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    Coronavirus impact: How tech companies are helping institutions smoothen their sudden transition to an online-only teaching format

    Synopsis

    Tech companies are helping institutions smoothen their sudden transition to an online-only teaching format.

    As college students and professors adjust to online classrooms, tech companies are doing their bit to ease the sudden transition.
    Coronavirus

    COVID-19 CASES

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    Sanjana Hira, a graduate student at Ashoka University in Sonipat, has been attending online classes from her Gurgaon home ever since educational institutions across India closed down campuses to contain the spread of coronavirus.

    “While many of our lectures are being held online through video-conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts, some professors prefer uploading prerecorded tutorials on YouTube,” says the second-year student. “The tests, meanwhile, are being held in the openbook format and each student is receiving a different set of questions.”

    While Hira is happy about the flexible hours and getting to study in the comfort of her home, she is concerned about the internet network since all other family members are working from home and consuming bandwidth.

    In another room in the same house, her brother Siddhant Hira, a final-year student at OP Jindal Global University, too has been attending online classes for over a week. “Background noise is often becoming a problem for students as well as teachers. Also, I am in my final semester and we have to write a long thesis for which we need a lot of face-to-face time with our supervisor. That will be a challenge,” he says.

    Online study


    The Indian Institutes of Technology too have started online classes for their students as all the campuses are shut.

    “Tech infrastructure is not a problem for us. Plus, our students are tech-savvy. But the challenge we are facing is that some of our professors, though brilliant researchers, are uncomfortable in virtual classrooms. So we are asking them to upload their lectures on our internal website where students can access them.

    We are also avoiding the use of high-resolution videos so that everyone can stream them,” says Sarit Das, director, IIT-Ropar. The cost of moving to an online teaching system has not been very high, with the institute spending an additional Rs 8 lakh so far, says Das.

    Meanwhile, classrooms at IIT-Delhi are not yet being live-streamed since many of the students might not have access to high-speed internet in their homes.

    Online study


    “We have more than 7,000 students enrolled for course-based programmes. We are sending the students pre-recorded lectures and assignments. The professors will go through these assignments when the students return to the campus,” says Shantanu Roy, dean academics at IIT-Delhi.

    Trisha Malik, a first-year student at University of King’s College in Halifax, is also apprehensive about bandwidth as well as the time difference between India and Canada.

    “So far, my college has shared pre-recorded lectures in an audio book format and is not holding any tests. But I have to write and submit two essays,” says Malik, who returned to her home in Mumbai earlier this month after her campus closed down due to Covid-19.

    Streaming Classrooms
    Technology companies, on their part, are helping institutions smoothen their sudden transition to an online-only teaching format with hardly any time to put in place the infrastructure because of the India-wide lockdown.

    Google has launched Teach from Home, an information hub to teach educators on how to conduct online classes amid the virus lockdown. The tech company is also giving free access to Hangouts Meet video-conferencing to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers till July 1. “When connecting remotely, it is challenging to maintain the class’ attention.

    Online study


    Teachers can use approaches like designing interactive quizzes, planning smaller sessions and introducing project-based learning that can support the individual learning needs of different students,” says Bani Dhawan, head of education, South Asia at Google. Khan Academy, which provides free tutorials on maths, science, programming and several other subjects, has increased its offerings amid the coronavirus lockdown.

    “Over the last week, we have created several resources for teachers and parents to facilitate remote learning. In India, we see evidence that in the last week, users are ramping up the use of Khan Academy. Time spent learning has been on the rise and parent registrations have hit record numbers,” says Sandeep Bapna, managing director, Khan Academy India.

    Online study
    IIT-Delhi students leave the campus after vacating hostels due to coronavirus scare on March 14


    Even online learning provider Coursera is giving free access to its services to universities across India.

    “Last year, we launched Coursera for Campus to help higher education institutions supplement what is being taught in classes. We have now made this free for institutions in India till July end. Nearly 500 institutions have already signed up. Several Indian universities do not have digital competency to make a quick transition to e-learning and our resources are now supporting them,” says Raghav Gupta, managing director, India & APAC, Coursera.

    4 Comments on this Story

    Siddhant53 days ago
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    Nidhi Roongta296 days ago
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    The Economic Times