The reverse of proverb: ‘ Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ is proving just right for online education as COVID 19 crisis lengthens its dark shadow. In the given situation, Virtual Education system may finally get the much eluding mass acceptability even if it comes through compulsion of keeping social distancing due to Coronavirus
COVID-19 spread is the most serious global health security threat in decades. In many countries, restrictions imposed by government agencies have disrupted daily routines for millions, including students. Many universities in the impacted regions have suspended face-to-face seminars, closed campuses, and are scrambling to find a solution to minimize disruption for their students.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant uncertainty have impacted schools and educational institutes across India. In India too where some 37.4 million students are enrolled in higher education alone, the government has announced the closure of schools and colleges in several states including Delhi, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Assam, Tamil Nadu and others.
In this scenario, several online platforms have come forward to ease education disruption caused by this pandemic even as more and more institutions have started virtual classroom modes. Universities and schools have also started tackling the disruption using virtual technology as every day brings news of both cases as well as the urgency for taking proactive measures to reduce the opportunity for infection.
MOOCs platform, Coursera will provide impacted Indian universities with free access to its course catalog through Coursera for Campus. Universities can sign up to provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3,800 courses and 400 Specializations from Coursera’s top university and industry partners. These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020. Students who enroll on or before July 31 will continue to have access until September 30, 2020.
Jeff Maggioncalda, Chief Executive Officer, Coursera said, “We are fortunate to have university and industry partners, who have been at the forefront of responding to the challenges humanity has faced from time to time. Inspired by their support and consistent with our mission of serving learners everywhere, we are launching this global effort to assist universities and colleges seeking to offer online courseware in response to the coronavirus.”
Similarly, Vedantu, a LIVE online tutoring in India is offering support to students, parents and schools in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Kerala and Hyderabad to provide Free access to its complete learning platform. Vedantu will offer Free access to all LIVE classes of Vedantu Master Teachers, Study Material, Tests & Assignments, LIVE Doubts feature during this outbreak, where students & parents can be rest assured as they can continue their learning from the safety of their homes. Vedantu’s vision is to make the best quality education accessible to everyone and is committed to help students have uninterrupted learning.
Students will get free access to Vedantu’sLIVE Classes, Tests, Doubt Solving, Ample Study Material, Class recordings & Notes. It will cater to Grades 1 to 12 covering subjects like Maths, Science, Social Studies, Physics, Chemistry etc. Courses for JEE & NEET are available too. Apart from this, co-curricular courses for all grades such as Turbo Maths, Rocket Pro, Photography, Coding would be made FREE too.
Vamsi Krishna, CEO and Co-Founder, Vedantu said, “We believe Online Learning is a safe option in these risky & uncertain times. The students can study from the safety of their home and avoid travel and public places. We are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 and are here to assist students & schools with all their learning needs.”
Another web platform, Educational Initiatives, an education research organisation is offering 60 days free access of Mindspark to all students so that the school closure due to the COVID-19 virus does not impact their learning. Students studying from Class 1 to 10, aligned to CBSE, IGCSE, ICSE, IB and all state board curriculum can continue to learn mathematics at home with Mindspark Maths, just at a click of a button. To avail free access, students can login to ei-india.com/mindspark-math.
According to Aditya Shankar, Co Founder Doubtnut, “Amid the recent reported cases of COVID -19 there has been a panic all around following which the advisories has been issued by the schools to remain closed for the safety of the students. Our free-of-cost tutoring platform which uses image recognition technology to provide quick solutions to the questions, has proven to be most viable option for students.” Doubtnut, an AI enabled free of cost doubt solving platform for students is experiencing over 50% increase in the daily activity on its application. According to a statement from Doubtnut, it has recorded over 46% increase in the number of questions (more than 7,00,000 questions) posted by the students on the daily basis after declaration of Covid-19 as pandemic. Similarly there has been an increase of 36% in the number of students watching the online tutorial videos and 44% increase in the videos viewed. The state of Bihar leads with over 129% increase followed by Uttarakhand (118%), Uttar Pradesh (109%) and Madhya Pradesh (89%). Doubtnut’s platform allows students to find the solution to their questions by simply clicking the picture of the problem and uploading an image on its application. The app extracts text from the image and tries to match it in its database of questions, which are pre-answered and have recorded video solutions. If it finds a match, then the result is provided to the user otherwise it asks the user to post their question publicly for tutors available on the platform to provide a video explaining the query.
As far as institutions are concerned, these too are evolving in responding to this crisis of disruption and need for maintaining social distancing. Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, much in news for weeks now for CAA protests, has completely shut down in wake of Covid-19 advisory.
Noida-based Shiv Nadar University has asked its students (undergraduate and postgraduate/doctoral) who are not on campus to stay away until March 31, and beyond if necessary. “During this time, we will move all courses to online mode. This may happen through Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or other means. Any assessment planned for this period will either be postponed or adapted to online mode. Instructors will send students course-specific instructions remotely. While it is a challenge to do this in the middle of the Semester and at a short notice, but given the extraordinary situation, everybody at Shiv Nadar University will put in their best effort to ensure the learning outcomes are not compromised, “ a statement from the SNU said while adding that for students who are already on campus, please note that no cases have been reported as of now and the administration is taking all necessary measures to handle any emergency. Do minimize your travel at this point to minimize the risk of infection and report in case you notice any symptoms related to the virus.
JD Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi has started daily disinfections and virtual classes as well. Rupal Dalal, executive Director said “We have started disinfecting the classrooms. All classrooms are being equipped with sanitizers and tissues. We have distributed free masks to staff and helpers of the institution. We have started virtual classes, where queries are taken online and will continue until the authorities announce a return to normal teaching.”
Similarly, Noida-based school Global Indian International School (GIIS), has commenced GIIS virtual classroom for its students through online video conferencing technologies.
GIIS schools in Bangalore, Pune, Surat & Ahmedabad will follow suit. As part of the Virtual Classrooms, the students have the flexibility to log-in and participate in an on-going class in the school through their mobile phones or any other personal device. Students who are logged-in remotely are able to share their screens to the teacher as well as get the full view of the concepts shared on the digital smartboard.
“By introducing Virtual Classrooms for all its students in India, GIIS is doing a great service to the student community. In aligning its education delivery during challenging times of Covid19, GIIS will bring a big relief to the parents community. We encourage all CBSE schools, as far as possible, to introduce similar innovative ways for their students to give them an uninterrupted learning experience,” an official of CBSE said.
Even as the uncertainty over how the pandemic will eventually play remains, any longer disruption for education delivery is going to impact millions of students. In this scenario, the whole virtual ecosystem will have to respond in a staggered and generous manner.