No other option but to conduct online classes

The University Grants Commission (UGC) recently cautioned students against admission in various programmes citing restrictions in practical learning in these courses. The latest release by UGC said programmes such as Engineering, Medicine, Law, Dental, Pharmacy, and Agriculture among others are prohibited to be offered under Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and Online mode.

Disagreeing with the move, Dr Divya Vohora, professor and HoD, Pharmacology, Jamia Hamdard University says, “The students today have multiple choices to carry out practical learning via remote learning options. For Pharmacy education which includes the study of drugs and medicines, the Pharmacy Council of India had already directed to conduct Pharmacology practical classes via computer simulation. Besides this, interactive videos and many other software-enabled videos are helping students to understand the experiments in these tough times.”

Multiple methods of learning are also available for the postgraduate students, she adds, who are learning with the help of various Literature-based methods. These students are using the Meta-analysis, Evidence-based medicine, Network Pharmacology, In-Silico experiments, Retrospective data analysis to continue experiential learning.

Meanwhile, to maintain the continuity of hands-on learning and reduce the loss of practical training during the pandemic, medical institutes are also using the online space to demonstrate experiments and conduct virtual case discussions.

For the engineering students, most colleges are restructuring the course by eliminating the practical portions for the forthcoming semester. The practical course has been replaced with the theoretical course of the next semester in many colleges including IIT Madras, IIT Roorkee, IIIT Naya Raipur among others.

“We have no other option, but to conduct classes online during the ongoing crisis. We cannot afford to let go of our academic year due to the pandemic. While everything cannot be taught online, we are devising plans to ensure the least disruption by using online tools and various other software,” says Pradeep K Sinha, vice chancellor and director, IIIT Naya Raipur.

“Engineering colleges have been conducting online classes for six months now. We have provided our students with access to simulation tools through which they can have a close to real experience of an experiment,” he says.

Sinha further adds that the practical courses for this semester have been shifted to the next semester and students will be evaluated based on theoretical subjects.

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