As schools, colleges remain shut, digital tools keep classes on

Kolkata: A student wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against Coronavirus, arrives to appear for her first exam as the West Bengal Class 12 Board Exams commenced from today, in Kolkata on March 12, 2020. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)
A student wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against Coronavirus, arrives to appear for her first exam as the West Bengal Class 12 Board Exams in Kolkata. Image courtesy: IANS

New Delhi: As schools, colleges and universities remain closed in several states due to fear of coronavirus spread, more and more students in India are taking to digital tools to continue their education from safe distance of their homes.

The tools that are helping remote learning range from a growing number of mobile apps to digital learning management systems and collaboration tools such as Blackboard, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, among others.

According to Microsoft, as schools move to a remote learning environment, Teams can provide an online classroom that brings together virtual, face-to-face connections, assignments, files and conversations in a single platform accessible on a mobile device, tablet, PC or browser.

While Blackboard says its portfolio of products and services support learners at every level throughout the student lifecycle from kindergarten to the workplace, Zoom also has several offerings for educators, learners, as well as those working from home.

The Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida said it has encouraged all students (undergraduate and postgraduate/doctoral) who are not on campus to stay away until March 31, and beyond if necessary in view of the spread of Covid-19 in India.

"During this time, we will move all courses to online mode. This may happen through Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or other means. Any assessment planned for this period will either be postponed or adapted to online mode. Instructors will send students course-specific instructions remotely," the university said in a statement, adding that the online classes will start from the online classes will start from March 16.

To encourage remote learning during this challenging period, global communication solution provider Avaya Holdings Corp. announced that it will provide its Avaya Spaces collaboration software for free to educational institutions, including colleges and universities along with non-profit organisations in India till August, 2020.

A cloud meeting and team collaboration app that seamlessly integrates voice, video, tasks, sharing and more, Avaya Spaces offers the tools required to deliver lectures and schoolwork safely and securely over the web, the company said.

"We know there is an especially immediate need in the education sector as school and university administrators consider the safety of their students while ensuring continuity of their classes, engagement with their students and delivering on their educational objectives," said Vishal Agrawal, Managing Director, Avaya India and Saarc.

"We are actively engaging with universities and schools to help them coordinate remote worker/education strategies leveraging our expertise and solutions like Avaya Spaces," Agrawal said, adding that since January, the company has seen a 200 per cent increase in video collaboration traffic on the Avaya Spaces platform.

Similarly, ed-tech company Byju's on March 11 announced that it will be providing free access to its complete app to school students till the end of April so that students can continue their learning even when schools remain closed.

Students across classes 1-12 can download and access Byju's learning programmes for free until the end of April.

As of 13 March, 61 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America have announced or implemented school and university closures, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which added that 39 countries have closed schools nationwide, impacting almost 421.4 million children and youth.

A further twenty-two countries have implemented localised school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, hundreds of millions of additional learners will experience education disruption, UNESCO added.

With 250 million school-going students in India, it is important to ensure that their health is protected while also making sure that their learning does not get interrupted.

With a flurry of digital learning management systems available, educators may find it a lot easier today to teach their students remotely than ever.

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