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Covid-19: Challenge & response

EducationWorld April 2020 | Education Briefs

With a third of the global population and K-12 and higher education institutions in 185 countries including India,
locked down since mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus aka Covid-19 pandemic, educators worldwide are confronted with the greatest disruption since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918. Consequently, education institutions are responding to this disruption by shifting from traditional classrooms to online teaching learning and installing new ICT (information communication technologies) software and downloading two-way video conferencing apps to adhere to their academic calendars.

The silver lining of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has stimulated education institutions and edtech companies the
world over, to innovate ICT solutions to ensure that the teaching-learning process continues. Here’s how several randomly selected institutional managements are responding to the Covid-19 challenge.

Riverside School, Ahmedabad

Students of this Cambridge International, UK-affiliated school chose to continue their on-site volunteer work with the elderly in retirement homes and with children in paediatric cancer centres under the school’s unique Callinteer programme. Every morning Riverside volunteer students continue to engage with and provide online comfort and good cheer to the elderly and child cancer patients in specified old age homes and childcare centres. Their calls — often made through Facetime or Skype — last for 10-30 minutes and include playing online games.

“The feedback from caregivers and nurses is that the elderly and children look forward to these interactions
which liven their day,” says Kiran BirSethi, founder-director and principal of this top-ranked co-ed international
day school. 

Arya Gurukul School, Mumbai

Thane (Mumbai)-based Arya Gurukul School has completed final examinations of classes V-VIII students by switching to the online mode. An online portal was promptly created for scrutiny of science (class V), Sanskrit
(class VI), social studies (class VII) and math (class VIII) papers. The digital platform was developed by the
school’s technical support team working round the clock. 

The parents of all 546 classes VVIII students responded positively for conducting these exams online. Students were given weblinks to write the exams online at a time of their choice within a 48-hours time window.

LEAD [email protected] programme

The Mumbai-based Leadership Boulevard Pvt. Ltd (estb.2012), a company that provides integrated technology, curriculum and pedagogy as a complete learning solution for classes I-IX to over 800 schools countrywide, has designed a new LEAD [email protected] solution for all English-medium schools countrywide to start their new academic year in April. Over 100,000 students of the company’s 800 partner schools began their new academic year on April 2, learning four critical subjects — English, math, science and social science — online.

In a special offer to enable children to continue learning, Leadership Boulevard offers seven days free trial of
Lead [email protected] to all schools countrywide, followed by a price offer of Rs.200 per student per month to continue learning the four subjects. 

“Our learning system and technology ensures that if children can’t come to school, we can take school to their homes. Now any school can begin its academic year every Monday starting April 6 by accessing LEAD [email protected] Home. All they need is to register on the LEAD School portal and our team will help them started quickly. Subsequently, parents can monitor their children’s progress through the LEAD parentsapp,” says Sumeet Mehta, co-founder and CEO of LEAD School.

Mussoorie International School

Mussoorie International School (MIS) has partnered with Fliplearn Education to curate an innovative, technology-driven teaching-learning process for its 453 girl students and is leveraging the ed-tech platform to ensure continuity of the teaching-learning process. Among its several initiatives:

Remote teacher training. Recently MIS teachers attended an engaging session detailing video conference systems. They have mastered screen sharing, white boarding, annotations, breakout rooms, virtual backgrounds, in-meeting chats, local recording and non-verbal feedback with bluetooth headphones.

Seamless learning. The Fliplearn e-learning platform facilitates simulation classroom learning with athome students across the country and the globe logging into live classes streamed from 9.30 am to 1.20 pm, five days per week.

Attendance is almost 100 percent. Co-curricular education. MIS’ elearning initiative covers co-curricular
education activities including dance, music and yoga classes conducted regularly with students and parents
participation.

“At MIS, we believe that a minuscule virus should not be allowed to disrupt education. So we have leveraged new information communication technologies to transform our teaching-learning process to provide uninterrupted learning to our students throughout the Covid-19 lockdown,” says Meeta Sharma, principal of MIS, India’s top-ranked all girls’ boarding school.

