Even as the pandemic pushed the educational institutions to shift to digital mode to prevent students from skipping their studies, the online classes failed to equip students with the technical education. To bridge the gap between the structure of learning and teaching, Jagroop Singh, Principal Mehr Chand Polytechnic College shares that the current mode of education can never be an alternative to practical education and learning. In a conversation with Ajay Joshi, he goes on to reveal the changes the campus has gone through during the pandemic-hit times. Excerpts from the interview:
What are the measures taken by your college to tackle the challenges?
The whole online education concept came as a challenge for us. Initially, we lacked technical support to reach out to a large number of students. Teachers were not well acquainted with the concept, hence it was a major problem for us to not only hold classes but also apprise them with the digital realm of education. We subsequently took help of our technical staff and computer teachers to make other staff members tech-friendly. Faculty development programmes were also organised for the same. Apart from that, we have also formed groups among students who would help their peers to complete their syllabus.
Are online examinations equally beneficial for the students?
Undoubtedly, conducting physical examinations are more credible than the online ones. Though the teachers diligently frame question papers, the students remained a worried lot. As the average scorers were getting marks equal to good scorers, hence there was a feeling of discontentment among the toppers. Consequently, I suggested teachers to put more emphasis on the previous scores of students to evaluate the performance. The digital exams only feel like a formality. Teachers send the question papers to the students on their phones and ask them to submit the answers shortly. Unfortunately, some students couldn't appear for their exams.
What will be your concern once the classroom teaching begins?
Apart from the health and safety of the students, we will have to do work harder and focus on completing the syllabus. As of now, we have planned to allow 50 per cent students in the college and for practicals only six students in a laboratory or workshop will be allowed to enter. More stress would be laid on hands-on training programme so that practicals could be completed. The classes will be conducted only two days in a week and theory part will be conducted online only.
What infrastructural changes have been made for the digital sessions?
We have installed internet devices with better bandwidth in the college. Projectors and screens were installed in labs so that teachers can easily take their classes. Besides, teachers sans gadgets were given all the equipments.
Do you think the current shift is here to stay?
Well, I believe that due to the pandemic the education sector was suddenly forced to change the way of functioning and depended largely on digital conduct of classes. But there is an equal need of classroom teaching as these are more interactive. And as far as sustainability of online education is concerned, it will take a long time as students and the faculty needs to be equipped with all the technical support needed for digital classes. Besides, hands-on experiential learning is equally important for which students have to be present at the campus. Also, we can't deny the fact that the experience of teachers in classroom teaching, as well as technology, could be used to bring out the best in students.
How were the admissions this year?
Fortunately, the pandemic couldn't affect the admission process this year. We have better number of admissions this year compared to last year. The process has also been extended up to November 15, which was till August 15 last year. In addition, the restrictions on travel also had an impact this year. Instead of wasting a year, students opted to take admissions in diploma courses or subjects with lesser fee structure. Students took admissions in almost all the courses but pharmacy remained popular among them.
Is the teaching of technical classes going well?
Since the beginning of the classes, technical education remained our prime focus. For timely conduct of lectures teachers were asked to pre-record lectures, which were reviewed by their HOD's. Therefore, teachers also took the online education more seriously. The classes for technical subjects were organised even during holidays and guest lectures of experts from industries were also held. The evaluation remained the major drawback during the pandemic.
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