Steps colleges need to take before they open after Covid-19

This pandemic has brought us all into a dilemma regarding the position of academics of students. Online classes are already being carried on by schools and colleges. Yet, this cannot be continued for long as the effectiveness of classroom education lacks in online classes. No one actually knows when the pandemic will be flattened and students flock to campuses.

The only thing that is known is that a large number of students and teachers would come together at their colleges. Students are already mentally fatigue and dying to be back to the campus.

The Government had earlier instructed a gradual opening of colleges with caution and precautionary measures from September 1st. But with more than 3.6 million Coronavirus cases in India, the date was shifted and the next plausible one may go for the dawn of the new year, with one semester going online.

Colleges have to be opened someday. When the day comes, there are many chances of arising this pandemic again. We can avoid this situation to an extent by following certain steps and safety measures.

Here are the steps colleges need to take before the reopen after Covid-19 :

1) To start with, all educational institutes need to quickly migrate to the digital mode through the use of existing massive online courses (MOOCs) and create their own MOOCs for the domains they deal in, provided they can muster the courage and the resources. Going ahead, it will by PhyGital or blended learning, with physical being the base and digital being the larger engagement period. Even virtual labs and studios will do half the practical work as well. This is a big call and for digital content creation and aggregation along with engaging delivery need to be ensured.

2) It goes without saying, that no campus can ensure a batch coming in for all 5 days or 6 days to the campuses physically for a long time ahead. It will be two to a maximum of three days a week, and that too, with temperature checking, gloves and masks, ideally with full sleeves and legs covered, and a head cover might be ordered also.

3) Many campuses will and should have a sanitising tunnel to walk through, will have to walk with a minimum 4 feet distance from the nearest peer and sit at a distance from the next buddy.
This will make it necessary for half the batch to sit in a classroom, and half the team working in studios at a point of time, which stretches the infrastructure to a hilt and doubles the workload of mentors, who anyways shall be rarer and lesser paid in these Corona times.

4) The lunch-time will be staggered to reduce crowding at eating places, while session timings will be changed to reduce commotion on corridors. Lunch-time is a weaker time period during which the students tend to form groups for informal talks.

5) Campuses will call for creating a digital persona for all learners thus making it compulsory for all to have networked smartphones, specific apps to be downloaded for regular use, a good laptop, WiFi-driven high-speed digital access at homes, and cameras, to assist tech-driven learning. Though many schools banned mobiles sometime earlier, today, schools need mobile handsets more than ever. The tool of wasting time is the harbinger of besting time today.

6) While an individual student may need to come to campuses for two to three days a week, most staff and faculty members may in fact need to be on campus for five to six days to cater to the staggered and smaller batches, while continuing to guide those online at homes. That’s a double whammy for the staff in times of fewer colleagues and insecure salaries.

7) Another major need is to revolutionise the assessment system with loads of formative assessments online through quiz and open book tests. Instead of conducting exams offline, online exams would give a way to reduce the chances of another pandemic.

8) Libraries need to go digital, and mentors need to be thoroughly trained to create and deliver an engaging learning content and aggregated learning resources, apart from management becoming flexible on fees and add-ons.

9) Hostels may be hit hard for a while, and learners may choose to have home food and water. This will harm economic interests of the related service providers.

10) We are in for a plethora of surprises. But college campuses with a quick migration to a robust yet easy-to-use learning management systems, and with a sanitised environment are expected to do better.