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Higher education and COVID-19: Current challenges and the path ahead

How TA Pai Management Institute is braving the disruption caused by the pandemic in the functioning of higher education institutes 

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Published 14 days ago on Jan 08, 2021 6 minutes Read

What is the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the functioning of private universities? What are the challenges that they are facing? How are the universities meeting the challenges?
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant disruption in higher education institutes’ functioning, especially private universities. Few of the significant challenges, along with TAPMI’s initiatives, are mentioned below:

All the private universities had to shift to online teaching with no time in hand. That means, the institutes had to arrange all the required resources within a month or two, which required a massive investment in IT infrastructure. TAPMI management foresaw the issue and invested in the IT infrastructure, ensuring an excellent e-learning environment for the students and the faculty.

Initiatives taken by TAPMI are:

  • All the classrooms are equipped with interactive boards that enable online classes, presentations, and other academic activities. 
  • Cisco, Webex and Zoom licences are procured for conducting online classes, meetings, and interaction with the recruiters and industry experts.
  • E-books for all the courses are provided to the students that can be accessed through the publisher’s portal and Kindle platform.
  • Each student of TAPMI is provided with an individual license to access Coursera platform to learn through MOOC courses
  • TAPMI has set-up virtual studios with a state-of-the-art system to facilitate online final and summer placements.
  • The second major challenge faced by the universities was related to admission, applications and enrolment. All the admission and enrolment activities were carried out online. TAPMI management made sure that all students get all necessary support during the online process.
  • The private universities faced enormous financial challenges because of campus closure and moving to online learning. The unexpected costs and uncertain budgets made the task very difficult for the institutes. 
  • The coordination with the student community was a big challenge as most of the students applied for students’ loan. TAPMI admission team coordinated with several banks for smooth sanction of loans.

Government has allowed reopening of the educational institutions in a phased manner under strict COVID-19 safety measures. How are private universities planning to resume physical classes?
As per the central government guidelines, TAPMI is strictly following the safety measures to avoid the spread of the virus. All the standard operating procedures are in place. A few of the crucial actions to be taken are listed below:

 

  • On arrival on campus, COVID-19 test will be carried out by the institute.
  • Post the test, the student will go to the allotted room and follow a mandatory quarantine of fourteen days from the date of arrival at the campus (as a precaution). 
  • If tested positive, students will be allotted room in the COVID care block. The student will remain under care till he/she recovers. 
  • To ensure safety and social distance, hostel room allotment will be single occupancy basis.
  • Students shall follow all the COVID-19 protocols suggested by the government.

The coronavirus pandemic forced educational institutions to shift their classes to online mode. But, there has been a positive outcome of this. The institutions which would have taken several years in integrating ICT tools with the teaching-learning process are today conducting online classes without any hassle. What is going to be the future model of teaching-learning process post-pandemic?
Pandemic has indeed forced the institutions to integrate ICT tools in the teaching-learning process. The teaching-learning process post-pandemic will be a hybrid model comprising both physical and online classes. In the hybrid model, the students receive benefits of both physical and online classroom. The hybrid model will provide the following benefits:

  • The institute and the students will have flexibility in scheduling the classes. The students can also focus on other career development activities owing to a flexible schedule.
  • It would reduce overhead costs for the institutes. The courses that do not require the students’ physical presence can be conducted online, which would reduce costs.
  • It would increase student-instructor contact time
  • It will make sure easier and safe documentation, and 
  • It will increase access to expertise. 

Amid the pandemic, many of the parents are finding it difficult to fund the study of their children. Education in private institutions is much costlier than that in the government institutions. Are private higher education institutions helping such students continue their study? How?

Apart from providing support for a student loan, TAPMI is at the forefront in helping students continue their study. TAPMI identifies  economically underprivileged students during the admission process and financially support them by awarding merit scholarships. TAPMI provides 50 Scholarships (about Rs.25 million) to its students under four categories: 

  • Dr. Ramdas Pai Merit Scholarship Category – I 
  • Dr. Ramdas Pai Merit Scholarship Category – II 
  • Dr. Ramdas Pai Merit Scholarship Category – III  
  • Dean’s Roll of Honour

 





TAPMI also provides support to its students in applying for other Central/State Government and private scholarships.  

The National Education Policy 2020 envisions more holistic and a multidisciplinary education system. How prepared are the private higher education institutions for this?
The focus of NEP 2020 is on e-learning with a multidisciplinary approach. NEP 2020 promotes flexibility in the education system, especially at the higher education level. Higher education institutes are well-prepared for the adoption of NEP 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has been a blessing in disguise as institutions had to invest in IT infrastructure and restructure their curriculum. The core of the curriculum restructuring is e-learning and flexibility, which are aligned with NEP 2020. One major threat the institutes would face is their comparison with online MOOC platform such as Coursera, Udemi, etc. The institutes should adopt MOOCs and incorporate them into their curriculum rather than fighting this trend. The institutes must offer a value proposition to the students that would differentiate them from the online platform; else their existence is endangered.

The research output of the country is very low. What has been the contribution of private higher education institutions in the field of research? What more needs to be done to increase the research output?

The contribution of private higher education institution in research has seen a significant increase in the past few years. The regulatory bodies, UGC and AICTE, should be given the credit as they have put pressure on higher education institutes to focus on research. Although the private institutes’ research output has been increasing, we have to go a long way to make a mark on the international front. Research visibility and outcomes have become the primary vehicle to enhance our quality rankings and make our presence felt global. The institutes should aggressively promote research among faculty members by giving them two or three yearly targets. The institute can devise some reward strategies for research-focused faculty members.

Furthermore, the institutes should conduct seminars on the importance of research, paper writing and grant proposal writing. Additionally, the institutes should focus on developing a high-quality PhD program. This will make sure the continuous inflow of excellent researchers in the system.

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