While the world reels under economic distress triggered by the pandemic, the education sector has taken a decade’s leap forward. With classes, evaluations going online, and remote learning transcending into fourth gear, UPES is acing its response to Covid and beyond
Online education, owing to rapid technological developments in the last decade or so, is no longer an alien concept. Flipped learning or blended learning has been rapidly gaining traction in recent years. With the COVID situation, however, and a complete worldwide lockdown, education has transitioned quicker than what was expected earlier. According to Sharad Mehra, Chief Executive Officer, Global University Systems (GUS) – Asia Pacific, “What could have taken five years may now probably happen in 30 days. Global University Systems (GUS), which has strategic collaborations in India with UPES and Pearl Academy, had started to look at futuristic learning methods five years ago.” He further adds, “Both these institutes are using the online teaching platform ‘Blackboard Collaborate’ to create an active and productive learning experience for the students. That’s not all. The teachers will have to be trained to teach online and the classes are conducted using technologies such as Zoom.”
Several countries have indefinitely closed educational institutions to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to an estimate, over 91 per cent of the world’s student population is affected due to the worldwide lockdown. At unprecedented times such as these, with uncertainty threatening every part of the world, everyone is affected adversely and is hoping for things to get back to normal soon. Graduating students or those looking for admissions in higher educational institutions are anxious. Amidst such troubled times, Dr. Sunil Rai, Vice Chancellor of UPES, shows the world that there is light at the end of a dark tunnel. Says Dr. Rai, “We, at UPES, are positive and energetic; even more energetic than before. We understand that it is going to be a different world; in fact, it already is a different world. This is the new normal. We are fortunate to be part of an integrated society, which has done well in these trying times.”
Corroborates Dr. Akshay Malhotra, Director Products, Innovation and Development at GUS and UPES, “Life will go back to normal. The definition of normal, however, will certainly change. It has been, in fact, the legacy of catastrophes. For instance, flipped classrooms, blended learning and online learning may have taken five years to penetrate the education sector. Now, due to the circumstances at hand, it may happen today or tomorrow. Students must adapt to changes quickly and learn from them.”
Dr. Malhotra further explains the ways in which students can make the best use of the lockdown period by enhancing their skills. “Communication,” he adds, “is the most important skill in any industry – how one presents ideas, convinces people, makes effective presentations, etc. With the democratization of technology that everybody can access, it is necessary to possess multidisciplinary skills. Also necessary is the skill to ‘learn how to learn’, i.e. the skill to become a self-learner and understand how one can be relevant in a post-COVID-19 world.”
At UPES, 95 per cent of all academic schedules are being met (the remaining five per cent include practical and lab-work). Says Dr. Rai, “We have figured out smart ways of simulation and are on schedule as far as syllabus completion is concerned. Rest assured, our students are going to graduate on the date planned. All this has been made possible thanks to the commendable job by my faculty, students and their parents, who are ensuring that their children remain connected to us.” Sharad points out the user-friendly approach and interface of the online classes. “The sessions are not just lecturer dependent,” he says, “It is observed that the attendance is better and the highest number of students are online in the early hours – around 2 am. This anytime, anywhere experience is possible only in virtual classrooms.”
UPES has invested profusely in training people, in content generation and in access to technology. The number of students taught online is over 10,000 and the over 500 faculty members are involved in the exercise. However, the question of self-discipline arises in the minds of the parents and academic fraternity in general. With a positive reaffirmation, Dr. Sunil Rai dedicates a message to all the students.
“This is a higher level of actualization. Nobody tells the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening. If I respect my family, my work, and myself, it is my duty as a human being to ensure that I am true to the promise that I have made. Discipline should not be enforced; it is a promise one makes to himself or herself and keeps it. As a student, it is your job to prepare yourself for tomorrow. You are going to be the leaders of the world. Why do you need anyone else to discipline you? It should come to you by yourself.”