Campus Talk: Digitisation takes front seat during Covid pandemic in Mumbai’s colleges
Gone are the days when the photocopy shop outside a college was the busiest spot as most students gathered there to get notes.
All notes are in the form of PDFs now. The attendance sheets have been replaced by swanky apps, which also notify the students if their attendance is falling short of required margin.
The colleges are able to offer a long list of certificate courses as online collaborations with other institutes are now easily possible.
The digitisation that snuck into the education sector amid the pandemic has led to a change in the dynamics of the colleges. Even as city colleges have resumed conventional offline learning, many novel practices that were need of the hour during the pandemic induced online format have continued to stay on campuses.
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The foremost of the change is the way classrooms are functioning now with more focus on digital content.
“My lectures have become more visual now. The audio-visual content was prepared during pandemic for online classes. Now every lecture continues to have the same support, more upgraded as I too am learning to make it more interesting and interactive to engage class,” said Dr Omkar Bhatkar, a visiting faculty in Somaiya and MMK College for subjects such as Indian Aesthetics and Film Studies.
Apart from creating digital content for their subjects, exposure to the free-content available on the web has changed the perspective of teaching for some professors.
“Traditional teaching has taken a back seat. With information available in ample size, the focus is shifted to encouraging analytical thinking,” said Bhushan Shinde, Assistant Professor at VES College of Law.
“There are so many videos, programs on the web which are related to my subjects. The class is asked to watch a certain video and put across their thoughts,” added Shinde, who apart from teaching the law students, also teaches subjects like constitutional law, media law and political science to the media students.
Shinde further said this changing dynamic of a classroom in the colleges has also led to the teachers thinking more innovatively when giving assignments to the students.
“Which are beyond theoretical in nature now,” he added.
The students do not have to hurry to submit the assignments before the end of the day for college. In most cases, this is online now and the students have time until 11.59pm of the submission day.
“It also ensures a record of submissions by the students. The digital records cannot be wrong. There are no complaints by students now saying he/she had come to submit but I was not available in office so should be allowed to submit late,” shared Dr Bhatkar jokingly.
He added the photocopy shop owner outside his college is unhappy as he is “not sending heaps of notes to him”.
‘Digital record’ is one of the important reasons for HVPS College of Law.
“This digital intervention has made it convenient for us to keep academic records of all students. At the same time, this has also made it easy to check if students have indulged in plagiarism while writing their assignments,” said Dr Madhura Kalamkar, the college principal.
The college is continuing in hybrid mode as some lectures are held online. It has also become convenient for the college to invite noted personalities from the field of law for guest lectures as it is no longer confined to class with time limitations. It can be held online at non-college hours.
The mobile app, which was introduced at MMK College during the pandemic to keep record of attendance, continues to do its job as it has not only reduced the additional clerical work that teachers were supposed to do but is also helping the students in maintaining their required attendance with help from notifications.
Another pandemic initiative – WhatsApp groups of each class – has turned out to be a boon even after conventional teaching has resumed.
The teachers and students are able to communicate well, leaving no room for old confusions such as one did not know the lecture was rescheduled or a certain assessment will be taking place among all.
This liberty of time allowed by the online mode has led to H R College offering a long list of certification courses for their students.
“The pandemic exposed us to online collaborations with other educational institutions. In today’s time, when only a degree is not enough, students are always looking for additional qualifications which are going to increase their chances of landing a good job,” said Dr Pooja Mirchandani, the principal of the college which started on-screen marking during the pandemic for evaluation and now teachers are hooked to it as it is a convenient process.
“We have collaborated with few institutions and certification courses are offered in the evenings so that students can take those from the comfort of their homes,” she added.
As Professor Shinde, rightly puts it, “Convenience and quality enhancement are the two key words for this changing dynamic. Many clerical or tedious tasks are replaced with digital intervention which is also allowing innovation in teaching practices making it more effective.”