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Talks on restarting classes

The higher education department is unsure of starting classes from November 1 in colleges and universities but it is exploring alternative models: Official
Partha Chatterjee

Subhankar Chowdhury   |   Calcutta   |   Published 26.09.20, 02:58 AM

Education minister Partha Chatterjee will hold a videoconference with the vice-chancellors on Sunday to decide how classes can be started from November 1 while following the UGC academic calendar, a higher education department official said on Friday.

Minister Chatterjee did not take calls from The Telegraph on Friday evening.

The department is unsure of starting classes from November 1 in colleges and universities because of the pandemic but it is exploring the alternative models some institutes are following to hold classes, the higher education department official said.

Endorsing the UGC’s academic calendar, the education ministry had on September 22 announced it had taken into account the pandemic and that first-year undergraduate and postgraduate classes could start from November 1.

Now that the date has been announced, the department has to explore ways to start classes and it is looking into the models being followed by Jadavpur University and IIEST, Shibpur, the official said.

“All these institutes are holding regular classes for students who are in the intermediate semesters without requiring them to visit the campus because of the pandemic. We will consider their models and take the opinion of the vice-chancellors to find out how much of that can be applied,” he said.

Among the state universities, Jadavpur has been the first to start classes through the distance digital mode that involves holding online classes but taking into account a student’s accessibility to devices and Net connectivity.

At JU, if students are sure of attending live online classes, they can do that. But teachers have to ensure if anyone misses out on live online classes because of connectivity problems, he/she isn’t left out, a university official said.

“We are uploading recorded lectures on a digital platform the university has subscribed to and sharing the link with students,” a JU teacher said.

Additionally, study materials are being uploaded on a central repository created on the digital platform. Once the content is uploaded, the addresses of the files — in Word or PDF format, audio notes or video recordings — are shared with students through email or over WhatsApp.

A student can interact with teachers over WhatsApp or through email to clear doubts, if any. Lectures and study materials are uploaded on YouTube, too, and students given the links, the JU official said.

The university is in the process of buying smartphones and data packs for students facing Net connectivity problems.

“Since JU has been holding classes for close to a month, the model can be considered,” the higher education department official said.

“Let the education department consult us. We will have an idea. But the model that is applicable at a unitary university like JU may not be easily implemented at CU, which has so many colleges affiliated to it,” a vice-chancellor said.

An official of the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) said the institute had created a central repository to supplement the online teaching-learning process in the autumn semester that started from August 24.

The repository has a section where course materials, including lecture notes, resources and assignments, are uploaded by members of the faculty.

Students in remote areas who are unable to attend online classes can download study materials when they have proper Net connectivity and go through them whenever they feel like, an IIEST official said.

IIEST director Parthasarathi Chakrabarti had told The Telegraph earlier that the institute would help students without access to laptops or computers.


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