Experience and experiments with online teaching in a pandemic-affected world

Biplob Kongkham
Contd from previous issue
They are also encouraged to adopt collaborative learning through a multitude of learning components including preparation of group Project Reports, Presentations, Quizzes and Group Discussions. Assessment and evaluation requiring teamwork is open and sometimes peer reviewed with an eye on greater participation and healthy competition among learners. This has led to tangible improvements in team spirit, leadership and communication skills.
Holistic feedback on effectiveness of online learning is often sought from students in questionnaires administered through Google Forms. Quite interestingly, there has been overwhelming positive response from students indicating higher interest in learning, greater access to educational resources, improved computing and problem-solving skills. Attendance and pass percentages have soared compared to classroom-based teaching. Reliance on multiple web resources other than static textbooks ensure acquaintance with latest developments in the discipline. This was also supplemented effectively by enrolling students in the institutional N-LIST (National Library and Informational Services Infrastructure for Scholarly Content) account. In June 2021, successive ‘Student Webinars’ were conducted to introduce the department’s students to MOOCs (like Coursera, edX, Udemy, FutureLearn and Swayam). Nearly 80 students successfully completed two micro-credential courses in July 2021 through FutureLearn and almost the same number enrolled in Swayam for different courses. This is an extremely engaging and inspiring experience for the students of the department, many of whom hail from economically weaker backgrounds.
In spite of its manifold advantages, online learning is still susceptible to different shortcomings in varying degrees. Manipur being a hilly State, there are lingering electricity, connectivity and bandwidth issues that limit effective online teaching. Nearly 60 percent of the department’s total students hail from the hill districts of Manipur. Nevertheless, only a handful face occasional access problems which are also addressed through selective mechanisms adopted in MOODLE LMS. Advanced and slow learners are carefully segregated and curative measures including remedial classes and personal counselling have been adopted. All-inclusivevirtual classroomsand study groupsalso ensure that student activity and progression can be monitored and guided in all stages of their course. This applies beyond routine classes to aspects like extracurricular activities, career counselling, admissions and examinations guidance.
The sudden shift to online learning from May 2020 in Oriental College, Imphal was a direct outcome of restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic. While the long-term effects of this drastic step are yet to be fully understood, it has, in many ways become a blessing in disguise for both teachers and students. For an undergraduate college in a rural setting catering to students from remote corners of the State, this transformation has enabled extensive integration of information and communication technology with traditional learning patterns. Exposed to some of the best learning resources, students have also inculcated key soft skills and learning techniques, both by choice and compulsion. There is widespread consensus that the online can never fully replace the offline in education.
However, even in a futuristic post-pandemic scenario, a blended approach that integrates the benefits of both will go a long way in enriching learning experience of students.
The writer teaches Political Science at Oriental College, Imphal and the article was originally published in the E-Book“Paradigm shift in Online Teaching- Methods and Practices"