The new normal, brought in by the Covid-19 pandemic, seems to be settling a decades-long debate on how best to deliver education, especially technical education, to students.
Over the last three decades, there have been debates on theoretical versus practical knowledge. The educational institutions have defended their practice of delivering lectures and having some lab work with their available time. But industry leaders say most of the graduates coming out of engineering institutes are not directly employable and students need to get practical hands-on training.
Online live classes, which have started extensively over the last few months, cover general technical knowledge topics faster as there is no active interaction with students and have reduced the time taken to cover topics by half. The gained time can now be used to impart additional knowledge, like making students industry-ready and employable.
A few years ago,MIT Opencourseware made available its entire bouquet of courses online, leading the march to embrace new ways of imparting education. Scores of students and teachers across the world benefitted from it. Soon, other Ivy League institutions in the US, and prestigious universities in Europe and other countries started similar exercises. India too joined the bandwagon.
Online live/recorded lectures allow students to view and learn anytime, anywhere. With this, normal classroom sessions can focus on discussing the topics livestreamed earlier.
Since there are only 54 to 56 hours of classroom sessions in a semester in any engineering institute, about 50% of these classes can be used for case-based learning, which is considered one of the best ways to learn about real-life problems and solutions.We can also have classroom sessions with a lesser number of students and come up with a new evaluation system which assesses the practical knowledge of students.
What started as an act to keep staff and students engaged has given way to serious experimentation.
We now have educationists, academia, students and parents all looking at online education with favourable eyes. But when things begin to return to normal, we must not allow our mindset to return to its old self. We should be bold in pursuing a new normal, where a hybrid of online lectures followed by classroom sessions becomes the standard. This is an opportunity Indian universities have to seize, today, now.
Prof at PES University
Dr Ananth Koppar was the founder of Kshema Technologies Pvt Ltd, India’s first venture-funded software company