Blended Learning (mixed offline and online mode delivery may be the answer to Education 4.0)
I) Necessity of online learning:-
Online education has become a mandatory need in the current situation. Whereas it is partially agreeable that this is not the best option, but no doubt that this is the best option, given the current situation. As it is understandable that Covid will continue for a while, it has become mandatory for the students to start training their own mind to like this mode of learning, otherwise it is inevitable that students’ career will suffer. After all everything is in the mind, and if you can train your mind to believe that “yes education is possible without the discussion sessions in the canteen, without playing in the playground”, then a student will definitely find that the use of the headphone, closeness to the teacher’s computer screen etc. give a student better comfort of learning and makes it easier. But yes, definitely accepting the fact that discussions in the canteen and playing in the playground do give the students the dynamicity, but as said learning online is imperative in the situation and has to be encouraged by the guardians. It has to be understood that encouragement also comes two ways. So once students start taking it sincerely, teachers also will get the motivation to deliver better.
II) Implementation of online learning at UEM JAIPUR:-
As the Vice-Chancellor of UEM JAIPUR, I can say that UEM JAIPUR was following a blended or mixed mode of learning even before the pandemic, i.e. where few talks, lectures, special classes and combined classes used to happen online along with regular offline classes. So, I feel proud to state that ever since lockdown was declared in March, 2020, UEM JAIPUR immediately shifted to the online mode in a day, and all classes started being conducted in online mode from 14th March, 2020. Classes are conducted using Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Goto Webinar as we have paid subscription of all these platforms. Here it is possible to address all, share the computer screen – the presentation, a virtual whiteboard if needed along with writing facilities on it. Laboratories are also held using VLAB, Hacker Rank etc. VLAB is a Govt. of India initiative where you can virtually select the different apparatus/equipment needed and show the experiments on screen. Hacker Rank is needed for computer programming. Our assignments are shared via Google classroom and students submit the assignments there, and teachers check it and return using the same platform. Virtual marking like using a pen to scratch the incorrect answers/statements and write the correct ones are possible. Our exams are conducted using our own platform called IEMJEE where students can get the question paper, write long answers on paper, scan and submit there to be checked by the teacher and return.
III) Education 4.0, Online learning and blended learning:-
Off late, there has been a lot of discussions about Education 4.0 and there have been debates whether the online learning is facilitating Education 4.0. So, it is important to understand the meaning of Education 4.0, the term which has followed Industry Revolution (IR) 4.0. As industry has revolutionized from 3.0 to 4.0 (where everything in the industry is being automated comprising of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, IoIT, Virtual and Augmented Reality), it was both imperative and inevitable for Education to move to Education 4.0. But how is Education 4.0 defined? Comprising of the following 9 things:-
– Anywhere/anytime learning
– Personal learning
– Flexible Delivery
– Peers and Mentors
– Why/where and not what/how
– Practical application
– Modular and project based learning
– Student ownership
– Evaluated not examined
Now, if we come back to the debate that whether Online Education has facilitated Education 4.0, we should take each of these points individually:-
Anywhere/anytime learning would mean that the student should be able to learn anywhere anytime at his/her own will. Definitely online learning will facilitate this as a student has access to innumerable resources all across internet and can learn from internet, irrespective of place and time.
Personal learning or learning by himself/herself will also debatably be better possible through online learning as the scope is better there.
Online/offline learning, none should score better as far as the third point of Flexible delivery of resources/teaching is concerned. It depends more on the concerned teacher, which way he/she is more comfortable. But modern day teachers need to find a better way of delivering with more flexibility to revolutionize Education to 4.0.
Influence of Peers and mentors in learning is supposedly better possible in offline learning and herein comes in the role of canteens, playgrounds, physical laboratories, debates in classroom etc. But to move to Education 4.0, all institutions need to give better opportunity of mingling of peers and mentors, more sessions of debate, more scope of group study, more mentor mentee sessions etc.
