Digital Learning: The Uttarakhand Plan

Author: Dr Ajay Semalty, University SWAYAM Coordinator,H.N.B. Garhwal University (A Central University), Srinagar Garhwal

In the COVID19 lockdown, it is high time to look into Uttarakhand’s preparation for the future of education that is digital learning. MHRD, Govt of India has already initiated the ICT initiatives through various platforms including SWAYAM and SWAYAMPRABHA. But the wave of digital learning is yet to reach mountains.

Poor connectivity and network issues are major issues in Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand, in spite of being one the most literate state as per the last census, is lagging behind in digital learning. Apart from the connectivity issues, the low level of awareness among the teachers and students is one of the most important factors. Except for a few colleges, the status of governmental higher education institutions, especially, in terms of infrastructure is in a latent or emergent state.

The small hill state is an education hub with a total of 37 institutions of Higher education (01 Central/11 State/3 deemed/19 Private Universities, 1 IIT, 1 IIM, 1 NIT). A vast majority of the student is from a rural background and providing digital learning to all the students is a challenge. The crunch of faculty has been compensated a lot by the state government’s recent recruitment drive in Government colleges.  The quality education needs ICT initiatives and the exposure of students to peers. This is only possible with the help of the dissemination of MHRD’s ICT initiatives like SWAYAM and SWAYAMPRABHA. In the line of preparation of the e-Learning environment, the State Government recently established the e-Learning labs in every government PG college, and it is a very welcoming step.

Considering the connectivity issues, the preparation of digital learning ecosystem in higher educational institutes of Uttarakhand needs a hybrid approach. Going online as well as offline, learning environment needs the efforts and willpower of the institutes and the administration. Preparation of institutional or state level academic repository may be an important approach. Recently, the state’s only Central Varsity, HNB Garhwal University based in Srinagar Garhwal has practiced the same. In the countrywide lockdown, HNBGU is keeping the learning continued with the help of online learning initiatives along with the establishment of a subject-specific repository of the University. The repository established by the author (Dr Ajay Semalty, coordinator SWAYAM Cell) consists of study and learning materials that are available through the University SWAYAM Cell website Teachers and research scholars of various subjects and disciplines are contributing to make the lecture notes and other study material available online through the platform. In the semester system there is already a crunch of academic days for teaching learning and in this scenario, it serves the vital need of students. This kind of approach may be adopted either at the college/University level or centrally at the higher educational department in the state level. In view of the poor connectivity, the downloaded study materials may be made available to the students at the college level. For this kind of preparation, it requires a Systematic approach that is recommended by the World Bank as System’s Approach For Better Educational Results in Tertiary Education (SABER-TE). The state needs to identify and prioritize the areas for implementation of this hybrid and need-based digital learning model.

Another challenge is to provide the study materials in the form and language as required by the students (the actual stakeholders). Apart from English, the study materials and online courses must be delivered in Hindi also. The role of teachers becomes very important in this context because the teachers can make the content easy to understand by giving their direct inputs and hence the blended learning becomes an integral part of the digital learning ecosystem.  

All these plans need the strong will of the State’s Higher education administration. And after a long gap this seems possible with the evident positive change in the various aspects of Governmental Higher Educational Institutions. I hope the Devbhumi, Uttarakhand will change the gear for the creation of the development of the futuristic ecosystem of digital learning. And then we will be able to take the Digital Gyan Ganga to all the nook and corners of Uttarakhand. 

Dr. Ajay Semalty is Advisory Board Member at PharmaState Academy

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