With the best of technology at disposal, smart gadgets, laptops, tablets and desktop computers, many have shifted to online learning during COVID-19 lockdown. What about learners who don’t have the privilege of possessing such gadgets and have to depend on their basic mobile phones? The students and trainers of DDU-GKY course at ATDC have created an exemplary case of how adversity can be turned into innovative use of resources to learn apparel design, communication and digital skills.
When I was invited to observe the group of online learners from Kolkata, I was taken aback with the highly interactive WhatsApp Group that was adept at using Google Hangouts, Google Forms and similar free resources. The exchanges between the trainer and the students was like a continuous flow of conversation by sharing text and audio messages, pictures of the work done and highly disciplined logging of time.
The group interaction was a perfect example of how lectures delivered through Zoom platform could be followed up to keep the students engaged and motivated through questions, activities and feedback. Teaching apparel design online without proper internet connectivity and all the students depending on their mobile phone with limited bandwidth is definitely demanding. It also calls for a determined set of trainers and students to patiently acquire new skills of learning from the mobile interface.
Following my observation, I wanted to understand how ATDC could manage such an environment for students who had a simple mobile phone with limited data and space. I spoke to Dr. Darlie Koshy, Director General, ATDC to know more about integrated online learning for courses like B.Voc and DDU-GKY. Quoting his favourite lines from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Dr Koshy says ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity…’ and narrates how a simple message from him to the DDU-GKY team to use online learning has pleasantly surpassed his expectations. Few excerpts from our conversation:
Teaching apparel design online in adverse circumstances
By mid- March, as the Coronavirus cases were picking up and we had to be cautious and at the same time ensure that the DDU-GKY and B.Voc courses go on as per schedule. I informed our DDU-GKY groups to go fully digital. This takes me back to our modest start with online learning through a UK-based program called Fashion Business Specialist. Earlier also we had developed 37+ hours of online content for ISDS courses, using K- Yan, to supplement classroom learning. This included basics of SMO training, pattern making, measuring and quality checking. Later we had partnered Career Strokes, an initiative from former cricketer K. Srikanth for online learning of soft skills that included English and life skills.
Yes, most of the theory and demonstration can be achieved through online learning. Way back in 2003 when I was at NID we had partnered eMacmillan to launch a Fashion Design course online; it was a course on Packaging Design.
The popular notion that design teaching requires a lot of touch and feel through face-to-face interaction does not hold true. We almost broke that myth! Later, with the evolution of haptic devices and innovative technologies, there are many ways in which we can teach fashion design. Moreover, the younger generation take to it naturally as they are avid users of digital technologies and love to learn from open source and free online content.
Online learning adoption for DDU-GKY and other courses at ATDC
I strongly believe that hybrid, blended and synchronous online learning are important part of our learning culture going forward in skill and vocational training. The faculty and the students have to work closely, discuss and interact, following the ‘Guru-Shishya’ tradition.
Digital form of content delivery can ease up the pressure to teach and learn concepts, theory and life skills. I am keen that ATDC uses this adversity to turn it into an opportunity and acquire skills and knowledge. The students from Himayat program have proved this point by making many artefacts during the lockdown, they are able to make patterns and try out embroidery.
This is also possible because the students are relaxed at home and they are able to access learning anytime – anywhere. We get to see more creativity when they are in the comfort of their home. When it comes to attendance, it is as high as classroom on a consistent basis. They are able to talk to their trainers and do the assignments.
It’s heartening to see them take to online learning so actively and seriously. The way they keep themselves motivated, inspired and encouraged has definitely exceeded my expectations. From an initiative, it has become a movement, involving students and faculty from various centers across the country. Though it wasn’t planned well, as we go along, we’re getting organized. All our 13 DDU-GKY centers have moved online and we plan to get more inputs from the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) to scale it up for wider impact.
During the challenging circumstances, when the students from rural background, are sent back home, ATDC has blazed a trail by extending their classroom to where the students are. This has helped in keeping pace with learning, avoiding a break during these uncertain times, motivating the trainers and students and ensuring that the learning happens in the comfort of their homes.