Rajendrakumar Anayath: There will be an increased demand for online courses

By 30 Dec 2020

The Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology, Murthal (DCRUST) is an autonomous state university, affiliated to UGC. The university runs undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral programmes in areas of engineering, science, management, architecture and education in 16 different departments on campus and also acts as an affiliating university located at Sonepat.

The university has a strength of approximately 4,700 students on the campus and around 18,000 students across all the affiliating colleges. Prof Dr Rajendrakumar Anayath, vice-chancellor, DCRUST, explains how the university is doing under lockdown.

Rajendrakumar Anayath, vice-chancellor at DCRUST

What has been the impact of Covid-19 at your institute thus far?
Consequent upon the pandemic, students are advised to stay at their homes since 13 March and all university employees are advised to work from home since 20 March. So far not much has been affected, but things will have to be rescheduled if the lockdown goes beyond 14 April. We have almost 22,700 students at the university who are facing academic loss due to unavailability of regular classes. To avoid the pandemic, prolonging measures have been taken by the university in accordance with central and state governments instruction and guidance.

In line with latest instructions from the UGC and AICTE, we may have to reschedule semester examinations, which will burden some of the near future activities of the university, especially admissions of academic session 2020-21. Another personal responsibility of our university is the under-privileged students (total 500) of Savera School are bearing huge loss as they lack modern electronic gadgets back at their homes. The university has also postponed various annual activities.

As a result of the current situation, the whole system of functioning may change and education sector could lead to surprising innovations. In any case, demand will increase for online courses; mobile apps like Byju’s learning app; online virtual classroom like ZOOM, Moodle; online examination and evaluation system; online and distance education programme. Also, rules for open textbook examinations will be framed; education sector will reconsolidate; and public-private educational partnerships could grow in importance.

In the short term, how are you assessing risks and planning for the possible impact?
The direct impact is on the timely completion of teaching in this academic year can be compensated by extending the academic year by one month or beyond depending upon the lockdown period. The examination branch of the university is in constant touch with its all stakeholders through electronic media to keep themselves ready for semester examinations as and when the situation returns to normality. With these countermeasures, activities of the university will have minimum impact.

What steps have you undertaken in terms of preventive measures?
On 13 March, the university suspended all classroom teaching activities to implement social distancing and appointed its Nodal Officer (Corona Virus Control) and additional Corona Warriors to enforce immediate remedial actions. Another apex body called DCRUST Corona Task Force has been constituted under the chairmanship of Vice-Chancellor of the University to take all policy decisions during the present pandemic. Our university hospital is fully prepared for isolation treatment and any other requirement needed.

Is there a robust system in place?
The university has a very appreciable health care system in place and a dedicated 24x7 Sushruta Health Dispensary which caters the health needs of all students, staff and teachers.

Confluence of creativity and technology will be the key to crafting a successful future in print. One creative print project which can make a difference?
The present age is of digital and electronic transformation. Information is always the key to any incidence or situation. In the time of lockdown, when there is a need of social distancing, creativity and technology confluence needs to converge the world further so that social distancing has minimum impact on the economy as compared to the present time. Though 4th industrial revolution has changed the perspective to a large extent, still miles are to be crossed for further enhancements.

I do believe every printer will have to develop a business modal which will address cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, platform economy, and circular economy into their entire business cycle. Every machine has become so intelligent and it can directly communicate to the cloud and get the necessary data needed. The difference between the so-called traditional printing machine and digital has almost gone. Individual skill has no meaning today since technology will bring ultimate precision in production and high level accuracy in all decisions to be taken and also wave out wage arbitrage among countries soon. Innovation and agility will be the key for sustenance. In print education definitely, digital and IT will be the game-changer.

One suggestion for the government?
The Central and state governments are doing stupendous work to minimise the impact of Covid-19. We all know the scarcity of our country in various health care facilities. Still the government is spending huge amounts in healthcare in the recent past. To address the current situation, the only suggestion to government is to advise people to implement social distancing as sincerely as possible.

Specific to higher education, the following are some suggestions:

  1. More focus on MOOC and SWAYAM
  2. At least 10% courses must be made mandatory through these platforms
  3. MHRD should develop its own virtual classroom app
  4. Minimum attendance levels for theoretical subjects may be reconsidered
  5. Online lectures like NPTEL may be developed for all subjects
  6. Examinations rules for MOOC and SWAYAM may be framed
  7. Evaluation process should be continuous and project-based in all levels of education
  8. Option must be there for the students to choose their own syllabus of study  

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