Friday, September 25

Digital divide takes toll on students even as univs push for online classes

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As the intermediate semester classes begin, several private and state-aided colleges and universities have issued guidelines for teachers on how to conduct live, online classes as well as how to hold asynchronous classes, under which they are supposed to send study materials to students on their mails and WhatsApp numbers. In most colleges, decisions have been taken to store recordings of live classes, audio clippings and documents that can be later accessed by students, who may miss out on online lessons due to the digital divide.
Aritra Chatterjee, a second-year student at a CU Behala college, complained he had been missing out on even class notes that are occasionally being shared by his teachers of chemistry department over emails and WhatsApp. “Limited materials are being shared that I can study only after downloading them on my mobile. I do not have a laptop and have to spend a considerable amount on data,” he said, adding teachers had also suggested some ebooks, some of which had to be paid for.

At Jadavpur University, Debraj Debnath, a final-year PG student and JU local committee secretary of SFI, said the unions had identified students who did not have smartphones. “Departments formed panels with teachers to identify such students and provide them with mobiles and data-pack. . Since some classes have started in the second and fourth UG semesters and second PG semester, audio clippings, recorded videos and other study materials are being preserved so that students, who will get data-pack and mobiles, can download them later,” Debnath added.

To bridge the gap, along with digitally storing every document and audio-visual clippings, several colleges have urged teachers to be considerate towards students, even if they fail to cope with online learning.

At J D Birla Institute, teachers have been requested to follow a flexible timetable. “ Teachers have been given an internet allowance to update phone data. Each subject teacher has to share his/her Zoom link to the official email of students registered with college. It has to be done 24 hours earlier,” said principal Deepali Singhee. “Any resources that need to be shared will be done through HoDs and a copy has to be preserved in the library for later reference. Textbooks have been digitized and shared with students. But students have to keep their videos on during live lectures. If they can’t join due to internet problem, a report has to be sent to the respective HoDs, ” Singhee added.

St Xavier’s College (autonomous) Kolkata principal Fr Dominic Savio said the college had been supportive of students who might face difficulties attending online classes. “I have told HoDs to identify anyone facing trouble. We are ready to help them with mobiles and data-pack,” Savio said. Lady Brabourne College principal Siuli Sarkar said, “Our classes hold live lectures and all students attend them.”

A student at another CU college, however, said, “Internet access and teachers ensuring all students can attend online classes are happening at prominent colleges. For the rest, we have to depend on study materials occasionally shared on WhatsApp. As long as exams are not held, we can manage later.”

Source: TimesofIndia

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