Learning in COVID Times & Beyond: Turning a Crisis into an Opportunity- Tempemail

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By Professor Ujjwal K Chowdhury, Pro Vice Chancellor, Adamas University

Learning or academics broadly has three functions:
(A) creation of learning content through research, writing, packaging with visuals; (B) dissemination of learning through classes, lectures, notes, self-study, discussions; & (C) assessment and evaluation of the education of the learner by various methods.

All these three have been majorly impacted by the self-isolation rightly imposed to ensure social distancing so that the learners and the mentors may first be protected from the spread of the infection of COVID19. 

Digital Learning Tools Today:

Digital learning on the go or from distance calls for tech-led holistic solutions. It requires several content pieces to be transmitted digitally. These content pieces can be in the form of pdfs, ppts, URLs, YouTube links, podcast links, case-studies, etc. There can also be e-books, audio-books, kindle based content, magzter sourced magazines, etc. Then this can involve learning without being face to face through boxes, as in Google Class, or learning face to face as in Zoom live audio-visual discussions. People may also use GoToMeetings or MicrosoftMeet sessions also. Attendance can be taken on Google Spreadsheet and through Whatsapp Group chat of a batch of students too. 

Then there are MOOCs, collaborative distance learning, wikis, blogs etc. Individual resource-rich institutes develop their customized secured and IPR protected Learning Management Systems, through the use of BlackBoard or TCSion LMS. Other LMS options like Kaltura or Impartus allowing video recording of talks also ar in use in many places. There are CourseEra courses, Swayam online lessons from UGC and similar other avenues to learn online. 

Digital Learning Add-ons & Social Media Value-adds:

Incorporating big data analytics and content management, educators develop an individualized curriculum that enhances how each student learns (e.g. Playlist of content in WiseWire changing for each student). Many in the West have started the use of the millennials’ language and style: Khan Academy video lessons, YouTube use, distinct style and language for young learners. Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Imessage, Instagram, Facebook &Whatsapp are being creatively integrated with school education. There is a case of a management school in India, where the professor sends a 3 minutes interesting video on the subject he is taking up next through group whatsapp to increase interest in the batch towards the topic being taught. 

Further, using anything from iMovie to WeVideo, learners can create video as a learning resource. YouTube (with privacy settings) and SeeSaw or Flipgrid are also alternatives learners can make use of. The benefits of SeeSaw and Flipgrid are that students can add voice recordings or text sharing feedback with peers. Students became the co-creators of content and as a result, more engaged, including their parents. Useful apps like Book CreatorExplain Everything and EduCreations can be utilised towards this end. 

There are various software used to create digital content, like Camtasia, Raptivity, Captivate, Articulate Online, etc. 

Digital Assessment & Evaluation:

Online quiz, open book examination with time-managed and proctored question paper delivered online, applied questions not based on memory but comprehension, telephonic interview etc have been the usual ways of digital assessment and evaluation of learning. 

Mentors can make learners aware of expectations in advance (e.g. one week for feedback from deadline) and keep them posted (announcement: all projects have been marked). Mentors can consider auto-grading options offered by learning management systems (LMSs)/virtual learning environments (VLEs). For example, one can create tests that are multiple choice, true/false, or short answer essays and onne can set the assessments to automatically provide feedback.

Possibilities in Post COVID Education:

Online learning is the big winner from the COVID crisis– across all education levels; so proving quality now is at centre stage. However, going ahead, in the post COVID times, blended learning will be the way to go. The biggest future benefits of virtual instruction will come after our professors and students return to their physical classrooms. The necessity of teaching and learning with asynchronous (Canvas, Blackboard, D2L) and synchronous (Zoom) platforms will yield significant benefits when these methods are layered into face-to-face instruction. We will come back from COVID-19 with a much more widely shared understanding that digital tools are complements, not substitutes, for the intimacy and immediacy of face-to-face learning. Since professors are now moving content online, precious classroom time will be more productively utilized for discussion, debate and guided practice.

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