Lockdown woes: ‘No alternative to face-to-face classes’; students, teachers demand semester extension  

Putting out issues with the e-learning module, professors and students led by various students’ bodies are now demanding extension of semester to compensate for the loss of face-to-face interaction

Representative Image (social media)
Representative Image (social media)
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IANS

Same professor, similar notes, identical lecture points, but everything is not the same for the students in universities across the nation.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started to gain momentum in India, country having second largest population across the globe, educational institutes were the first ones to be closed down as precautionary measures. Since then e-learning has been projected as an alternative to face-to-face teaching, but various students and professors claim otherwise.

Putting out issues with the e-learning module which for now is the only alternative to continue the educational calendar, professors and students led by various students' bodies have now started to demand extension of the semester to compensate for the loss of face-to-face interaction.

"First of all the universities are not well prepared for e-learning modules, we have to use third party apps to connect to students. But the biggest concern is availability of resources with students to avail online classes," Rajesh Jha, member of Delhi University's executive council told IANS.

Jha hinted towards the need of high speed internet, laptops/desktops among other hardware as an essential to avail the online classes which are mostly provided through video calls or video recording of the lectures.

"Not only students, but many ad-hoc teachers also in the varsity are facing this issue, their salary structure might not aide them well to get these resources," he added.

Jha's views were also supported by students from various universities, as they claim that despite their teachers' best efforts, the 'learning satisfaction' is absent from online classes.

"I know this is the only alternative available, but in the long run online classes cannot fulfill a students' needs. Plus if we had to take classes on video class we could have taken up open learning and not regular classes," Anupriya a student of a foreign language course in JNU said.

Many professors also claimed that lack of classroom discipline and the time constraint has resulted in an increased drop out rate from classes.

"The time constraint has been a big issue, we cannot control if the students join or leave the class, but all the teaching fraternity is working hard to devise the best way for filling in the gap," Neha Jingala, professor in journalism department of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce said.

She pointed out that students from areas like Jammu and Kashmir are also facing problems with the e-module due to slower internet. Hence the teachers are supplementing it with educational material on Whatsapp.

The issue has also been taken up by students organisations like Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and National Students' Union of India (NSUI) who have advocated that either the semester is extended or the universities arrange special face-to-face classes before the exams are taken up.

"We have maintained that students' satisfaction with the learning has to be made sure, either the university calls for special classes after the lockdown or they delay examination till next semester, but examination must not be taken up without complete learning satisfaction," Siddharth Yadav, state secretary of ABVP told IANS.

On the other hand NSUI has already written to the administration of DU and other universities to push back the semester. The student body has demanded pushing back of semesters by at least 3 months or skipping of examinations for this semester.

"There is no way that face-to-face learning can be replaced, the e-modules must beAtreated as alternatives and exams should only be conducted after proper classes," Lokesh Chug, National Media Coordinator of NSUI said.

However the situation was a little better with the private run universities where the infrastructure and the already going e-learning style has helped students to adapt better.A

"The response at Ashoka has been very good, with very high attendance. Sessions are also being recorded on video for students with limited internet access. Face to face education will continue to be important for a liberal arts and sciences university, because it enables rich learning from your peers as well as from your faculty. E-learning is a valuable platform, and will continue to be used going forward," Ali Imran, Vice President, External Engagement, Ashoka University said.

Students in his university also agreed as they say many of them were prepared with e-learning format way before the lockdown was announced.

"If you see many of our professors were already using e-learning methods to provide us notes and lectures so this is not a big change, just that we are doing it on regular now," Dheeraj Bisht a student of university said.

Similar views were presented by students of other universities like Galgotia in Greater Noida, Symbiosis in Pune and Punjab Technical University in Punjab.

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