Some universities have adopted unique models, but are still keen on returning to campuses to finish practical and project works
Covid-19 and accompanying lockdowns have disrupted practical and project works in higher education, with colleges and varsities agreeing that much of this learning loss will continue till campus life becomes normal again.
Just not doctoral students, even masters and undergraduate level students are missing out their practical work, even as some institutions try to find alternatives for students in courses ranging from management and design to performing arts.
“The pandemic has impacted education delivery and lack of enough practical is a loss for students. We had called the last semester students during January-March 2021 to the campus for their practical works as they were graduating but others, let’s say first semester students, have missed out," said R.P. Tiwari, vice chancellor of Central University in Punjab.
“We do agree that streams like performing arts, engineering, and pharmacy have suffered along with pure science streams. It’s a collective loss for the sector in a pandemic year and we hope as soon as the infection rate is in a manageable situation and our students are vaccinated, we shall catch up," Tiwari explained.
Some universities have adopted unique models, but are still keen on returning to campuses to finish practical and project works. The World University of Design (WUD), a specialized university at the Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Haryana that focuses from design thinking to transport design, textile and fashion design, has adopted technology for field and location visits. For example, a student living near a field site visits a structure for a “live walk-through of the site" and the feed is shared to all students and faculty via Google Meet and learning management systems.
“Having said that, students and faculties are eagerly awaiting to go back to campuses. We are still unable to do lab or fieldwork …and that studio practice, workshop practice, peer learning, group dynamics continue to be best done face to face makes return to the campus inevitable," said Sanjay Gupta, vice chancellor of WUD.
“Virtual projects and lab work is not possible at all places, and it largely depends on what kind of facilities a university has and how well-connected students are to the virtual world via high-speed bandwidth and required IT infra. That’s a huge challenge," said a professor at Delhi University. “Colleges and varsities in many parts of the country are cancelling practicals even for the last semester students" the professor said.
Mahadeo Jaiswal, director at Indian Institute of Management Sambalpur said his students have done summer training online following the outbreak of the pandemic, but its running smooth for them.
“But virtual project works have side effects; it lacks team spirit that comes out of working together and it also must be impacting body language. Once the covid-19 situation improves, everyone and every course which is lab-focused or field focussed will catch up on the loss," added Jaiswal.
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