Educational experts on the viability of Blended learning mode
If it is used to cut down the cost by reducing the number of teachers in higher education institutions, it will end up making India become only consumer of knowledge rather than being the producer of knowledge. If this happens, the ideas shall prove to be a disaster.
We all know how badly the pandemic has impacted our economy, healthcare and educational sector. On the one hand the pandemic has no doubt revolutionized our crave for digitization drive but unfortunately it has also further exposed our rural and urban divide. Any given concept or idea can be good for some but not for all.
Unfortunately, the people at the helm of affairs have only used their expertise to formulate good concept but without pragmatic plan for its implementation. Most of the planners have ignored the rural and urban divide which is essential for implementation of any concept. The concept of Blended teaching and learning is also one of the many proposed plan to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. I have talked to some educational experts to find out the viability of the concept of the Blended learning and their views are:
Dr. Furqan Qamar, who is presently Professor of Management at the Centre for Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He has served as the Secretary General of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the largest and one of the oldest networks of universities in the world. Earlier, he was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Rajasthan and the Central University of Himachal Pradesh and has also served as Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission of India.
According to him, “Empowering students to learn from anywhere any time and from anyone is a good idea. Creating a facilitating mechanism to recognise such learning would help students accumulate qualifications in their higher education basket and bouquet and thus get their knowledge and skill enhanced and also certified. It may also permit inter university migration and seamless mobility across discipline.”
“Unless implemented earnestly and with due care and caution, the idea may very adversely impact the quality of higher education and India’s standing in the higher education map. So long as the idea is used as a mechanism for promoting quality and excellence in Higher education. But if it is used to cut down the cost by reducing the number of teachers in higher education institutions, it will end up making India become only consumer of knowledge rather than being the producer of knowledge. If this happens, the ideas shall prove to be a disaster, “said Dr Qamar.
On the conceptuality of Blended learning mode, Prof M. Aslam, former Vice Chancellor, IGNOU and Educationist of International repute said, “There were couple of policy pronouncements made particularly after National Education policy was announced. Recently the Union Education Minister while reviewing implementation of New Education Policy- 2020 informed that “Government will soon take necessary steps to establish Virtual Universities, which will be different from the concept of open universities, and that it will help in achieving the desired GER in higher education as envisaged in NEP”. It was a major policy statement at a time when “Online Education” is being used so inadvertently as a solution for all the conditions created by closure of educational institutions dictated by Covid-19.
He added, “Before it took any shape, UGC in its 547th meeting held on 29th May, 2021 decided that HEI’s should be allowed to teach up to 40% of the syllabus of each course in online mode and circulated draft concept note on Blended Mode of Teaching and Learning for comments to be submitted by 6th June, 2021. A quick glance through it reveals that it needs a lot to be desired. The conceptuality of this new proposed mode has not been properly articulated and designed.”.
On the very idea, he said, “I personally feel that it is the outcome of the increasing pressure on the institution of education to make adjustments in order to meet these pressures and the related challenges. These are not new concepts or innovations but reincarnation of many similar long existing ones such as Mixed Mode Learning; Multi-mode Model for Education, Distributed Learning and Blended Learning. They are expected to combine traditional face-to-face learning with web based technology enhanced learning. Malaysia realised it in time and have opted for a Mixed-mode Intervention long back which was reflected in their ‘Educational Framework’- combining its traditional wisdom to be prompted by ICT applications. ” .
The former Vice Chancellor of IGNOU while referring to his book said,” In my book on The Challenge of Education and Training” released by the then Union Education Minister in 2013, I had proposed a Multi-Mode Model for Education. I feel that terminologies used does not matter, what is important is whether all the ingredients necessary to make it a success are in place. Some of them are: As the characteristic features of the didactic transaction are changing significantly, reorientation of learners, academics, educational administrators and the providers of student support services has become a compelling necessity. For Example the role of a classroom Teacher will change from being the intellect-on-stage to also being a learning catalyst. Teachers’ ability to motivate students to become self-learners becomes crucial. The quality and the effectiveness of online/virtual learning as against conventional educational interventions remain a matter of concern for academics as well as the employers/society and it needs to be addressed. ICT infrastructure is uneven and the related expertise differs from place to place and among social groups within the same locality. Consequently, greater the dependence on ICTs, the greater is the inequity in access to education.
“The Concept Note states that BL should be carefully implemented. I would like to add that it has to be carefully and meticulously planned and designed, before we decide to implement it, he argued.
MM Ansari, former UGC member and Consultant to the Planning Commission of India while sharing his perspective on Blended mode of Education said, “The approach of ‘blended mode’ of education combines both on-line and off-line methods of teaching, which is widely accepted and practiced due mainly to its efficacy. Innovations in communication technologies, beginning from postal correspondence to digital transmission of data and information, have of late revolutionised the process of teaching and learning.”.
He added, “First, blended mode of imparting knowledge ensures a wider reach of high-quality and low-cost learning resources; and thus, ensures equalisation of educational opportunities to all the eligible population. As this method provides considerable scope for student-teacher interaction to clarify issues of mutual concerns, quality of education is duly assured. Second, learners belong to a diverse group, in terms of socioeconomic background, learning abilities, age groups and geographic locations of students. One shot delivery of lectures under traditional classroom-based system of education, don’t do justice to all the aspirants of education. In this backdrop, blended mode of education allows everyone to learn and acquire knowledge at their own pace and convenience, which is why technology mediated education, is effective and acceptable among all the knowledge seekers. And education providers find it cost- efficient as well.”
On the viability of this concept, he said, “Unfortunately the required infrastructure for promoting blended learning is not available across the country and for various socioeconomic groups of students. For instance, teachers are not trained for dual mode of teaching using internet and computers. And all the eligible students particularly from poor families do not have access to digital platforms due to lack of computers and availability of power /electricity connection. Such differences in access to required resources for learning, perpetuates educational disparities which is the main source of social discontentment and economic backwardness of certain classes of people.”