MPS Shalimar Bagh

The management of the CBSEaffiliated Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi is intensively utilising digital technologies to continue the teaching-learning process. Among its initiatives: 

Virtual classrooms. Under its Microsoft Aspire School Programme, the school’s classrooms have gone digital. Students and teachers are given access to licensed software and Office 365 tools.

Co-curricular activities. With the management according high priority to co-curricular education, the school has leveraged latest technologies to conduct online career counselling for class XII students and an Activity Chart for preschoolers. Moreover, Atal Tinkering Lab and astronomy classes, dance and music sessions, yoga and sports activities are also being conducted online. 

In-service teacher training. Zoom, a popular virtual platform, is being used for continuous in-service teacher training programmes to ensure the faculty remains abreast of latest teaching-learning practices.

Cloud-based learning. Teachers continuously add to their subject knowledge drawing on cloud content repositories. The school has created individual login accounts for students and teachers to access enriching online content.

Broadcast groups. Every teacher and student remains connected via the school’s broadcast network. “No breakdown can stop the education fraternity from disseminating knowledge. Covid-19 is powerless before our enthusiastic teaching fraternity which is digitally equipped and committed to continue a seamless teaching-learning process,” says Alka Kapur, principal of MPS.

Amity Future Academy

The Delhi-based Amity Future Academy (AFA) — a division of Amity University Online (AUO) — has devised several online solutions for higher education institutions and corporates. AUO and AFA are online learning initiatives of the Delhibased Amity Education Group which comprises 65 preschool to university institutions with an aggregate enrolment of 150,000 students in India and abroad. Responding to the Covid-19 crisis, AFA has introduced its Free
Learning Month (FLM) programme. 

Under FLM any learner worldwide can access over 600 hours of content in several subjects including data science, business analytics & intelligence, machine learning & artificial intelligence, among others, free of charge for 30 days. These study programmes are designed by industry specialists in partnership with top-ranked universities including Harvard Business School Online and Wharton Online, among others.

“AUO has embraced Education 4.0 by being the first online education provider to develop future leaders to
transform India into a knowledge superpower. From digital classrooms to collaborative learning, students and industry professionals are provided skill-based learning courses on our platform,” says Ajit K. Chauhan,
chairman of Amity University Online and AFA.

Interested candidates can register at https://programs.amityfutureacademy.com/free-learning-month/.

Presidency School, Bangalore South

The management and teachers of the Presidency School, Bangalore South have been ensuring teaching learning continuity with several speedy initiatives. Among them: 

Teacher & staff re-orientation. Over 350 kindergarten-senior secondary teachers are being provided hands-on training to utilise the Microsoft learning platform and tools such as Sway, One Note, Whiteboard, Power Point, among others. Demo sessions and virtual classes are being conducted for teachers with special focus on teaching language and mathematics.

Virtual classes. Live virtual classes are being conducted for classes X-XII students on the MS Team platform.
While live online classes are conducted in the morning hours, students are given assignments to keep them busy
during evening hours. Moreover, teachers are working on curating engaging online classes for students of
kindergarten-class VIII.

Co-curricular education. Yoga, music and dance sessions are regularly conducted to enable students to
relax and rejuvenate. “These are challenging times for everyone but commitment to a common goal has inspired our management and teachers to work in tandem to design effective and streamlined online learning programmes for our students,” says J. Bhuvaneswari, principal of the CBSE-affiliated coed day Presidency School, Bangalore
South.

Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune

Eighty K-12 schools operational in Maharashtra under the Bharati Vidyapeeth banner — including 13 English-medium schools affiliated with the CBSE, CAIE (UK) and Maharashtra state boards — have quickly adopted a three-stage online teaching programme.

Orientation of all stakeholders. Video conferencing is normative for principals to discuss and chalk out a comprehensive strategy to ensure continuity of teaching-learning. 

Online access to syllabus and library books. The BV schools’ Smart class content partners have shared links with at-home students to enable them to access syllabus content and library books. All schools have also tied up with Nexool Digital Library that helps students access library books in digital format. 

