Global edtech giant confers award on UPES professor for ‘Optimising Student Experience’
Gaurav Misra, Assistant Professor, UPES School for Life, won the ‘2021 Blackboard Award for Optimising the Student Experience’, joining a select group of people from around the world, whose work has been recognised as a significant and exemplary contribution to the field of education
While learning during the pandemic has been overwhelming for students, it has been a challenging time for educators as well. Despite the obstacles, the teaching fraternity has ensured that students receive the best quality of education, albeit online, by devising creative strategies.
Gaurav Misra is one such dedicated academician who has worked hard to enhance the students’ learning experience in a virtual environment at UPES. Recognising his extraordinary efforts, Blackboard – a leading global education technology company – has honoured him with the ‘2021 Blackboard Award for Optimising the Student Experience’.
An Assistant Professor at the UPES School for Life, Gaurav joins a select group of people from the Blackboard community around the world whose work has been recognised as a significant and exemplary contribution to the field of education.
For him, teaching and learning have always been his calling. “It won’t be an exaggeration to acknowledge that I am truly in love with my profession as an educator.” Gaurav says. “It is always exciting to see my students proceed towards betterment; their progress in life is the definition of my success. There is nothing more rewarding than to see them become confident with each passing day. There is nothing more pleasing than to see their winning smiles on their accomplishments with each passing year. And this is exactly what keeps me motivated all the time.”
Commenting on the nature of the concept he developed, Gaurav remarks, “I am a life skills teacher; I teach courses such as Leadership and Teamwork to my undergraduate students. The pandemic made everything difficult for teachers like me. After thorough research, I complemented my Blackboard classes with a self-invented gamification model. Resultantly, my student engagement and student involvement increased by more than 300%.”
“Teaching life skills (or any skills for that matter) is demanding, compared to a completely theoretical subject,” he adds, weighing in on the approach needed to make online classes as welcoming as possible. “It requires high levels of engagement and involvement on the part of the learners. All my Blackboard sessions needed to be highly interactive because of the nature of the course. And given that my students are the Generation Z – who have less than 8 seconds of attention span and more than 12 hours per day of screen time – making them feel enthusiastic about participation was even trickier.”
Developing the ‘Star Count System’
Spelling out the strategy that he followed to achieve the results, Gaurav says, “To understand what makes online classes meaningful and fruitful both for facilitators and learners, I started my research. I explored several articles, blogs and educational websites to seek the answers and stumbled upon an interesting idea called ‘Gamification’. Subsequently, I devised a model that can be used by any online educator to make the online learning experience fun and exciting. I named this model ‘Star Count System’ (SCS).”
For this model, he set simple rules and introduced some ‘cool’ badges, student-friendly recognition techniques, and a completely transparent award system. The 4 badges – ‘Star Performer’, ‘Super Star Performer’, ‘Rock Star Performer,’ and ‘Special Mention Category’ were used to recognise and appreciate the participating students in every Blackboard class.
And the results were remarkable. “My Blackboard classes witnessed unprecedented student participation and the discussion forums were flooded with student reflections (more than 2500 this semester). The Blackboard analytics showed a 300% increase in the overall user activity, with more than 1,50,000 hits throughout,” Gaurav informs.
“My students’ consistent efforts not only showcased their keen interest and engagement but also brought them accolades at the international level,” he gushes with a pride that only teachers would have on seeing their students succeed. “One student, for instance, received praises for she was able to get a response to her questions from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. A student team project got selected by Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AIESEC), the world’s largest student organisation. Another student team interviewed acclaimed environmentalist Dr. Harshwanti Bisht and Indian politician Maneka Gandhi. Many such stories are underway.”
Gaurav strongly believes that teachers are changemakers and they do have the power to positively impact young minds and help build a strong nation. He says, “A teacher must also be a mentor who leaves no stone unturned in making students realize their true potential. Students who are inspired by their teachers accomplish amazing things and that motivation lasts longer than ever.”
When he is teaching, three things hold utmost importance for him. “First, students should always feel curious and appreciated in the classroom (whether it’s online or in-person). Course material should be designed and developed in such a way that it ignites a spark of interest in learners. Second, students should always feel respected and that they are not going to be judged under any circumstances. Even if they make mistakes, they should be encouraged for their efforts. And lastly, there should always be an element of fun. There is always room for smiles, cheer, and laughter when I’m teaching,” Gaurav concludes.