Unlock Learning during the lockdown


Hon’ble Prime Minister of India implemented nationwide lockdown with effect from Midnight of 24th March to 14th April in phase one and till May 3rd in phase two. Social distancing being the only way to combat COVID-19 and curb the spread of dreaded disease the students in institutions almost all over the world would be required to stay at home for a prolonged duration. The contagion has left Parents and students in a situation full of uncertainty and chaos. Being away from the institution for weeks may leave students disastrously behind schedule on their learning and at the same time create challenges for parents to keep their wards engaged. Most of the parents are also working from home and it is equally challenging for them to balance between work life and family.

The situation no doubt created challenges for almost every sector including education but at the same time “in every adversity lies an opportunity”. Institutions were quick to respond and moved to online teaching and learning. Amity University Rajasthan was among the pioneers in the country to implement an Online learning system to ensure continuous learning. Prompt action from faculty and staff helped students save precious time and kept them engaged in productive work. Removing the barrier of geographical boundaries and location an Online Learning system also helped to develop a sense of responsibility and discipline amongst students.

It was easy for students to feel depressed about how bad things were and thus it was our responsibility to replace that feeling with positive thoughts. It was also a good opportunity for parents to revive the family bond and support their wards not only to learn through technology-based tools but also help them explore new hobbies including reading, singing, dancing, painting etc. We ensured a learning environment where students felt as normal as possible in this chaotic situation. A new way of learning may present unique challenges for students, but also it is a great opportunity to learn new technology and new skills.

The situation was treated as an opportunity to learn by everyone at Amity University Rajasthan. Even before the lockdown, looking at the situation around the world, the faculty started preparing Video lectures and testing the online platforms. Faculty members were already using Learning Management Systems and blended teaching as part of their pedagogy and academic delivery. With very little effort it was possible for them to switch to complete online teaching. Amity University’s proprietary Learning Management system called Amizone proved a great help as every student had access to course content and schedules after moving to their home. The portal is also easily accessible on any device including mobile phones.

Adaption to a new way of teaching and learning was not easy and students were counselled to treat the online classes the same way they would a face-to-face class. Despite unique challenges, it was a great opportunity to learn new techniques and skills for students, faculty and staff. An example of a unique challenge is that most of the faculty prepared and delivered lectures using laptops but most of the students were accessing the same on their mobile phones. This change of interface created communication gap, thus a change in the format of presentations was required to be made by faculty to make it compatible and visible on all kind of devices. Faculty used innovative ways to adapt to the situation, using window glasses as boards and using marker pens to solve a numerical problem, prerecording audio in the presentations to save time, etc. Lab demonstrations were done using available online videos. Several Alumni also volunteered to conduct guest sessions and share their experience during the lockdown.

There were other issues too, such as, ‘background noise’, internet connectivity and data plan issues, the difficulty of keeping track of large groups of students and motivating them daily to attend lectures. Students were advised to create a dedicated learning space and use headphones while taking online classes. The duration of lectures was capped at 45 minutes and faculties were advised to make up the remaining time with assignments and exercises which were distributed using LMS. Students were also counselled and tutored using phone in case there were internet connectivity or bandwidth issues.

In addition to conducting online classes for students, keeping the campus clean and green was the top priority at Amity University Rajasthan during the lockdown. There were learnings for the administrative staff also as a lot of precautions were required to be taken to ensure that the 150 Acre residential campus remains completely sanitised and germ-free when students return to the campus. All departmental meetings shifted online, and proper coordination was ensured through online video conferencing between team members for successful academic delivery and administrative efficiency. Amity University Rajasthan has always been at the forefront when it comes to serving society. A team from the School of Fashion Technology prepared masks of khadi and distributed it to several people, at a time when there was a shortfall in availability of medical masks. Several webinars and expert sessions were conducted by the business school to help individuals and corporates cope up with the changes and lead in an effective way in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment. Online Culinary workshops were organized to make home stay more enjoyable and keep taste buds satisfied.

Though It’s a lockdown, it’s also an opportunity to read, reflect, revive and rejuvenate oneself. Faculty and staff members were not behind in terms of keeping themselves updated and develop self. Several faculty members undertook online courses and certifications available at online platforms Amity Future Academy which offered one-month free learning to all its subscribers during the lockdown. It’s time to build skills and sharpen the axe. In difficult times like these, it is important to keep our immunity intact and keep oneself emotionally and physically fit. It is realized that online classrooms can be just as exciting and rewarding as a physical classroom. This lockdown has unlocked a lot of learnings for all of us and it is important to institutionalize these learnings to deliver high-quality world-class education going forward.

Prof. (Dr) Amit Jain

Pro Vice-Chancellor

Amity University Rajasthan

Social Distancing