GUWAHATI, April 21 - A two-day international online conference � �Teaching-Learning in the Time of Pandemic: Role of Online Learning� began today under the aegis of the Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University (KKHSOU). The conference is being organised in collaboration with the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), said a press release here.
Prof Madhu Parhar, Director CEMCA, in her welcome address discussed at length the need to make use of online platforms for engaging in interactive discussions especially during crisis situations. Keeping in line with the sustainable development goal of �Quality Education� (Goal number 4), she said that a concerted effort needs to come from all (including the government, stakeholders and people) so that there is uninterrupted flow of information and knowledge across all sectors while keeping the quality of education intact.
Professor Asha Kanwar, president and CEO, Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver in her inaugural address threw light on how people can make the best use of online resources during the current pandemic situation. She made a presentation � �Will COVID-19 change the way we teach-learn?� where she emphasised the impact the present situation has had on the teaching-learning process. She specifically said that not only the learners of various universities and colleges but also those belonging to secondary and primary levels consisting of over 90 per cent of the student population, have been facing constraints as far as accessibility to education is concerned.
Prof Kanwar said that although a lot of steps have been taken to see that education is not hindered at this crucial juncture, a few pertinent issues like uninterrupted connectivity, electricity and accessibility to different online platforms need to be worked out at the earliest. Talking about the area of �Equity and Inclusion� Prof Kanwar said that a vast number of learners belonging to the rural areas are yet to be reached as far as accessibility and reach of educational platforms are concerned. She said the differently-abled learners will benefit a lot from online education provided they are given the basic resources to access it. As far as the role of Commonwealth of Learning is concerned, she said that it has been promoting OER-based online learning, preparing a series of about 12 webinars on designing and developing MOOCs, enhancing micro-learning through videos and promoting international partnerships of distance and online learning for COVID-19.
Prof Kanwar said that various inter-governmental agencies, governments and educational institutions must work in tandem to build frameworks for implementing and monitoring online learning, share best practices and resources in the field of online learning, promote global and regional partnerships, monitor impact of distance and online learning, invest in technology infrastructure, work on capacity building of the instructors and provide targeted support to the vulnerable learners.
Prof Nageswar Rao, Vice Chancellor IGNOU mentioned that during a pandemic, especially if it concerns the health and well-being of an individual, the person concerned must adhere to certain safety regulations as spelt out by the government. He urged the people concerned to religiously follow the precautionary measures so as not to endanger the lives of others. Spread of rumours and other hoaxes will not be beneficial in the long run as it will create a sense of panic in the minds of the people, thereby affecting dissemination of information in society.
Prof Rao also said that the gap between conventional learning and distance learning can be minimised with the right kind of technology. Coming to the conventional classroom scenario, Prof Rao said that in the post-pandemic period there is every possibility of the intake capacity to be reduced in order to prevent the spread of infection. This will be applicable in case of laboratory-based classes and in examination halls.
Prof Rao also discussed the online methods of learning which are not cost-effective from the learner�s point of view. He was of the view that instead of only focusing on online learning, effort must be made on making the admission and examination processes flexible which comes in handy during a crisis situation. In light of the present situation he suggested admission to various academic programmes and examinations be conducted on a quarterly basis. This, he said, will help reduce the workload of the learners to a great extent. He said that since the whole world is looking at the online and ODL systems of teaching and learning in the present scenario, the government and other educational institutions are expected to play a proactive role in combining both ODL and online methods of learning. He urged the community as a whole to go for online counselling sessions which are flexible and can be recorded, reused and reviewed by the learners as per their own convenience.
Dr BK Bhadri in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, in his opening remarks, mentioned that the ODL universities are in an advantageous position in the present scenario because of its flexible nature of functioning. However, he also said that the Government of India has been laying a lot of emphasis on integrating the primary, secondary and higher educational systems on a common online platform.
Prof Kandarpa Das, Vice Chancellor, KKHSOU offered the formal vote of thanks. He said organising such a conference in the face of adversity is in itself a big achievement. He expressed hope that such a gathering will bring together the best of the minds under one single roof leading to debates and discussions. He specifically thanked the officials and staff of both KKHSOU and CEMCA for lending a helping hand in organising the conference in the virtual world, the release added.