The future of technical education amid COVID-19: Insights from Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE

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The future of technical education is going to be different from what it is today amid COVID-19 crisis. The unprecedented outbreak of Coronavirus has caused extreme distress to the students and is a temporary setback to academic activity. While it has given a boost to online learning, there are many aspects in engineering that cannot be taught online. Blended learning is the only way forward and may be the order of the day, soon! We need to complement and supplement technical education with the changing technology for future growth. To foresee the future of engineering students and to understand technical education from a high level perspective, Team NSN interacted with Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

In this Skill Talk, Dr. Sahasrabudhe lays emphasis on the importance of consistent, continuous and lifelong learning and talks about the initiatives taken by AICTE to help the students learn continuously amid the crisis.

How AICTE is ensuring continuous learning amid COVID-19 crisis

Higher education institutions were closed even before the nationwide lockdown as a caution to the situation. Nearly 70% of the curriculum was completed and 30% was remaining. It was a challenge for the institutions to complete the remaining curriculum. This is why they decided to move to online learning platforms. The institutes which already had the infrastructure for online education started off smoothly. The real challenge was faced by those institutions which were not prepared with the required infrastructure for online learning.

Students have also enrolled on SWAYAM to continue their learning. SWAYAM platform is enriched with a number of engineering and management courses and more than a lakh students were enrolled in different courses. The entrance examinations like JEE and others were not finished for engineering and other higher education. Hence there is delay in completion of some of these courses and entrance examinations.

Setting up a helpline for students enrolled in technical courses

We were receiving emails from students about the difficulties that they were facing due to the sudden lockdown. As a first step, we developed a helpline portal to help the students in need. We opened a portal where we connected people willing to help to the students who were in the need of help.

To ensure the continuous learning of the students we gave shape to our online learning platform. Enhancement in Learning with Improvement In Skills (ELIS) portal has been designed by AICTE in order to foster digital learning and support the student community across the country.

AICTE has devised online scrutiny of documents and online institute inspections using Microsoft team without physical visits for giving approvals to new colleges.

Internships, interviews and placements have also gone online to address the present challenge. The placements are being conducted online by various companies and institutions. IIMs are conducting interviews through online medium amid the crisis.

future of technical educationOnline workshops by AICTE 

We started conducting online workshops for the faculty as their inputs play a crucial role in the online mode of knowledge transfer. We have already conducted about 30+ workshops in the last two months. We started holding the workshops online through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Google Hangouts, depending on which is convenient for whom. There are three main focus areas for our workshops:

  • Workshops for faculty on universal human values and three week student induction program for the first year students: The workshop covered a part of development of life skills, attitude, honesty, integrity, awareness about self, family, society, nature, environment and essence of happiness. These workshops also covered all the life skills such as Leadership, communication that are important to cope with the crisis and will be important for the future as well. 
  • Workshops on various technical skills and soft skills which will be in demand: These workshops covered various emerging technical skills that are going to become all the more important post COVID such as AI, IoT, AR, VR, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Robotics, 3D Printing, Blockchain, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, and Data Analysis. The technical skills were offered by eminent experts from academia and industry. 
  • Workshops for preparing the faculty for AICTE’s examination reforms: These workshops are about the significance of examination reform, why, what and how. For the last few years we are talking about the changes in examination patterns as our current examinations are unable to assess the students on various important factors such as application of knowledge, problem solving, analysis and synthesis, creativity, innovation etc. Hence preparing faculty for the exam reforms is significant.

Certification courses to ensure better employability amid COVID-19

We have a platform called National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT). This platform contains numerous products/courses for students offered by startups and other big companies. The platform contains 30 courses offered by 15 different companies with a fee ranging from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 45000. As the courses are being provided by startups, they can’t be entirely free. So MHRD and AICTE came up with an innovative idea of enlisting good products through a three stage process first one being blind review. Plus all those companies on boarded were required to give one free seat for every four enrollments.  These free seats will be allocated to students coming from a financially challenged background including SC/ST/OBC etc by AICTE. During this crisis, few companies came forward to offer free of cost courses to students. There are nearly 30+ courses which are being offered for free for the next couple of months. 

The way forward and message to the students

It is difficult to deliver the entire engineering curriculum online. The practical knowledge and hands-on experience can be achieved only through physical labs. The practical can be partly fast tracked by providing videos to the students, simulation experiments etc. However going forward blended mode of training is going to be the need of the hour. 

The crisis has left everyone wondering about their future. The students are constantly worrying about their career and other aspects of their lives. However the current scenario demands a different approach. Our survival is most important! We all should focus on surviving this pandemic as the first step. The students should follow all the safety norms issued by the government and should focus on staying safe.

Also read: AICTE designed ELIS portal offers free online courses  https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/aicte-designed-elis-portal-offers-free-online-courses/

There are hidden opportunities in a crisis. Going forward many instances will come that might change our perspective regarding jobs. There will be huge scope for entrepreneurship and there will be new ways for entrepreneurs to provide different services. Things will change and we will rise again despite all the adversities. Students need to be confident, keep learning and put in their best.

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