Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil, Chairman, Ajeenkya DY Patil University (ADYPU)

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], April 29: Much learning has come out of the pandemic, both personally and professionally for us all. While some have added new skills by exploring new talents and avenues, others have done away with some ‘added baggage’ for a more streamlined approach. Businesses across sectors have felt the impact, and those still in operation, have had to innovate and adapt to a new way of working with fresh challenges and opportunities to deal with in equal measure. The Education sector is no different, in fact, it has probably felt the impact the hardest, first to close and never completely reopen. The pandemic has shown us immense possibilities of online learning which we would never have dared explored with such velocity until playgrounds were forced to empty and the grand old gates of educational institutions closed upon us, for a whole year and counting. 

But let’s be honest, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. All schools and colleges, including our very own established DY Patil Group of institutions, have had to grapple with unprecedented change. We were certainly at the forefront of deploying technology in our campuses but it was always meant to augment the form of face-to-face delivery. We never had the luxury of technology to fall back and rejig our entire operating framework on. Technology has given us a reason, a way, and a path to easily plug into, and keep going. But I’d be over-simplifying it if ‘plugging in’ was all it took. No, it was an overhaul of education systems, the ethos, and the very foundation on which we’ve operated all along. Yes, we’ve adapted, innovated, and evolved, but there have been many learnings along the way – and continue to be as we keep going on the online learning route. I have listed a few that I feel have made a difference to the DY Patil Group of schools and universities, our faculty and staff, and most importantly our students. 

  • Access to technology

It’s not been easy for students to stay home during the pandemic. Especially in a country like India where there is a huge disparity in living standards, assuming all children can plug into their shiny laptops in the silence and comforts of their own rooms is unrealistic. According to the ‘Digital in India’ report 2019, only slightly above half (54%) of the urban population and just a third (32%) of the rural population, in the age group of 12 years and above had internet access. Students have faced many challenges in this regard and the onus lies with educational institutions to ensure each child has been considered and the right support has been extended to ensure the students can in fact plug into the expected modules of learning.

  • Teaching methods 

At Ajeenkya DY Patil University we quickly realised that it was not just about changing the mode of delivery of education, but about maintaining or even enhancing the quality of our delivery. We realised that the move from face-to-face to online represented a significant difference in the base assumptions about how we teach and how students learn. This realisation led us to diligently think about how we can build capacity amongst our faculty so that they are effective in teaching online, how we can use this mode to make learning more student-centered, how we can help our students from being passive listeners to active learners. 

  • Success criteria

Our students have had to truly bear the brunt of the pandemic. Not only have they had to quickly learn and adapt to a completely new way of accessing and processing information, but they’ve had one of the most important aspects of education stolen from them, which is social interaction. Ask anyone who has graduated from school what they miss most, they are likely to share a funny story of a prank, or time in the canteen, or their sporting accolades. With that social interaction amiss, students have had only the pressures of academic performance defining their experience. This what makes the recent uproar on board examination cancellation even more irrelevant in the current devastating circumstances. Examinations should and must be cancelled for the safety of our communities, but learning must continue. Student mental health, wellbeing, and resilience are what need constant assessment because that is what will determine success when this pandemic is behind us, not just a percentage score.

  • Harness the power of ‘online’ in learning 

The education ecosystem in India is undergoing a hugely positive transformation. Globalisation has brought the best practices from around the world within the reach of educational institutions in India. Yet when it comes to imbibing these practices, few institutions have been proactive. We have an opportunity to break the barriers of the way knowledge is shared and consumed, yet we continue to recreate the classroom environment in the online space – which will never really work in favour of our students. Our students need to be trained in aspects that lie beyond books. They must be groomed and equipped with the skills that will help them enter a globally integrated business environment. Educational institutions must, like we do at ADYPU, focus on the 360-degree development of students, which makes them a preferred choice of recruiters in India and abroad. For online education to reach its true potential, schools and colleges must relook at their curriculums, their teaching methods, and their infrastructure to create a hybrid model that is future-proof, and truly global in nature and opportunity. 

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