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Class is in session, for college professors and teachers

Faculty are turning to online courses, seminars and training modules to update teaching methods and stay relevant.

education Updated: May 16, 2018 20:07 IST
Prakruti Maniar
Prakruti Maniar
Hindustan Times
Online courses,Teacher,Mumbai university
(iStock)

“The teacher is not the oracle in the classroom anymore,” says Agnelo Menezes, principal of St Xavier’s College. This was the subject of discussion among faculty, in fact, during one of the seminars held at the institute every two months to discuss new teaching practices.

Across institutes, professors are accessing every source available — online courses, subject-specific seminars, training programmes and even student feedback — to update methods and material in a time of heightened change.

At the University of Mumbai, the UGC for Human Resource Development Centre (UGC-HRDC) conducts 10- to 21-day programmes where industry leaders and senior faculty are invited to talk about the latest trends across subjects, from environmental science to economics.

Institutes such as KJ Somaiya College of Science and Commerce at Vidyavihar, Jai Hind College and St Xavier’s College conduct regular workshops and seminars. At management institute WeSchool, professors seek feedback from students.

Professors also attend industry seminars on subjects such as entrepreneurship, to keep information and case studies relevant and up-to-date.

“We have always taught with the exam and syllabus in mind, sticking to concept and theory,” says Babita Kachroo, an assistant professor in the BSc-IT department at the Usha Pravin Gandhi College of Management, who attended a 10-day programme on network security at the university earlier this year. “Training programmes are helping change that mindset, and equipping us to teach better.”

At MU, courses surrounding teaching methodologies are mostly for teachers with less than eight years of experience. “After that, there are subject-specific refreshers courses,” says K Shanthi, director of the UGC-HRDC. “If there is demand from senior faculty, we do conduct refresher courses for effective teaching. What works is that as the university, we can pool resources from top institutions such as IITs, industry and even other government bodies.”

Not all the teachers looking for such courses can be accommodated by the university. “When we hold sessions within the college, more people can attend,” says Lolly Jain, assistant professor of microbiology at KJ Somaiya college. “Some workshops are also open to faculty from other colleges.”

Antara Sonawne, assistant professor of marketing at Hinduja college, says she frequently attends such seminars, to understand ground realities of business and get local, relevant case studies. “At seminars conducted by the Thane Entrepreneurs Network, for instance, tour operators and kirana store owners talk about their struggles and challenges, which I then teach in my retail management class,” she says.

Direct feedback

Three years ago, WeSchool decided to ask students what changes they would like to see in their classrooms. “Some of the suggestions have really helped — like the idea of moving from PowerPoint presentations to video-based learning and including seniors as mentors,” says Vijayan Pankajakshan, chief human resource officer at the college.

Ishwari Khanorkar, 22, currently in the last trimester of her PGDM in media and entertainment at the college, says the feedback is a constant, ongoing process and is very helpful. “After two trimesters in our programme, our class felt that there was too much focus on theory, so we went to the faculty and asked them to introduce a practical project for some subjects,” she says.

This was implemented in the third trimester, with students designing social media campaigns as part of the digital marketing course. “We were also asked to identify and speak to social media influencers on things like the charges per post, how they engage with followers. It helped a lot,” Khanorkar says.

Individual teachers attend a course or seminar, and the faculty then pools what they have heard and learnt. “The result is that while the larger system remains unchanged, individual classrooms begin to look different,” says Ashok Wadia, principal of Jai Hind college.

“Traditional teaching revolved around the teacher assuming that students were empty vessels waiting to be filled. These courses help change such mindsets. Now, the student is an equal, so they learn how to treat them as equals. Classes move from being monologues to discussions,” adds Menezes of Xaviers.

He teaches economics at the college, and has gone from simply explaining topics of demand and supply, to introducing a small project for students to understand it.

“They go with Rs 100 to the market, to sell items like pens and safety pins. They have to find vendors to source from, then find buyers. Sometimes they conduct primary surveys too. It gives them hands-on experience,” he says.

Shivani Kokate, 20, who just finished her BA in economics, says her class was asked to prepare a survey questionnaire to help assess the need for a product, in their case a water filter. “We went to CST and asked people our questions. It helped us understand and remember the principles of concepts like price elasticity of demand, because we saw them played out in real life,” she says.

Traditional teaching has dealt with two aspects of learning; to remember and to understand. New methods should talk about application, analysis and creation, says Jain of Somaiya.

We hope that, over the long term, such knowledge-sharing will help bridge the gap between the quality of teaching at top-ranked institutes and others, says Shanthi of MU. “We encourage our teachers to take what they learn and talk to their colleagues about it.”

First Published: May 16, 2018 20:07 IST