learning and  to take notes, assignment and projects. The use of mobile devices as learning tools has the  potential of integrating learning in  the class room  with learning opportunities beyond the class room. Most of UG and PG students use mobile phone as one of the learning devices to access internet in the college and universities to fulfill their education needs.

Web 2.0 Supported pedagogies and Learning through gaming technique.

Web 2.0 provides for a host of recent Internet applications which facilitates interactive rather than broadcast forms of information exchange in which information get  transmitted many to many rather than being transmitted from one to many. Gamification or the application of gaming techniques is again a powerful tool for delivering education materials and providing training in  subject that require strategic planning, scenario building, stimulating technique for developing imaginative and creative solutions under defined set of constraints.

Constraints/factors  for the success of online education

Success of online education depends on number of factors like internet connectivity and its bandwidth, its accessibility to all students communities no matter wherever they are located,  availability, affordability of  electronic devices like computers, laptop and smart android/IOS phones besides e-content development, roles  of University and  Colleges  including the roles of teachers, parents and  students.  Roughly, 70% of  students reside in far flung villages where ICT  facilities are not there and even if there , internet is  very slow and  students cannot take the benefit of online classes. Socio-economic conditions of rural masses further restrict the possession of smart digital gadgets. In spite of a number of dedicated channels that provide free education to all, only handful of students get benefitted for not having access to ICT amenities. Further, many students were of the opinion   that they were not benefitted from online classes for not having smart phones and internet access, etc are serious issue to be looked into for the success of online education.

Post COVID   prospects of online education:

Online education can be made sustainable provided  strong ICT infrastructure are made available in the rural areas where 70% of HEIs’ students composition are from rural background in order to bridge the digital gap between urban and rural masses. Atma nirbhar Technology enhanced mobile, if made  available to rural household to take the benefit of online education, online education could  be sustainable in the long run even in post COVID-19 situation provided issues pertaining to the online examination with reference to safety and security are resolved. Proctor examination without proper ICT infrastructure and  trained manpower may result counter  productive. Integration of pedagogy, Technology and space is probably going to define new active learning with particular attention being paid to mobility, flexibility and multiple device usage.

 In conclusion and considering the traditional system of education and the pace of technological developments, conventional system of education is transforming   to online education; to what proportion and extent is a matter of time. COVID impacted online education is a temporary phase to protect the interest of students in harsh situation as the same is   isolation and social distancing oriented one. Online education is full of challenges both at the policy making level  and implementation stage and certainly take longer time to make its perfection. Course E-content development is another challenge. Colloquium of reputed universities in the line of NPTEL for the creation of e-contents for use of general universities would be a noteworthy step. Regarding the conduct of online examination, handing over to reputed Online Examination Conducting Agencies may not be a cost effective. HEIs are eagerly waiting the directions from the government as to how examinations can be conducted in pandemic COVID situation as the semester courses are being completed through solely online arrangement by the dedicated respected teachers. In view of COVID situation, changes may be needed in the Online Examination Regulations, 2018. Government is expected to come up with ordinance as regard the conduct of online examination otherwise the credentials of online examination arrangement and outcome of the same may be challenged in the court of law. No doubt, technology enhanced learning is the need of the hour under compulsion of COVID and the need based situation demands that smart mobile phone be made as an  essential item under Essential Commodity Act. Computer/ICT adaptive test in a designated Test Practice Centre for mock test to students is a must before they sit for internet based examination in order to remove fear psychosis in their mind as they are appearing internet based examination for the first time. Best part of COVID-19 in the context of online education is that students have learned to explore and exploit the digital e-contents and accepted it as part of their normal class routine matter provided they are equipped with smart mobile devices. Virtual meetings, webinars (national and international) are other COVID-19 incited positive outcomes which have  reduced the expenditures drastically to organized the same in normal situation. Pros and cons analysis of online education suggests that  Blended Learning Model  shall be the sustainable future model of education  in post COVID situation. The challenge of transformation from conventional to Blended mode is to determine the optimal mix of online and on-campus teaching within the individual institutions and across the whole spectrum of Higher Education Institutions. This is a challenge to HEIs to prepare its students to meet the demands of knowledge society in 21st century so as to enable them to work intuitively and innovatively.

(The writer is Vice Chancellor, Sikkim State University, Gangtok)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi