Most universities, colleges, schools and coaching centres have moved to OTT platforms to continue classes during the nation-wide lockdown. Pondicherry University closed officially on March 17 after orders from Ministry of Human Resource Development in India.
PU has been making use of Google Classrooms, Edmodo, Zoom and other online learning platforms in order to maintain the dynamics and interactiveness of a regular class.
Students claim that the university and MHRD are making strict enactment of online classes and tests but they find that the new technological classes are creating unrest. Representatives of few schools in Pondicherry University have come forward with some grievances regarding the online classes.
Students have raised concerns and opposition regarding the online classes during the 21-day lockdown period. They called out the 'complications' of preparing for an online class during this time. Google classrooms, Edmodo learning are not new to the university but the primary concern raised by the students is regarding internet accessibility.
A students complains "There are students among us who do not have internet and some are even without a laptop. Education is lost and hopeless when it doesn’t reach everyone equally."
Students have also shared their mental health concerns during this pandemic period and how the online classes are putting extra burden on their already disturbed minds.
University administration, however, pointed out that according to MHRD guidelines, it has released a circular on March 30, ordering professors to upload study material on PU SAMS (Student Academic Management System) which is an online platform to manage entire gambit of CBCS.
Consortium for Educational Communication (CEC) is providing the opportunity for students to study from home through digital education platforms. According to the press release published by the University, 87 undergraduate subjects are available via e-content courseware.
Radhika Khanna, assistant professor and head of Educational Multi-Media Research Centre tells Onmanorama: "All these technological tools are for supplement learning, they cannot be made compulsory. I can offer the students the details regarding various online platforms but cannot make it compulsory as we are fighting against a pandemic.
All students are not privileged enough to own a laptop and have access to internet. At this time we should consider them also. We have technology, but we also need to have flexibility. MHRD is telling professors to create more learning online material for virtual learning but as far as I know, MHRD is not trying to make it compulsory. Only few departments are conducting online classes."
Another serious concern raised by school representatives is regarding students who are a part of HEPSN (Higher Education for Students with Special Needs). With the lockdown, it is difficult for them to seek help to type their assignments or to get volunteers. The HEPSN students do not have proper access to academic materials available at this time.
Apart from these, representatives have also put forward some detailed suggestions on limited portions to be taken during lockdown days.
Shalini, school representative, school of humanities says: "I had tweeted the issues with online classes and the vice chancellor of Pondicherry University Dr Gurmeet Singh acknowledged the tweet but there is still no response from the university administration."
Student Council has also come up with demands on ensuring equal access to academic activities and requested that online classes and exams be halted.
Vishnu V, a student says: "I am facing some physical ailments and I find it difficult to access online sources with poor internet connectivity. Our department has Zoom meetings for which I have to go to my friend's home. Yesterday, on my way, the police stopped us and gave strict orders to finish the work as soon as possible."