Online learning becomes a new norm at VIT Chennai
Online learning which remained a rather unknown phenomenon till recently has now become a buzzword.
This has now become a most preferred method to take academic content to students when the physical classroom session cannot be conducted.
Chennai campus of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) has taken a lead in embracing online learning.
A big advantage with online learning is that it has lot of tools like audio, video for the faculty to be creative, says Dr. Susan Elias, deputy director, Research division in Advanced Data Science at VIT Chennai.
She was handling the online learning session for second year students of B.Tech Electronics and Computer Engineering.
Another big plus for online learning is it turns into a level playing field leaving no room for front benchers and back benchers concept.
Normally, those who sit in the front benches get maximum attention as they are in proximity to the teacher while those in the backbenches do not get much focus as they are away from teachers.
Teachers grapple with the point as to how to give enough attention to backbenchers in a physical classroom. Thankfully, there are no such issues in online learning, platform is such that all students get same attention.
Students went on to listen attentively as Dr. Susan taught them how to go about designing a Dunzo kind of an application during online teaching. After a little briefing, she asked her students give their suggestions. Students began giving out their viewpoints.
The online learning session is more interactive, says Dr. Susan and adds ‘it need not be a mere continoous outpour of knowledge.’ ‘It is a new experience for us also, but there is no choice and we have to continue with it.’
Resuming physical classrooms may take more time, but till then we can use online learning to ensure students learn their lessons, even if they are far away from their campus, she said.
There is an advantage also to online learning. Students who cannot attend online learning classes need not worry. The session would be recorded and sent to their email ids of all students.
Students who could not attend the session can login to their emails at their convenient timings and watch the video to follow the lessons.
This is the advantage one would not have in a physical classroom, says Dr. Susan. Should a student miss even one physical classroom session, there is perhaps very little scope of him knowing what was taught, she says.
Online learning has found good appreaciation among the students too. This was apparent when a few students spoke on what they felt about online learning.
Rufus Sam John, a second year student of Electronics Computer Engineering says during the physical classroom session a good deal of time used to be spent in going to college and getting back home.
Thanks to the commencement of online teaching, we need not rush and spend good deal of time in reaching physical classrooms (colleges), he says.
Learning is now happening at our convenience. How online learning or online classes are conducted? Schedule of online teaching sessions for various subjects are informed to the students on their email ids.
Students can visit the common portal at the timing mentioned earlier and login with help of their username and password and take part in the session, says Dr. Susan.
Though we inform to students on WhatsApp informally about the schedule of online learning session, formally they are informed about virtual classes on their emails.
But conducting online learning is no easy thing, says Dr. Sakthivel S.M., Associate Professor at SENSE at VIT Chennai. ‘It takes a lot of preparation to teach students, we need to take care of everything,’ he says.
‘Especially when the lecture sessions are being recorded, we should do everything to ensure no mistakes are made.’
Our lectures are a compilation of many things. We see various other sources get the required information and then deliver it to students, says Dr. Susan.
Online learning is more about application of knowledge and not merely dumping of content on students, says Susan.
As far as practicals are concerned, students can access laboratories that are IoT enabled and learn practical lessons from their home, says Dr. Sakthivel.
Dr. R. Manimaran, Associate Professor at School of Mechanical Engineering said they have already prepared videos with regards to use of various equipments like Hele-Shaw Apparatus in connection with Fluid Mechanics so as to help students understand how various equipments related to Fluid Mechanics operate and what are their purposes by seeing these videos.
However, they plan to open the Fluid Mechanics laboratory for a month soon so as to help students have a practical feel of the apparatuses related to Fluid Mechanics.
While online learning has received a big thumbsup from many students, a couple of them still felt physical classroom sessions would be helpful.
Akshara, another student at VIT Chennai vouched for physical classrooms. They come in handy as they give enough room for interaction and clearing of doubts, she says.
But what it would be like when the colleges reopen and physical classrooms commence? Students opine that attending physical classrooms may seem new but they would get tuned to them in no time.