Online live classes. Regular live classes are being conducted online through the Zoom app. Students can
log into these virtual classes using mobile phone, laptops, computers or tablets.

“Positive feedback from our parents and students indicates that our three-stage online learning initiative
has been a huge success. It has propelled us into a new era of online/virtual classes and increased usage of
technology,” says Dr. R.S. Panwar, director of school education, Bharati Vidyapeeth.

Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, Noida

The Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan (MBCN, estb.1999) — a school for physically and mentally challenged
children promoted by the Delhi-based Ponty Chadha Foundation — is providing online learning in the following
ways:

WhatsApp and Zoom for communication. With e-learning platforms and live classes not suitable for children with special needs, MBCN has been using communication applications such as WhatsApp and Zoom to reach parents and teachers.

Sample videos for learning. MBCN’s highly skilled team of special educators and therapists record sample videos and share them with parents and teachers. Worksheets and tips for making teaching-learning material at home are also shared with parents. Customised goals and daily activities. Daily activities cover academics, sports and fitness, yoga, household activities, speech therapy, occupational and physiotherapy and recreation activities (art/music/dance).

“The most important thing parents and caregivers can do to help children with special needs to cope during these uncertain times, is to plan a daily routine or schedule. Doing so lets children know what to expect and cope with stress. I hope that our efforts will continue the learning process of our children and also empower parents,” says Manpreet Singh Chadha, chairman of the Wave Group & trustee of the Ponty Chadha Foundation.

Mount Abu Public School

Mount Abu Public School, Delhi — a Microsoft Showcase School — has chalked out an all-inclusive strategy to deal with the academic, psychological, financial and social fallout of the pandemic.

Technical training for teaching staff. From early March, remote learning sessions are being conducted for teachers to use Microsoft technology and the Zoom app to equip them with the technical know-how to use digital learning tools and platforms.

Virtual classes through Microsoft Education. Students log into virtual classes hosted on the Microsoft
Education platform. This ensures student attendance and convenient tracking of student engagement. Teachers
teach through subject focused selfrecorded videos.

Webinars for parents and students. Webinars are conducted for parents and students to raise awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic and conduct crash courses on using technology for learning.

Career guidance and counseling. The school’s careers guidance cell also conducts online webinars and one-to one video calls with senior students to help them deal with anxieties triggered by the ongoing pandemic and to enable them to make further study choices.

Online parent-teacher meetings. The school conducted online PTMs and online orientation for new parents and doorstep delivery of new learning materials. “Every challenge comes with a hid den opportunity. The Covid-19 global crisis has prompted our management, teachers and students to aggressively switch to virtual learning solutions to keep all stakeholders engaged in these highly stressful time,” says Jyoti Arora, principal of the school.

CFAL Mangalore

The Centre for Advanced Learning, Mangalore (CFAL) — a coaching centre for engineering entrance and
scholarship exams — has responded proactively to teaching-learning disruption following the Covid-19 emergency nationwide lockdown.

Faculty training programme. Special training programmes introduce faculty to the nuances of conducting live online classes. They are also trained on using the IPAD Pro programme to communicate with students online.

Scaling up online learning solutions. The management has scaled up its online learning solutions by investing in the latest digital technologies.  The technology also accommodates students with limited access to highspeed Internet and mobile data. 

“Our online learning platform allows students to ‘raise hands,’ share screens, message the host and break off into smaller discussion groups. Overall, our live online classes are working quite well for students,” says Vijay Moras, coordinator of CFAL.

Sir Padampat Singhania Education Centre, Kanpur

For the past month, the Sir Padampat Singhania Education Centre (SPSEC) has chalked out a comprehensive strategy to ensure continuity of the teaching-learning process. The programmes devised by the school
management include:

Teachers working from home. SPSEC teachers are enthusiastically working from home, continuously
helping students by sharing content, solving problems on Google work sheets and videos. Virtual groups for
every class have been formed for students to post their assignments and queries. Online lesson plans are also shared with students and parents for all classes.

