This blog is co-authored by Sameer Sahasrabudhe
In the Dressing room
What leaves an online educator beaming? What do you think is the highest point of satisfaction for an e-learning expert? This happened recently during a 3 week online Faculty Development Program for the Faculty of Humanities, SPPU (Simply speaking, Pune University). As a part of the team of co-instructors, we had a different set of challenges this time. Being an online course developer always preps you for challenges! So much so that agility becomes your middle name!
The seeds of this story were sown a couple of months earlier during an informal meeting with Prof Sridhar Iyer. It had been a couple of months that educational institutions were indulging in forced online teaching which is actually called “Emergency Remote Teaching” (ERT) and we knew something was amiss. What was happening was just not correct. So, who better than the doyen himself to ask “What would be our next steps”! And pat came the answer “to take this from ERT to planned remote teaching! They have to understand, include and imbibe a very high percentage of asynchronous learning.” We had been training faculty to understand this- the importance of asynchronous learning- through various sessions but this was a long FDP and our best possible chance to work on the vision. After all, we were conducting it for Humanities- a faculty which is diverse as no other and traditionally believed to not show “tech-savviness”. (We are not saying the last part, okay!)
Setting the pitch.
The 70:30 format as it is called, mandates at least 70% of the course content to be available for the learners, 24X7 asynchronously, and maximum 30% of the content in synchronous mode- what we call as live sessions. It is very difficult for teachers of any traditional format to trust this (Yeah, wonder if teachers are conditioned to have trust issues :D). This requires a complete change in the mind set. Just to give you some clues here, think about why the web series/movies on the internet are popular. Because every person can control their own “watch”! Give it thought! I can pause and watch later; rewind and watch a scene I particularly like, multiple times. I can bookmark it and if I don’t like, I can simply fast forward! I see the ratings, connect with the community of people who have watched the movie/series to discuss and even the makers and give my feedback! The same is applied to e-learning and is the beauty of it! Classroom teaching doesn’t give you any of this! It hardly gives you control over your learning and rarely the ownership of your learning. All readers who are thinking of “personal connect” now, there are other communication channels for communication that the generation Z or whatever you want to call them, are comfortable with. In fact, they prefer to communicate when they want to! After having thought over a particular thing, having read and reflected, and not only during the class session! And if you have learners more than the average student age, it works better because it is based on andragogy! As faculty, we have to accept this difference and imbibe this thought.
The “Doosra” – well handled.
While developing this course on the platform, in a 70:30 format based on LCM model, we had to also take care of content in Marathi- regional language- a new challenge, the proportion of which we had not anticipated. Thankfully, with both of us having it as a mother tongue, it was not much of a problem and unknowingly, we were actually following a principle of the NEP 2020! A (small) milestone achieved.
The next was to break the old tradition of either creating everything or sharing others’ content just as a list of references. It is usually difficult for teachers to accept that somebody else teaches better than them and that they need not create their own videos. And creating videos is definitely a load for most. But there is a solution – Curation! Another strategy frequently used in Art Galleries and Installations. We had the experience of developing a “superhit” course on curation techniques for faculty members, as a part of the UNESCO project last year. We included it as the first part of the course. We were taking the 30% synchronous sessions to break the ice. But the discussions in the live sessions were almost cold responses. The skepticism in online teaching learning was palpable. Rightly so, we all have been through a rigmarole of unnecessary, programs that have no value addition. What were we even expecting! But our group of diverse resource persons, is an epitome of faith and perseverance! So, we were in “Lage raho” (keep going) mode. And then there was a twist!
Suddenly due to multiple other happenings, these teachers got sucked into conducting exams and that too online! We could understand their plight and we orchestrated our course, shifted the live sessions to “weekends only”, making the 30% into merely 10% with more focus on WhatsApp group and Discussion Forum of the platform. Yeah, they needed to be left alone. But that does not mean leave learning! And it absolutely does not mean dilution of the course, for we actually increased the rigour! We continued the rest of the 2 weeks in that mode. And wonder of wonders. The weekend sessions were becoming lively. There were doubts, askance, new ideas and more! We had given them a team task, spoken about interdisciplinary collabs and found people actually reaching out!
We had many things up our sleeve including a sudden announcement of “ the best will get to shoot at the EMMRC” -yeah, yeah- “Hollywood calling” style! And what responses we started to get just blew our mind! All this, when the faculty were juggling, paper setting in MCQ format, new sessions and what not. Soon, we were staring at the last live session. “Had we achieved what we wanted to, even slightly?” we wondered as we entered the virtual conference platform. We asked them “would you like to say something?” And-
The Super over
“We are seeing each other for the first time now…”, we were listening to a team of faculty who had collaborated for interdisciplinary content -Economics and Pali language- can you beat that(!) They collaborated only the online and had never even met before! And came up with a super script on ‘corruption’ during the times Pali was spoken! We were so excited with this! “I have started applying these aspects in my current batches and the students are loving it” a tech-enthu Prof was actually screen sharing and taking us on a walk through of his course. We actually could see Gen Z enjoying! Our team was almost ready to dance! And then next “this course converted me who never believed in online teaching into a lover of this format”, a senior Professor of History was saying! Our team was dancing in their chairs, surely and our smiles said it all. It was nothing short of winning a world cup with a sixer!
The match winning team : Sameer (Wicket Keeper and Captain), Ambily Joseph (Spinner), Ilavenil. K (Medium Pace bowler), Vijay Rama Raju (Fast paced Bowler), Daisy Wadhwa (Opening Batsman), Natasha Gomes (Top order Batsman), Me (Let the others decide) !