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Lack of tech support, low attendance: Online classes a flop for JNU, says survey

The professors found that “only four teachers received tech support from the university and only three had access to the JNU internet services for the purpose of online teaching”.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: June 19, 2020 1:08:34 pm
jnu, jnu survey, jnu latest news, jawaharlal nehru university, jnu.ac.in, jnu online classes, education news JNU campus (File Photo)

A survey conducted by two Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professors among teachers of the university on online teaching has shown that more than 40 per cent students have not been able to access online education. It also showed that over 97 per cent teachers received no “tech support” from JNU while conducting these classes.

Keeping everything in mind, 66.2 per cent of teachers said “admissions for the Academic Year 2020-21 should be delayed until January 2021” and 65.4 per cent teachers said that “students be allowed to add/drop extra courses enrolled for in the Winter Semester 2020 when the university reopens”.

The survey was undertaken by JNU professors Ayesha Kidwai and Atul Sood, who are also former JNU Teachers’ Association presidents. It was conducted through “online circulation over five days, with only those teachers who were teaching a course assigned in Winter Semester 2020”.

A total of 131 teachers from nine schools participated in the survey amounting to “42.25 per cent of the 310 ‘faculty involved in online education’ that the JNU administration has cited to the MHRD”.

The survey found that of the total 148 courses, “less than 30 per cent of the syllabus was covered in 56 per cent of the courses” when the lockdown began. This was due to the intense agitation and strike against the hostel fee hike that went on from October to December last year.

“Overall 73 per cent of the courses had no amendments to make them more consistent with an online mode of teaching, either in faculty meetings or in board of studies meetings. In BA and MAMSc programmes, the share of such courses was just below 80 per cent,” the survey report noted.

The professors found that “only four teachers received tech support from the university and only three had access to the JNU internet services for the purpose of online teaching”.

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“In fact, 21 faculty have had to take out personal subscriptions to video conferencing software in order to teach their courses online and at least one course has been run on the subscription taken out by a student,” the report noted. They also found that “online teaching has been much more difficult for large classes, with more than 60 per cent of such courses having low student participation”.

“BA courses, with large classes have thus had far lower participation. Even in MA/MSc classes, more than 40 per cent of the courses considered in the survey had low online participation. On the other hand, M.Phil/PhD/MTech courses, with lower class sizes had better participation… Many of these courses have less than five students in a class and the survey shows that many of the teachers teaching such courses could interact with them individually, often adjusting timing, length of interaction, etc, to the various constraints the students faced, thereby improving participation,” the report said.

Kidwai and Sood said, “More than one-third of the teachers reported that students’ access to libraries and stable internet affected their participation in online education”.

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“More than 70 per cent of teachers do not think that online education successfully replicates the offline in-person classroom in terms of students’ needs and attainments or create the conditions for a particularly smooth or fair exercise for the instructor. Teachers do not feel that the means by which they have been teaching online allows them to successfully determine whether students have grasped the topics being taught, correct their mistakes, allow for a free discussion with peers, or provide a fair basis for evaluation of students’ performance,” the report said.

“They also overwhelmingly of the opinion that such an online education deepens social and economic inequities between students…This is significant in the light of recommendations by the UGC (and the JNU VC’s enthusiastic welcoming of them), that up to 25% of course syllabi should be mandatorily taught online henceforth,” it added.

The report also said above 70 per cent of teachers were in “support of extending the semester from 45 to 60 days after the date of reopening and conducting in-class evaluations both for continuing and final year students”.

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