Prof. Dr. Sir H. O. Srivastava, IBS, K. St. J
M.Sc. M.Phil, Ph. D. (Info Sys.), Ph. D. (Chemistry), D. Lit. (Management)

Prof. Dr. Sir H. O. Srivastava, former Addl. Director General & Head of AIR Resources of All India Radio and Doordarshan (Level of Addl. Secretary to the Govt. of India), is the Chancellor of WDF University. He worked for expansion of broadcast network in the country for past 50 years in various capacities. He established BECIL (Govt. company), AIR Resources, IT Division of AIR & DD, MR Cell, Gyanvani Education Chanel for IGNOU, India, Agriculture Chanel for Ministry of Agriculture, India, Agriculture Knowledge Dissemination System for BAU (Govt. of Bihar, india), Community Radio Stations for Govt. of Ethiopia and Govt of India and many more. He has received several National and International awards and has written six books and about 150 research papers in national and international journals. He worked as Commonwealth and ITU expert.

Date: July 11th, 2020: COVID and Education puzzle.

COVID epidemic entered the globe with people totally unaware of its seriousness and longevity. During past 4 months, it has severely impacted the world economy and affected the life of people around globe. People have lost the jobs. As per a report by Oxfam, “as many as 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than could die from the disease.” COVID has also severely impacted the education system. The schools and colleges have been closed. The students are being promoted to next grade without examination. On the other hand the institutions are keen to start for their survival. Although we are a couple of months into this pandemic, there is still so much unknown about the virus with the number of COVID cases rising everyday that parents and students are hesitant to believe that education on campus would be safe at least till next summer. In India, 200,000 parents have petitioned the Government not to open the institutions till there is a single case of CORONA in the country. In institutions, there is no way to accommodate the students in the available spaces, maintaining the social distance. The situation is more complex because of great exodus and shift of population from urban to rural areas in places like India. Many students from India are postponing their program for enrollment in foreign Universities. The situation is for wait and watch.

Distance learning programs

Are distance education program a solution? Not likely, as being thought by many institutions. Until the COVID-19 crisis, online learning comprised a relatively small share of education. Now the situation demands for all the institutions, including IVY League Universities and renowned learning centers, to setup infrastructure to improve student learning, engagement, and experience while operating remotely. Many faculties are using varied methods for imparting lessons such as sending scanned notes via email or WhatsApp or using Webinar or video conferencing. Many Countries & States are planning to start DTH channels for education. None of these meet the learner’s requirements.

Emerging technologies provide some tantalizing glimpses of framing methodologies for the remote education. Onus likes on Institutions and the Governments. Institutions have to cater to:
• Innovative Content and delivery methodology
• Infrastructure for creation of e-learning content
• Engaging technologies Virtual reality, AI, Robotics
• Sense of community
• Vibrancy typically found on campuses such as video options for counselling, online mindfulness classes
Big or small, public or private, colleges and universities are rich in human talent. To succeed in this brave new virtual world, the key is to empower and redeploy this talent to address the most pressing needs. One way to start is by identifying, activating and partnering tech-savvy organizations with expertise in digital technologies and practices to build the infrastructure quickly and train the faculty and students to use online tools.

Responsibility of Governments

Governments will need to consider increasing the infrastructure at State run institutions. This will include setting up additional institutions, providing facilities and technology for remote teaching. This will need training of faculty to adopt to new mode of imparting education, interactivity, evaluation etc. They will also need to provide massive support to students to succeed in a remote learning environment, by providing finances for necessary equipment and internet access. Recently, a student of 9th standard in Kerala (India) committed suicide due to not being able to cope with remote learning in absence of a smart phone. States can offer stipends for internet access and laptop rentals or purchases, or they can directly procure and lend equipment for under-resourced students.
The video link given below discusses the needs, methodology and actions.

Long Term Dividend and opportunity

The above proposal has many long-term dividends. The e-learning content thus built has long self-life and can be used for several years till the course curriculum is revised. Absence or sudden resignation of a teacher does not affect the institution. Less infrastructure is required in institutions. Even for courses needing lab work, limited attendance of students will be required in institutions resulting in reduced exposure of COVID. Institutions can serve a larger area and more students may be on roll.
There are lot of possibilities of cooperation for both renowned foreign and IVY Universities and emerging economies like India for collaboration and cooperation. The strength of expert professors and faculty, excellent labs and exposure of foreign universities on one hand and the strength of beautiful natural almost COVID free places like Ladakh, Mizoram, Goa etc, highly skilled teaching and software professionals who can make excellent absorbing content using AI and other tools for remote learning, economies of operations in India, availability of students who will love to have part classes in India and part abroad on the other hand provide immense opportunity. The locations of higher learning centers namely Ivy league in USA, famous Universities and institutions in Europe may partially shift to more affordable places like India. There is great opportunity and potential of earning billions by educators and investors by providing high quality, affordable, meaningful education in the new world order.