Has been listening to the online digital learning too much that I wanted to try my hand at it. Two driving forces to embark on the journey – one is that I can relax tomorrow if I work today philosophy (!!) and I can reach large number of students with one-time hard work. There were innumerable other factors that prompted to take the extra effort – the UGC mandate to give few online courses, UGC guideline to go for blended mode, giving autonomy to learner, giving a safe environment to learn by choosing the time and style as per individual demand, promoting self learning, providing opportunity for self assessment, encouraging safe expression platform to all learners, many more to add to the list. For sure these are not Covid driven throughts!! But for sure, Covid made us think of it seriously pushing us into action.
My journey started with taking up an online course on Moodle LMS by IIT Madras in collaboration with Bodoland University. The course not just guided me into the know how of developing courses online but also impressed with the audio and video lessons and online assessment. I was highly inspired by the way the course was designed.
Two of my friends from University of St Francis, with their experience of putting few courses of study compulsorily online since the past decade, roped in to bring the thought to India knowing its immense potentiality. Pulled in two youngsters who had passion to develop courses online as well as had the technical know how of creating the LMS in a resource depleted higher education scenario in India.
The work started with the motto that beginning is more important than quality. This put me at ease to refine my existing power point presentations into the course Childhood and growing up the course I had in B Ed first semester. I was taking online classes to the same batch and was noticing few students had difficulties to be connected continuously due to network connections. I started putting the PPTs with few reflective questions in the learning portal. I was surprised to find a good number of students responding quickly to the reflective questions. Collected few short videos that had aspects reflecting concepts of the unit. Those videos were given as view and respond. Students started uploading their answers/reflections to the questions/discussion points raised in the video description.
By this time the batch of students were called to the offline classes. It was an opportunity that LMS created to flip the classroom, to use the face to face contact only for discussion on questions, doubts raised by students. The need to give points of discussion in a lecture mode got automatically restricted. That put the role of teacher from speaker to listener which was welcome move!! Students came out happily to ask their queries, doubts, arguments openly. Those students who were not very articulate in class either due to language barrier or social barrier chose to express themselves freely in the discussion forum of the LMS.
With this experience another course I am teaching for the M Ed first years on Psychology of development and learning was organized in the learning platform with the few power point presentations.
At this juncture we had to send the same batch of B Ed students to their school exposure and multicultural placement in selected schools. There are five activities to be taken up by students during their fifteen days of school experience. One among them is ‘case study’. Students are briefed on all the activities by different faculty members in a one or two days pre conference. My responsibility was to orient the students and prepare them to do the case study. With a very brief interaction with students in the session, gave them the code to join the course online. Prepared a short video as introductory information on case study. A power point to give information on what is case study, why is it important for a teacher preparation programme and how to dot it that was available was refined and added to the course. The recorded class on briefing the students of previous batch was uploaded for further view for more clarity and details. The format to report with example was prepared that was put in the portal for the benefit of students. The same activity is in the four year integrated programmes of the institute B A B Ed and B Sc B Ed. I just had to generate different codes for the different batches and share with students during the face to face interaction session. A question and answer forum was created in the course so that students can post their query if any. This was informed to students in the session. I felt highly empowered and satisfied as the resources available were already floated in the online classroom. The same design was useful for three different courses of students. What is more comforting is that for the batches to come in future the course remains organized and I can improve upon it as and when I get interesting materials and as and when I get time to relook into the example and power point presentation that is in the portal. Experienced great joy when I realized that the resources can be put in drive and any change I make in the file automatically gets changed in the portal. There is no need to go to the portal and edit the material if the resources are directly put in the portal from the drive.
This experience I gained as a teacher educator in the year 2020-2021 is remarkable and has great potentiality to reach large number of students simultaneously. Opportunity to peer interaction opens up the scope for peer learning. Needless to say the motivation for self learning is at its best, with no interference and disturbance by others during learning. Teacher support is made available both online and offline for the comfort of students based on their preference.
The immense potentiality of blended learning is opening up to the faculty at higher education institutes. It is time we embark on this journey slowly but steadily. A technical team to support the faculty and a server of its own by every institute would go a long way in accomplishing this goal. Further faculty members may be given the chance to upgrade their skills to embark on this fascinating journey. The satisfaction of creating a learning experience for a large number of students for years to come where they can learn at their comfort is worth the effort.