Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, educational institutions are comparing notes on online examinations and classes on the internet. M Jagadesh Kumar, vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, revealed that he was planning to introduce online degree programmes in JNU, believing that India could no longer resist education going online.
What is your forecast for post-Covid higher education?
Educational institutes that fail to use online systems as delivery mechanisms will lag. Education is not only a fundamental right of every human being, but it is essential for sustainable development. So, adopting “anywhere-anytime” education will help every individual to get quality education and enable them to contribute to the economic prosperity and social welfare of the country.
But critics say we do not have the required infrastructure for online education.
Universities like JNU are already planning to offer degrees in online mode with the aim of reaching out to students from across varying socio-economic backgrounds. During the lockdown, institutions have demonstrated the ability to continue the teaching-learning process through online resources. In the post-Covid era, we will be more open to online education’s compatibility with classrooms. Some may think online education is for the future, but the biggest plus of the lockdown is the digital revolution in higher education. It is time now to plan what part of the teaching-learning process need be in the classroom and what can be offered online.
Are we ready for online examination/assessment?
Technology is already available for online examinations as the National Testing Agency’s entrance exams show. The other option is to write the tests on your computer at home while being monitored by a human proctor online. India has the technical competence to develop such exam tools.
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What about accessible and affordable broadband connectivity in India?
The National Broadband Mission is already making fast progress on giving broadband access to every village by 2022. This mission is expected to provide all rural and remote areas of India with equitable and universal broadband access through 30 lakh kilometres of optical fibre cables and augmented towers, enabling speeds of up to 50 mbps. As it is, Indian mobile data charges are at least 30 times lower than the global average.
But won’t we require laptops and computers?
Unlike laptops required for gaming and business applications, one can use low-cost laptops for education. Smartphones are the best choice for those who cannot afford a laptop. The post-Covid period will be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to invest in R&D for low-cost laptops and smartphones while keeping pace with technological advances.
What about digital content?
We already have a large reservoir of video lectures and study materials on platforms such as Swayam, NPTEL, Swayamprabha, DIKSHA and NISHTHA. The Union HRD ministry and University Grants Commission are encouraging universities to establish facilities on their campuses to prepare the necessary digital content and to train faculty members for this task. This effort, of course, needs to be scaled up.
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