The world is witnessing a heavy toll due to the onslaught of raging virus COVID -19. Its due effects are also experienced by the higher education sector in India. The topmost higher learning educational institutions have adopted a sanguine approach for the incessant teaching-learning process, thereby connecting students and professors through internet-enabled learning platforms. University administrations have guided faculty for involving students in online classes as well to connect through platforms like Google classroom and video classes supported by mobile apps. As soon as the teaching methodology shifted online incidents of delinquents with misbehavior in online classes surfaced and reported by many institutions. In such a scenario many are tend to be a cynic, online platforms are found to be incompetent, plagued with the dogged misogynistic epithet. Online collaborative pedagogies are seen as less effective than classroom learning. However, looking through the lens of an optimist it’s not the time to choose rather have a chance to be advantaged by the situation prevailed. In pursuit of serendipity in a state of disaster one should have cognizance of the situation and develop insight from calamities of the same scale in history. World War II propelled the US economy by large scale employment, factories, and industries were set up to export military products pulling the country out of great depression, technologies invented to support warlike long-range bombers, and radars later helped in the creation of passenger planes and robust aero networks used today. Similarly, some of today’s major companies sprouted during the great financial recession of 2008 for example Uber, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Pinterest, etc. were created using digital technology to enable businesses fact recovery. Challenges continue to create new opportunities and time demands the agility to adapt and respond.

The underestimated digital potential of India in the education sector has got an accidental opportunity today for preparing our students and youth for E-learning which has a long term effect on the education sector. Familiarization of our students with unconventional learning ways leads to many other possibilities. There is a change in pedagogy and usual work routine of teachers, “Savita a Delhi University Professor connects with her undergraduate-level students daily as per time table through online video class, out of a total strength of 51 students she meets with approximately 40 daily. Work is assigned to the students through Google classroom assignments. Students are assiduously attending their online classes. There are two students who are in their rural hometowns. Due to network interruptions at times they miss their online live class, still not a complete absence of internet in their remote town enables them to furnish online assignments as well as watch recorded lectures.” At the backdrop of some facts and statistics related to Higher education in India, online education opted to sustain in the present time can act like a catalyst for education sector reforms. India homes the largest population of illiterate adults in the world – 287 million and India has the second-largest internet user base in the world consisting mainly of the young population. It is becoming an internet economy with nearly seven hundred million mobile internet user base including the people residing in rural parts of the country.

The amalgamation of two important national assets today, education and internet are capable of providing the following advantages to the education landscape of the country –

Inclusive Education – To facilitate online education internet enabling environment is the prerequisite. Improved access to the internet not only in urban but even in the remotest rural parts of the country has already fulfilled this requirement. –“Our villages have internet access”, during the time of viral disease COVID -19, the fact is corroborated by India’s Prime Minister appeal to the village heads to proactively request villagers to download the Aarogya Setu mobile application in order to combat Coronavirus. Currently, merely 25 percent of students graduating from high school in India go on to pursue higher education. Further, as per a study by International Labor Organization (ILO) lack of post-secondary education in lower and middle-income economies refrains majority of young men and women from obtaining formal employment, moreover completing secondary education is not enough to ensure better labour market outcomes in countries like India where many students tend to leave education due to lack of resources as well as a burden to earn a livelihood. This is the time to gauge the beneficial prospects of the current pandemic leading to adaptation to digital literacy. New education policy (NEP) envisions India to become an education superpower and intends to gear up itself to the needs of the 21st century, the dream of inclusive education can be achieved through online learning and NEP must encourage institutions to include online mode of education so that youth in India can continue higher education. Universities may offer programs and courses through digital mode relating to specific skills targeting employment like vocational education programs on health care, computer network management, office management, food, and beverages, etc. This will require clear vision and strategy and most importantly government support for necessary funding so that this can reach to all at no cost. Currently, there is an abysmally meager number of institutions in India providing online learning which comes with huge fees.

Enrichment – Online learning enables both job enrichment as well as content enrichment for teachers. Learning is an inherently social activity; an intelligent teacher through the digital mode of teaching can help a student to master a specific subject by readily providing literature, digital material for critical analyses and debate. Online coaching enriches the role of the educator from being merely a “Sage on the stage” to a more familiar and approachable facilitator thereby strengthening student-teacher connectivity, imperative for long-lasting learning. A facilitator can enrich an online class with knowledge using multimedia content many times more than a traditional classroom because it can be easily shared and discussed with students. They also get an opportunity to use technology in such a way so that student learning is maximized. Online teaching setup enables a teacher to arrange frequent assessments which can be promptly shared and response can be assessed in less time, like assignments in Google classroom is one good option. The same platform provides an option to arrange, MCQs, and quizzes. Assessments ensure controlling students distractions and focused teaching for more demanding learners.

Digital Literacy Skills – Online education hones digital literacy skills that are increasingly required in today’s globalized society and workplaces. Participation in web-enhanced courses, attending online classes, and conducting research online related to the subject develops youth employability and market readiness. An imbibed computer skill gives them a naturally ready playfield to engage comfortably in work demanding technological knowhow without hiccups. Today the world has become increasingly digitized; right from buying groceries to managing bank account technology prevails. Careers in banking, hospitality, health care, business, finance, and almost every field requires one to have computer skills.

Disruptive Education – This means an interruption in the existing anachronistic education model. The current model requires improvement and innovation through the online model and the current situation of emergency has sped up the adoption of technology-enabled learning. The current time of crisis lends credence to the theory of disruptive innovation which means the use of technology significantly changing the way current market functions. This time it will be in the field of education, experimental usage of internet-enabled learning improves overtime tackling all sorts of hitches, reaching to more number of students. Our short term response to a crisis has the potential of the digital transformation of higher education. That’s the serendipity online learning has now in front of it.

Brief About the Author

Dr. Aastha Verma, Assistant Professor, Ramlal Anand College, South Campus, University of Delhi

Dr. Aastha Verma is currently working as Assistant Professor in a constituent college of the University of Delhi. She holds a Ph.D. from Faculty of Management Studies, (FMS) University of Delhi. She has a decade long experience in industry and academics and has several articles and research publications to her credit most significant ones with Sage and Emerald group publishing (London). She has also participated as principal investigator in DU funded research projects relating to the pressing issues of society like cleanliness and waste management in Higher Educational Institutes. She has participated in the national and international conferences as author and presenter organized by IIT- Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, IIM- Kashipur, Delhi school of economics, department of commerce, Delhi University and many others. One of her research work got participation approval in international conferences held in Malaysia and was funded completely by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Government of India. As an avid writer, she continually attempts to express her viewpoints on the important issues for the improvement of the higher education sector of India.

She can be reached at aastha178@gmail.com or +91 – 9811208423