In India, the majority of teachers followed ‘Chalk and talk teaching’ until the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone indoors. Lockdown started on March 24 in the country and it is still in force. Overnight, the conventional way of teaching suddenly changed to online classes. I interviewed a few Indian lecturers to find out what they had to say about their experiences with online classes.
Reaction 1: Online Classes are not Fruitful
Ms Lakshmi Krishna Kumar, a Sociology Lecturer, told that she was aware of online teaching via Google Classrooms, but never expected that physical classrooms will be replaced online anytime in the future.
“Lockdown extension is unreal, I expected it to end by May,” she added. The students were initially just given assignments via Google Classrooms but as lockdown remained, the classes have shifted online.
The Zoom application is used for teaching and the university played a vital role in teaching the lecturers on ‘how-to-use’ the application. She already had a laptop, therefore, did not have to purchase one for teaching purposes. The Powerpoint presentations and documents in PDF format are used to teach and interact with students. Interestingly, the attendance of the students has remained the same as before. However, she feels that the student interaction is very poor through online platforms.
According to her “Online classes are not fruitful. New normal is now ‘normal’ as humans adapt easily.”
Reaction 2: Opportunity to Learn Something New
Mrs. Jerlin Adaikalsundari, a Computer Science lecturer from PSG College of Arts and Science seemed very positive about online classes.
When the classes suddenly turned online, she took this as an opportunity to learn something new. A training from the college was given to teachers on ‘How to use Google Meets,’ she also attended a few webinars for the same purpose. She says there is not much difficulty in teaching because C++, Java can be easily taught by screen sharing and typing the code. She also uses Powerpoint, Google classrooms to teach and also asks students to make PPTs to deliver a presentation as a form of interaction.
In her case, the attendance of students remained the same as offline classes. She distinctly feels that student interaction is also the same as in offline classes. She further added, “The students who have interest curiously ask doubts in offline as well as online class, while the students who are not interested don’t interact anyway.” The 3 hours semester exams were taken through a software called ‘Exams from Home’ where the students were live monitored and recorded. The papers were evaluated online through this app.
“I am expecting that face to face classes will resume from January. I am comfortable teaching online, but it is better to interact offline.”
She prefers a mixture of both online and offline classes for teaching students.
Reaction 3: A Crisis for teaching Practical Subjects
Mrs Kokila, a Commerce lecturer from PSG College of Arts and Science says she struggles with online classes as she is not able to monitor students. It is not easy to teach Accountancy through online classes. “This pandemic is a crisis for teachers who have to teach practical subjects, however, theory subjects can be easily taught online,” she added. She uses a laptop to teach problems while smartphones for teaching theory. When asked if the stylus is used to workout the problems on the laptop, she replied, “I just type the steps in Word or Excel.”
In her case the attendance of the students has declined. She added that attendance of first year students is about 90%, second year students is 80% while the 3rd year students are only up to 75%.
“I am not sure when the classes will get back to normal, I don’t expect it anytime soon.”
As most students are not locals and are from Kerala, it is difficult to have a physical setting.
Reaction 4: Offline exams took place with Precautions
Mr Anup Kumar, a History Department lecturer from RB College, Dalsinghsarai said he had no idea on how to go about online classes. He expected the lockdown to end within a month but surprisingly the College issued an instruction to continue the classes online. The college did not cooperate or train teachers to use any of the online applications. He learnt it by asking the well-informed individuals on how to operate the application ‘Google Meets’. Unlike others, he does not use PDFs or Powerpoint Presentations to teach students, instead just delivers online lectures.
The attendance of the students has drastically fallen in his case. Only 40% to 50% of the students attend the online classes while others face network or other problems. He mentioned that the May exams took place in October due to Lockdown. The exams were conducted offline by taking proper safety measures like social distancing, sanitising, using masks and gloves.
All the teachers agreed that online classes have become comfortable with time and they would prefer a combination of online and offline classes. This pandemic sure brought some shortcomings, but it has opened a new opportunity and boosted digital platforms.
Written by: Versha Chaudhary