Tech-driven teaching. Besides conducting live online classes through the Zoom app, teachers share topic-based videos and links for students to grasp concepts. Audio recordings of teachers are also shared with students
as and when required. 

Co-curricular education. Co-curricular education activities covering yoga, art and craft, drawing, blog writing, taekwondo, rapper reloaded, budding poets, among others, are woven into the virtual learning curriculum.

Skill-enhancement programmes. Certification and skills-enhancement courses are conducted for teachers to improve competencies. 

“Long before the novel Coronavirus crisis turned into a pandemic, our team of dedicated educators had created virtual classrooms to ensure that teaching-learning continues despite all roadblocks and lockdowns. I am confident that the strong camaraderie we share with our stakeholders will help us tide over these difficult times and enable us to deliver unhindered learning,” says Bhawna Gupta, principal of SPSEC.

Indus International Schools

In the top-ranked Indus International Schools (IIS) in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, the challenges
posed by the Covid-19 crisis have been rapidly overcome through a smooth transition to WFH (work from home)
and blended learning solutions. The IIS management, which introduced digital learning in classes VI-XII in
2014 and artificial intelligence in-class robots to assist senior school teachers and students last year, has accelerated the evolution of its WFH and blended learning pedagogies during the past month with all 3,520 students from 37 countries around the world learning from home and connected with each other.

“Innovation is the best vaccine against Covid-19. This is the only way we believe we can re-skill ourselves in the new VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. In IIS institutions, innovation has been facilitated by ICT-enabled, syllabusmapped curriculums supported by a leadership curriculum that focuses on all children and teachers investing them with higher purpose, and goals. In addition our Leadership School for outbound education that emphasises team-work, creativity, grit and resilience and community service, continues to broadcast online,” says Lt. Gen (Retd.) Arjun Ray, PVSM, VSM, managing trustee of the Indus Trust and CEO of Indus International Schools.

SAI International Education Group

The Bhubaneswar-based SAI Group — comprising SAI International School, SAI International Residential School and SAI Angan preschool — has designed an innovative online learning solution by integrating latest digital technologies with the SAI Academic Management System (SAMS), the SAI Group’s ERP solution, to create the SAI Cloud School.

Theoretical resources. Online learning modules provide short notes on the concepts along with relevant videos and learning material. This is augmented by the incorporation of exercises, both warm up and time bound. The feedback provided by these exercises enables teachers to identify strengths and weaknesses of students for remedial education.

Interactive Zoom classes. SAI institutions have been using the popular Zoom app to simulate real classroom
environments to enable face-to-face interaction with teachers. Conducted daily, virtual classes follow a structured time-table. 

Weekly time-table. Teachers share a weekly time-table through SAMS covering six to seven hours of learning each day — including time for yoga, hobbies, relaxation and play. “Throughout this unprecedented health-socio-economic-financial crisis, the SAI family has been working unitedly to sail our ship safely through troubled waters. Together we shall build a better India through new technology-enabled education,” vows Dr. Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, founder chairman of the SAI Group.

Candor International School, Bangalore

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and ongoing emergency lockdown, the pre-K-12 Candor International School, Bangalore has leveraged a wide range of virtual learning solutions and communication/ collaboration platforms to provide students effective interim alternatives to regular schooling.

Google Classrooms and Zoom. Popular cloud-based video conferencing platforms supplemented by Google Classrooms and Zoom have provided engaging learning experiences for all students. Zoom has also enabled teachers to conduct regular classes for primary school students.

Middle and high school students are being reached through digital platforms such as Edmodo, Managebac,
Skype, Zoom and YouTube which enable teachers to post resources, schedule assignments and provide timely
feedback to students. The school’s virtual classes are scheduled between 9 a.m-2.30 p.m on weekdays.

“I believe we will emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and more skilled set of educators who believe
in ourselves and will outdo ourselves for the benefit of all stakeholders of this international school. The bond
between the students and teachers has never been stronger than in this crisis,” says Anvita Gupta, principal
of Candor International School. 

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