Not much influence of offline or online learning would come in the point Why/where and not what/how. But again modern day teaching is to concentrate on the science behind why and where a fact is, because what and how are facts available on internet and found easily by students.
Practical applications are definitely better possible in the offline mode of learning, and the equipment and laboratories do have a role to play in most cases. But it is a mandatory requirement for teachers today to encourage the students for applying the things they learn.
Offline learning will also score better in Modular and Project based learning as apart from the complete software based projects, laboratory is a requirement.
Student ownership in his learning comes from motivation and offline meetings with teachers, and competition of peers might have a role to play.
Modern day teaching-learning demands that the students are regularly evaluated on the basis of continuous assessment, class responses and not on the basis of a single year-end examination. Apparently, offline teaching is better to understand the regular class responses from a student, but online learning has created an extreme requirement to regularly assess the students in class, as a year end online examination might not be reflective of a student’s performance, as most answers are deducible from Google searches for the students to answer. So here also there is not much to compare.
Keeping all points in mind, it is obvious that for Education delivery to progress to its next level, blended learning (a mix of offline and online learning) is the requirement of the hour. Few points would come better in the offline mode and few would come better in online. A blend of the two to choose the better from both is the way forward.
IV) Implementation of Education 4.0 at UEM JAIPUR:-
As mentioned earlier UEM JAIPUR had been following a blended teaching learning process even before the pandemic.
10,000+ online courses are made available for the students of UEM JAIPUR to be accessed free of cost from top Universities across the world which would encourage the students to learn anywhere anytime personally and with ownership covering points 1, 2 and 8. Marks from one of these courses are taken into final marks of a student to be obtained every semester, and this also facilitates continuous evaluation of students as in point 9. However, point 9 is not completely implemented and a year-end examination is kept in the curriculum as it doesn’t seem that the country and its students are still ready to completely get rid of examinations. All lectures delivered by the teachers are available in UEM JAIPUR official YouTube channel for the students to access also facilitating anywhere anytime access along with a flexible delivery – point 3. Flexible delivery is more facilitated at UEM JAIPUR through flip learning, where the students are provided with the recording of the class that is to be imparted in the coming week, from a week in advance from our own YouTube channel. Students come prepared to the class and the class is held to discuss about implementation and practical applications facilitating both points 3 and 6. It’s called flip because in a normal situation, teachers teach the topic in class and practical application is kept for later in the laboratory, whereas here in flip learning, students are coming prepared to discuss about the practical implementation in class. We consider this delivery flexible and facilitating for practical applications. Each and every student is provided with a mentor to facilitate point 4. There are around 20 mentees under a mentor, who guides the students in all dimensions, and hostel college facilitates a better peer. Students and teachers residing in the same campus in adjacent blocks enables a student to ask questions and clear their doubts, on any requirement. A project on the basis of each course taught in a semester is a mandatory requirement in UEM JAIPUR curriculum, which enables a student for around 5 to 6 minor projects each semester keeping point number 7 in mind. As learning pattern of a student is much guided through the pattern of questions in examination, it is a mandatory requirement for all teachers at UEM JAIPUR to avoid “What is” and “Write short notes on” questions and go for questions requiring explanation of reasons and problem solving. That facilitates point 5 discussed above.
V) Benefit to the students of UEM JAIPUR from these modern day teaching techniques:-
The implementation of Education 4.0 and modern teaching techniques help the students to acquire the best placements, which has been up to acquiring of 9 job offers by one student, acquiring of a job offer of Rs 72 lakhs per annum from Giga Data Centre, Atlanta, USA, and at least 1 job offer by all students even at a time of pandemic, where the entire world is facing a job dearth, and also helped UEM JAIPUR to remain committed to its statement that “PLACEMENTS at UEM JAIPUR continue till the LAST WILLING STUDENT is placed”.
Prof. Dr. Biswajoy Chatterjee,
University of Engineering & Management (UEM), JAIPUR