SKOCH Award Nominee
Category: Response to Covid – State
Sub-Category: subResponse to Covid – State
Project: E-Learning (Response to COVID)
Start Date: 2020-04-09
Organisation: Department of Education & Training (Technical & Vocational) and Skill Development, West Bengal
Respondent: Mr Suden Tshering Bhutia, Additional Secretary, TETSD Department, Govt. of West Bengal
Level: Premium Plus
e-Learning Boosts Technical and Vocational Training in West Bengal During the Pandemic
The world has never faced a challenge like Covid-19 before. And being unprepared to deal with anything of such magnitude or risk affected institutions across the country and brought processes to a crashing halt.
The lack of prior experience, SOPs and training meant that most institutions in the Education niche did not have any response mechanism to implement when the pandemic hit. Educational institutions were badly affected by the pandemic when teachers and students could no longer attend classes. It was observed that the lockdowns were taking a toll on the students and they began to lose interest and motivation where studying and learning were concerned. This trend was observed across it is, Polytechnics and Vocational Schools in West Bengal. As the country began moving onto the digital realm for education, it became apparent that there was no online training platform for technical and vocational studies.
The e-Learning portal was designed and deployed. The primary goal is to ensure continuity of education despite the pandemic. Departmental convergence has helped in maximising assets to take the entire syllabus online. NIC set up a Cloud along with internal resources to ensure proper data management. The department also collaborated with Google. One of the key approaches to education in this time was the ‘Model From Home’ strategy, wherein students were instructed to build creative models and charts. The project takes into cognisance the deep-rooted impact that the pandemic and the lockdowns have had on the mental and emotional health of the students. Not being able to learn in a traditional classroom setting and being shut in at home for months on an end has created anxiety, stress and psychological challenges. The department is sensitive to these concerns and has worked hard to alleviate them.
The levels of institutional preparedness have bettered. Response times for dealing with crises have gone down. More than 3,00,000 students have enrolled for the e-Learning system to pursue Technical and Vocational education. As part of their training, they have created 776 charts and 4676 models. A YouTube channel with high quality videos has also been created to add to the e-Learning portal. Students have also gotten industry/ professional exposure through Virtual Industry Visits.
Training capacity in remote areas is limited. Both students and faculties based in remote places have reported problems arising out of poor network connectivity. This directly impacts the ability to use digital technology to communicate, teach and learn. Institutions established in remote parts of West Bengal are unable to enjoy the seamless coverage needed to maximise the potential of virtual training.
Many students do not have the laptops or smart phones needed to be able to access the on-line platforms. Problems of network bandwidth and daily limits on Internet data packages have posed some challenges. This has been especially true for the longer training sessions: project runners have observed that students tend to drop out of/ leave the lengthier training classes.
In the lockdown periods, it was difficult for students to travel and shop for the materials needed to build models at home as part of the training programme.
Various internal resources were leveraged to help build the digital platform. The efforts of the NIC and collaboration with Google has meant the project is economically viable, and thus practical in the long run. Incorporating the Cloud platform has been extremely useful. One of the most interesting aspects of this project is the Virtual Industry Visits: students are able to remotely ‘visit’ different industrial sites and settings and get important exposure and experience, without risking their safety in the pandemic.
The scope for implementing a virtual Educational Atmosphere is limitless. The concept and the project design principles can be adapted to other settings and requirements and introduced anywhere in the state where continuity of education needs to be prioritised. In fact, proactively adopting virtual teaching/ learning methods will help maintain institutional preparedness that can come in handy in the event of future lockdowns or other such emergencies.
A flexible and strategic approach to working around challenges has served the department well. Innovative ideas like the Virtual Industry Visits show that there is great potential for project expansion and out-of-the-box thinking.
For more information, please contact:
Mr Suden Tshering Bhutia, Additional Secretary, TETSD Department, Govt. of West Bengal at email@example.com
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