Making Most Of The Virtual Classrooms During COVID-19 With Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

Eduvoice exclusive interview

Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

Director, IIT Roorkee
Recipient of the INSA Teachers Award
Founding member of the Telecom Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI)

“If the concept of virtual classrooms is a success then there can be a chance to create a few more good institutes based on this idea” – Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi


Novel Coronavirus also is known as COVID-19 has taken over the world. The pandemic causing viral diseases has affected world economies to an extent that were unseen and undetectable by anyone. One particular sector, which was massively affected by the disease is the Education Sector of India.

Due to the nationwide lockdown, the education sector has come to a halt; students and teachers are unable to participate in physical classrooms and are advised to use virtual mediums for teaching purposes.

To understand more about this we have Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi, Director of IIT Roorkee to give us valuable insights.

Sujata Mehta

 How are you dealing with the COVID-19 at IIT Roorkee? 

Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

Till now we have been able to manage it reasonably well. There has been frequent notification from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and different government departments and we are trying to conform to the notifications.

In the campus, we have a hospital which has been stretched to some extent because of anybody having a travel advisory, they had to make sure that they are effectively reported, the hospital and also was quarantining members of the community even though they did not have any symptoms and once they completed the quarantine period then, of course, they were let go.


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    Sujata Mehta

    Virtual classrooms are being conducted for theoretical subjects, but what about the practical curriculum. How is IIT Roorkee planning to cope up with it?

    Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

    To start with, we are trying to make sure that these were full classes or what we are calling it as the teaching-learning process over the internet. We want to make sure that the best practices that are available widely, people are made aware of it, and depending on the requirement of different courses whichever suits best that is adopted so the focus has been that these virtual classrooms be made as effective as possible.

    As this is a new phenomenon, it needs an extra initiative and extra effort on the side of both students as well as faculty because both sides are used to conventional Blackboard teaching or even PowerPoint presentations that happen in the class. But then this has to move out to an experience, which is virtual, which is online. So, we want to make sure that we understand the nuances involved there so that the teaching becomes effective.

    So the present goal is to replicate the classroom experience so that it is as close to the classroom as possible. Once we allow the students to come back, then we are hoping that the situation will give us enough time so that we can conduct laboratory sessions and because we still do not have a very good method by which all the internet, virtual smarts of robotic classes can be conducted.

    virtual classrooms

    Sujata Mehta

     In case of extension of the lockdown, what are plans to scheduling examinations and semesters studies?

    Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

    In some sense, the outbreak of COVID 19 has been at a good time, good time in the sense that it is always bad, it should never have happened but the timing is working for the sector in the sense that we have the buffer of the summer vacation. They use all summer vacation, but if this would have happened in the previous semester, then the buffer might be much shorter.

    Right now, we have a very sizable buffer available and we are hoping that that buffer will be effectively used so that the spillover is not beyond into the next semester. So that is what we are hoping and as of now, it looks like it should be possible. Even if the government goes for two weeks more lockdown or even a month after that, the students are allowed to return to the campus.

    virtual classrooms

    Then we will have June, we’ll have teaching and then exams as usual. We can open towards the last week of July or maybe one or two weeks of a shift in the next semester can be given if required. But we are not planning to compensate for all the classes because online education is happening. Only a few doubt, Clearing sessions or tutorials or important concepts, those kinds of things can be done. 

    Sujata Mehta

    According to you, what are the positive aspects of Virtual Learning?

    Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

    If the concept of virtual classrooms is a success then there can be a chance to create a few more good institutes based on this idea, but that number cannot be scaled up indefinitely. On the other hand given the youth of the country, it is known that our country has a sizable number of opportunities and they are yearning for good quality education.

    This is the reason for which platforms like NPTEL, SWAYAM, or SWAYAM PRABHA all these kinds of initiatives have been designed so that more and more teaching can be given to a larger number of students and access this tool teaching without actually physically attending a university.

    Due to the pandemic, the sector is forced to come out of our comfort zones and try and experiment more with online teaching, and people are realizing that they may yield better results in the near future. However, some things work, some things don’t work, it also depends on the size of the class, composition of the class, program enrolled, which are the discussion-oriented course or whether it’s more like a theory course simulation.

    virtual classrooms

    All those kinds of varieties are there. But because now the industry is forced to begin a situation where we have to sum up the semester. So we have taken up this kind of mode of teaching and we are hoping that in the long run, this will answer the question that we have been trying to answer in the last decade.

    Sujata Mehta

    Do you think that the practice of Virtual learning during the lockdown will change the education sector of India?

    Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

    I say that it is likely early to say that we will review the situation and we’ll take the feedback from all stakeholders, students, faculty and we will see what are the gaps and how to fill those gaps.

    But I can say that yes there is a possibility that it can be a major turning point in the education of the country. It has the potential to be the pan that we are not that I think it’s too early to say.

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    Sujata Mehta

    What suggestions would you like to give to teachers who are struggling with the phenomenon of e-teaching?

    Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi

    In my opinion, few things that teachers can do to efficiently use virtual learning are:

    • Start at a slower pace: Virtual teaching is a relatively newer concept in the education system in India, both teachers and students have to get used to it. It is very difficult for teachers to engage students online, so the solution for this is, that teachers should design their lectures at a slower pace to take students onboard. Once the students are settled, the pace can be changed accordingly. This will allow a smooth transition as compared to a forced activity for students.
    • Convey the seriousness of these classes to students: Students need to understand that this is going to stay, this is not something that will vanish in a week or two weeks, And the concepts are the subjects that are taught now will not be taught again. So if seriousness is conveyed to the student that this is the time we have to put our efforts. And is assured that both sides have to try and make efforts. Then the students interact and engage better.
    • Take feedback: Feedback from all stakeholders, students and faculty is very important to understand the gaps and how to fill those gaps in the best ways possible 

    During this time of the pandemic, every citizen must fulfill their duty toward the nation, and in the education sector, it is also important that the students and teachers both put in their effort in assuring that this time is used effectively and efficiently.

    A classroom is not just made of students, or just teachers, it requires both. Therefore, both parties must pull up their weights. Teachers have to be more proactive about their teaching methodology and students have to be equally proactive in taking up the lectures seriously and not forgetting their ultimate goals.

    A virtual classroom is a two-way thing. Anyone party alone will have difficulty in making the complete transition to be successful. But if both parties take small steps, then another party’s encouraged to take more steps.

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