Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science (HITS), established in the year 1985, offers a wide spectrum of both undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma, research and doctoral programmes in diverse fields of engineering, technology, management, architecture, liberal arts, applied sciences, design, allied health sciences and law.
HITS has the distinction of being accredited with an ‘A’ Grade by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Government of India with a score of 3.3/4.0 and is a Category two institution with many privileges from the Government. Speaking about the hybrid classrooms of today and how they fit in with the modern curriculum and teaching style, Dr. Anand Jacob Verghese, Pro-Chancellor at HITS said that the learning outcome has always been higher for blended learning when compared between online and face-to-face (FTF) conventional classroom learning.
A hybrid classroom is an approach that combines FTF classroom methods with computer-mediated activities to deliver instruction. This pedagogical approach is a mixture of FTF and online activities and the integration of synchronous and asynchronous learning tools, thus providing an optimal possibility for the arrangement of an effective learning process.
Dr. Anand was of the view that hybrid learning, with its multiple advantages is the best way forward. It helps to improve the learning experience and maximise the effectiveness of valuable physical time in the classroom. Resources such as video lectures, podcasts, recordings and articles would be provided to transfer the main bulk of the necessary knowledge from the teacher to the student before each class. This frees up time for the teachers to support students in activities, lead discussions and faculty engagement.
Another major advantage that hybrid learning offers is scale, whereas in physical classes one instructor can only teach so many people in the offline or conventional mode.
The need for revolutionary teaching methods
On the question of whether there is a need to stimulate interests in students through revolutionary teaching methods such as gamification and other visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (VAK) teaching styles, Dr. Anand was of the view that VAK is a modern teaching method whose effects can be seen clearly. Here, the learner is divided into three categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (movement), based on the student’s most effective learning style. Gamification on the other hand is the use of game design elements and game mechanics in non-game contexts. Research suggests that gamification in web-based education increases student motivation and engagement many folds.
However, the teacher still plays an essential role in modern teaching methods. They have the responsibility of identifying, recognising the student category and selecting appropriate modern technology to make classrooms more engaging. The teaching plan or design must be suitable for students of their respective ages while achieving the learning outcomes efficiently. They should incorporate attractive measures to connect the students for a longer time and keep them engaged. They can also be supplemented with online quizzes, puzzles or brain games which are fun-filled learning and teaching methods.
Another style of teaching that has caught attention recently, is the concept of the ‘Flipped Classroom'. It is a pedagogical approach in which the traditional elements of the lesson taught by the teacher are reversed — the primary educational materials are studied by the students at home and, then, worked on it in the classroom.
As a result, the students develop independent learning skills and a deeper understanding of the topics. The teacher spends less time introducing new topics and invest more in creating more engaging sessions. The students can learn at their own pace, this is an added advantage to the slow learners and the absent students to catch up.
Adjusting to the new normal
With Covid 19, digital learning has emerged as a necessary resource for students and educational institutes all over the world. Online learning is now applicable not just to learning academics but also extends to learning extracurricular activities as well. Remote Learning occurs when the learner and instructor, or source of information, are separated by time and distance, whereas Distance learning is a way of learning remotely without being in regular FTF contact with a teacher or a classroom.
In the traditional teaching method, the quality of education suffers whereas blended instruction is reportedly more effective than purely FTF or online classes. By using a combination of digital instruction and one-on-one face time, students can work on their own with new concepts. It is very important to discover how to learn using all available communication channels and choose the ones that best suit learning.
Importance of peer-to-peer physical contact in the learning process
Speaking about the importance of interaction with peers, Dr. Anand was of the view that it serves as the foundation for many important aspects of emotional development such as the development of self-concept, self-esteem and identity. Children learn about themselves during interactions with each other and use this information to form a sense of their selves — who they are. For students, peer learning can lead to improved attitudes and a more personalised, engaging, and collaborative learning experience, all of which can lead to higher achievement. Throughout childhood and adolescence, peer interaction is essential for language, cognitive, and social development. There are aspects of learning that happen best during peer interactions, rather than interactions with adults.
Dr. Anand further went on to say that the skills and knowledge that are required in the 21st century with Industry 4.0 in place are much more challenging and different. There is less demand for obedient workers who can simply show up on time and follow directions. There is an increased demand for self-directed workers who can adapt, learn quickly, think critically, communicate and innovate.
He was of the view that the following ten skills will be required to become successful in the future:
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
Creativity and Innovation
Empathy and Perspective.
Although it is important for the students to learn a core set of knowledge, simply regurgitating facts in an attempt to earn grades will not help them develop the above 10 skills. Application with hands-on training in projects will strengthen the students learning in this area. Dr. Anand stressed the need to engage students in higher-order thinking skills for them to develop the skills that will be critical for their future success.