Published: 02nd April 2020
COVID-19 lockdown: Madras Uni asks faculty to go online with lectures on Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom
The University of Madras VC has urged its faculty to use suitable online teaching methods to help students amid the Coronavirus lockdown
As most educational institutes across the country and worldwide have shifted to online modes of teaching and learning owing to the lockdown imposed to fight the Coronavirus outbreak, the University of Madras in an official circular, released on Wednesday urged its faculty members to explore ways to engage students using suitable online teaching methods in order to complete the ongoing courses. The varsity, which doesn't allow the usage of mobile phones on campus during every academic year, has now resorted to WhatsApp discussion groups, Zoom and Google Hangouts meet so that the students' time can be utilised better under the prevailing conditions.
In August 2018, the Directorate of Collegiate Education (DCE) in Tamil Nadu issued a circular asking all arts, science and other colleges, coming under its purview, to ban the use of cellphones by students on the premises of the institutions. Following this, the varsity had also issued a circular banning the use of mobile phones on campus and students would be fined if they are caught.
The Vice-Chancellor P Duraisamy stated in the circular: "As you are all aware, we have closed our university and colleges and classes have been suspended till April 14, 2020, due to the lockdown declared by the Government. I am sure that you are all making productive use of your time in research and updating teaching materials. Even when we resume classes, there will be very little time to complete teaching, and conduct examinations and evaluation before the end of this academic year. Under these circumstances, I request all of you to explore ways to engage our students using suitable online teaching methods in order to complete the ongoing courses. When students return after the lockdown period, we can conduct the end-semester examinations and publish the results on time so that the outgoing students can take up a job or proceed for higher studies."
The circular also underlines a few of the well-known online learning methods that can be used. Recorded video lectures is the easiest and simplest way of online teaching is to use your mobile phone or laptop to record lectures and share it through google drive, e-mail, and WhatsApp or upload in the website. "I am sure that most of our students have a laptop or mobile phones with internet connectivity and hence I do not foresee any difficulty in access the video lectures," the VC states. He also talks about email groups, WhatsApp discussion groups that can be used to share reading material, answer queries from students and discuss course work among themselves. He suggests that Skype, the video-calling platform, can be used for live lectures.
Besides these simple online methods of teaching, the circular also goes on to explain several Learning Management Systems (LMS) that are easily accessible.
Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet- "Both are equally good and have provision for recording, screen sharing and group messaging. The Zoom basic version is freely downloadable but it has certain limitations. You can deliver lectures using ppt or handouts and arrange a Q&A session during a pre-set time," adds the VC. He also talks about Piazza (https:piazza.com) that has been used in many universities for Q&A sessions and discussion among students. It can also be combined with video lectures.
Finally, the vice-chancellor concludes by saying that the experience from online teaching "will help us to implement the full-fledged Learning Management Systems such as Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment), Webex, and Google Class Room among others. I also request the heads of the departments to facilitate our faculty members, both regular and guest faculty, to conduct online teaching."