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Mumbai colleges all set to upgrade tech for another online academic year

While last year the virtual classroom system was forcefully thrown at the institutes, this time colleges are already busy preparing for the 2021-22 academic year, and the idea is to enhance the system which is already in place rather than make do with the routine.
University of Mumbai. (HT FILE)
Published on Apr 18, 2021 12:51 AM IST
By, Mumbai

As rising Covid-19 cases have left the current examination process in for a relook, city colleges are preparing for the next academic year. While last year the virtual classroom system was forcefully thrown at the institutes, this time colleges are already busy preparing for the 2021-22 academic year, and the idea is to enhance the system which is already in place rather than make do with the routine.

“Last year, our teachers were creating links for classes and sharing the same with students on WhatsApp. At least a couple of times it so happened that someone shared lewd content on the classroom screen while a lecture was on. We took the matter to the cybercrime cell, but we knew we needed a more fool-proof technology,” said Neha Jagtani, principal in-charge, RD National College, Bandra.

After completing the last academic year on a free software, the college has now invested in Google classroom package which allots individual IDs to both teachers and students, and only those particular individuals can log in the class with that particular ID. “This way we will know exactly who has logged into the lecture and who tends to misbehave, if at all, in the future,” added Jagtani. Through the new software, only the teacher can now share screen, and this will automatically rule out chances of any miscreants joining the class henceforth, she added.

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In 2020, the University of Mumbai (MU), after fourth months of lockdown, on August 3 stated that the new academic year 2020-21 should begin from August 7. The circular, which was addressed to all affiliated colleges, stated that with the completion of admissions for all batches, except first-year undergraduate and postgraduate graduate courses, colleges should start virtual lectures for the new academic year until further notice.

In a separate circular released on July 31, 2020, the university had clarified the admission rules as well. While all institutes were asked to finish admissions of their current students after promoting them, the varsity had clarified that no outside admissions will be allowed for batches other than first-year.

Jai Hind College at Churchgate had invested in a software before virtual classes were a norm and managed to continue regular lectures on the same software once the MU circular was released. However, there were hiccups once more than 6,000 of their students and staff logged into the software at the same time, but the problems were ironed out soon enough.

“Technology is so advanced now, we have started the process of upgrading our software to make it more fool-proof and avoid hacking in any way possible,” said Ashok Wadia, principal. He added that while their college was one of the handful of institutes that managed to train their teachers on how to conduct virtual classes last year, this year they have put together a platform exclusively for their teaching staff in order to ensure better team building among the staff.

“Every day, teachers find new software and tools that enhance their teaching-learning methodology, and through this new platform, they can now share the same with other colleagues. The idea is to build a strong foundation and help everyone grow together,” added Wadia.

Many colleges are also investing in better software to tackle online exams. From hiring third-party proctoring methodology to involving more teachers in the examination process, the idea is to make the examination process more stringent.

Institutes have also started working on a different teaching module to help their teachers plan their lectures better and at the same time, also make learning more fun and interactive for students. “We teachers are currently attending virtual workshops organised by our institute to help us incorporate more technology in the virtual classroom. From using basic MS Office to introducing animated videos for science practical sessions, all is being taught to us and this gives us more confidence to tackle the next academic year,” said an assistant professor from a south Mumbai college.

While colleges are currently busy planning and preparing for the next academic year, university officials too are brainstorming to make the upcoming academic year less stressful for colleges as well as students. “We are currently focusing on the examination and results process. In the meantime, a team is already charting out a plan for the next academic year, but the same cannot be shared until the government gives us a go ahead,” said a senior official from the varsity. He added that for the time being, the university is making plans assuming that the next academic year will also be conducted online only.

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