academics

High Time For Academics To Prepare For Unlocking In New Normal

Academic institutions of the country are closed since the last week of March 2020. The likelihood of COVID-19 infection spread in the students, teachers & staff has kept them closed even when the unlocking has begun. The teaching-learning processes in educational institutions depend largely upon human interactions.

The public speaking by teachers in the class, interactions among students in the class & outside, and the laboratory activities make it vulnerable to getting infected.  The residential campuses have the additional challenge of keeping the stay conditions congenial for avoiding mutual infection.

Present circumstances indicate that society has to prepare itself for living with care to avoid COVID-19 infection.  COVID-19 is setting a new normal in which every sector functions effectively while preventing itself from getting effected. Therefore, the education system of the country has to prepare for the new normal as the lockdown can not continue for very long.

academics

Already, there has been a dent in the education delivery system due to sudden disruption. Though online education mode came to rescue, the realities are different and stakeholders considered it as an arrangement to keep the teaching process on. Given the prevailing digital divide, it is not possible to get a quality education for all through online education. The on-campus teaching process should start in the educational institutions at the earliest.

Numerous virtual meetings are happening in the regulating bodies of the country for creating a strategy to ensure the safe operation of academic institutions in the post lockdown phase. Quite likely apex regulators may give some more guidelines, but the moot point is the preparations at the institution end.

In all cases, the prevailing building infrastructure, campus facilities, teaching-learning processes, availability of the human resource, financial capacity, boarding arrangements, no of day scholar students, IT facilities, etc. of the respective institution will affect their unlocking plan. Nothing much is visible in terms of the institutions preparing themselves for unlocking.

Conventionally, the academic sessions have been beginning in the months of July-August every year. So, it is high time for every institution to evolve an inclusive and acceptable operational plan that integrates safety in instructional arrangements of theory and laboratory classes, living arrangements, and all other activities in the institution campus in light of coronavirus.

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Education providers across the globe are vigorously working out the plans to bring back educational activities with the safety of all humans on campus. The COVID-19 recovery plans of different educational institutions can help nucleate some ideas for how to go about, but the institution has to prepare its own strategy.

It is advisable to invite suggestions from all stakeholders i.e. teachers, students, staff, and parents about the possible actions to be taken for preparing institutions for unlocking itself for the students and resumption of teaching-learning activities on the campus.

The feedback taken from all stakeholders will infuse confidence in coming back to a new normal which is to live with the threat of coronavirus infection. Here is a viewpoint on some of the possible measures which could help the academics to create their specific opening plan based on inputs from all. 

  1. Divide every class in small batch sizes as per the size of the available classroom/laboratory. 
  2. Have rolling occupancy in the classrooms and laboratories  
  3. Institutions may have staggered working hours to cater to the teaching-learning requirements.
  4. Scatter the physical facilities on the campus as the measure to de-densify the existing spaces.
  5. Drinking water /toilet/washbasin fittings are made non-touch type to the extent possible. 
  6. Make institutional arrangements for placing sanitizers and hand wash at the entrance of the respective buildings and all critical locations. 
  7. Internet / Wi-Fi be ensured on the campus and all classrooms & laboratories are equipped with audio-visual facilities.
  8. All teachers should be provided with the facilities to record and transmit digital learning resources at the institutional platform.
  9. Students be permitted to bring their own devices for accessing IT services.
  10. Encourage students to carry their water bottles for drinking water, stationery items, computational devices, etc.
  11. Extensive cleaning arrangements be made for cleaning of whole premises at a higher frequency for effective sanitization.
  12. Learning management systems be used for transacting learning resources with the students.
  13. All financial transactions in the institution and other utilities/shops on the campus are performed digitally.
  14. Official working is made paperless by the use of institutional ERP software/emails.
  15. Boarding facilities be sanitized regularly.
  16. Mess workers to be trained for maintaining hygiene and sanitization in the complete mess premises.
  17. Routine check-up of all hostel residents should be done and the record maintained.
  18. All students and employees of the institution are encouraged to speak out the ill-health issue at the health center of the institution which should maintain confidentiality to avoid panic in the community. 
  19. Encourage students to use the online learning resources / online interaction with teachers for doubt clearing.
  20. The use of a face mask/covering of mouth & nose is compulsory in the institution.
  21. Physical distancing is followed strictly and larger gatherings prohibited.
  22. Student activities to be encouraged with a smaller size of audience ensuring physical distancing and the same be webcast on the institution’s media / social network for the rest of the students. 
  23. Arrangements to be made for thermal scanning of those coming from outside to the institution. 
  24. Make all other necessary arrangements suited to the institution for infusing confidence in the student community about their safe return to campus.

With the unlocking already started in the country, the academic institutions should gear up to remodel their campuses for avoiding the COVID-19. Every institution must plan for surviving with coronavirus and resume teaching-learning activities as directed by the regulators.

The preparation of an institution-specific operational plan will take time, so the activities need completion in a time-bound manner. Institutional preparedness should be such that the students and their parents are fearless of the coronavirus infection upon getting back to studies.  

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