Academics IN PANDEMIC

‘Digital, classroom learning will go hand-in-hand in post-Covid era’

Safety of students and staff is our top priority; the changes have to be adopted in a phased manner, says Dr GS Samra

‘Digital, classroom learning will go hand-in-hand in post-Covid era’

AS the entire higher education system in the country underwent a massive change due to Covid-19 pandemic, Lyallpur Khalsa College Principal Dr Gurpinder Singh Samra feels it's about time that the institutes as well students became more responsible and disciplined in adapting to the new normal.

The Tribune interview

The Covid-19 outbreak forced universities to suspend physical classrooms, so, we had no option but to shift to the digital mode. Initially, we were conducting classes via Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom etc, but we brought developments in our virtual teaching and learning process and started monitoring the classes as well as the attendance of students via Google drive. We managed to smoothly conduct the online classes and have also begun the final year exams online as per the guidelines from GNDU from September 21. -  Gurpinder Singh Samra, Principal, Lyallpur Khalsa College

In an interview with Avneet Kaur, he talked about this paradigm shift in education, his views on the with regard to calling 50 per cent staff and postgraduate students on campus. Excerpts:

How has Lyallpur Khalsa College tackled the challenges posed by Covid-19?

The Covid-19 outbreak forced universities across India and the world to suspend physical classrooms, so, we had no option but to shift to the digital mode. Initially, we were conducting classes via Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom etc, but it's since July 15 that we brought developments in our virtual teaching and learning process and started monitoring the classes as well attendance of students via Google drive. Besides, we conducted scores of workshops for the faculty and students, training them in several web-based teaching applications. Therefore, we managed to smoothly conduct the online classes and we have also begun the final year exams online as per the guidelines from GNDU from September 21.

Are you happy with the GNDU’s decision to conduct the examinations of exit classes online?

The decision has been taken keeping in mind the health and safety of both students as well as teachers. I welcome this decision, as it was difficult for the students to attend examinations physically when the cases in the district are at an all-time high. Besides, it was equally important to conduct the exams as it would directly reflect upon the job placement. Therefore, conducting exams online was the only way out.

How do you plan to implement the recent guidelines to call 50 per cent of the teaching and non-teaching staff as

well post-graduation students pursuing technical courses

to campus?

Safety of the students would be our top priority while making any decision. Although, we have chalked out a plan to implement these guidelines in a phased manner, but even then, a lot needs to be taken into consideration. With social distancing norms and safety guidelines in place, it is definitely a big challenge to invite students on campus without having to compromise on their health. Besides, we have to mentally prepare the students to strictly follow the guidelines as with ease in restrictions the classroom learning and technology will go hand-in-hand. We do not know when the vaccine will be out, but classes have to be reopened one day, so it's better, we adopt these changes at least for the sake of our families and our own lives.

Do you think the digital shift in education, especially higher education, is here to stay?

I believe that due to the pandemic, the education sector was suddenly forced to change their way of functioning and depended largely on digital conduct of classes. But there is an equal need of classroom teaching. It's time the best brains of our country developed some system where the holistic development of the personality of students takes place and it provides opportunities for interaction and hands-on experiential learning using technology, so that both the experience of teachers of classroom teaching as well technology could be used to bring out the best in students.

How has been the response

of students towards

virtual classes?

The response of students has been great. The attendance in online classes is more than the normal classes. The arts students, who earlier hardly used to attend classes, were seen actively participating in virtual classes. Moreover, this digital shift has upgraded both the teachers and students. They are enjoying virtual learning, and we have plans that once the situation normalises and we are back to normal, the learning via smart boards in classrooms will be made mandatory.

How is the admission

process going on?

Fortunately, the pandemic couldn't dampen the spirits of students. The UGC, too, has announced to begin the new session from November 1, and the admission process is on and students from across the states are enthusiastically enrolling for different courses online. Our 75 per cent of seats in all courses are filled. We are just one fourth count behind to cross our last year's admission tally.

What's your opinion on the New Education Policy (NEP)?

There is no doubt that the new National Education Policy is historic on many counts and will open doors for a wider spectrum of courses. Whether it's the recommendation to use the mother tongue until Class V or restructuring of regulatory bodies, all are groundbreaking reforms. But the question is whether these recommendations will be implemented. The NEP is merely a document; the key lies in its implementation, both in letter and spirit.

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