Going Digital: Managing Academics in the Time of COVID19 Lockdown

At DME, we have scaled up technology adoption very fast and are preparing ourselves for a full-scale technology-enabled learning. – Prof. Ravi Kant Swami

CollPoll team recently had the opportunity to have a discussion with Prof. Ravi Kant Swami, Director – Delhi Metropolitan Education, an A graded institution by GSPIU. We started with a discussion on how the COVID19 pandemic has impacted the institution followed by a deep dive into specific measures taken by the institution to mitigate its impact on academics.

COVID19 took everyone by surprise. How is DME coping up with this? How is academics being handled?

All this happened suddenly and we were not prepared for it. The information started coming from Delhi Government as well as UP Government to us, and the final notice came on the 14th of March. We had just finished mid term examinations by then and hence were worried about completing the rest of the syllabus.

We immediately called for a meeting with all the senior members of the institution to deliberate on the situation and discuss all possible ways this lock down was going to impact the institution. Our Vice Chairman – Aman Sahani ji and Director General – Justice Bhanwar Singh Ji gave me the full freedom to take the appropriate decisions.

We decided to go fully digital and continue with the academic delivery. Initially everyone was using tools they found convenient such as WhatsApp, YouTube and Email, among others. It was not too late that we realized the need for one robust platform backed by a comprehensive technology adoption strategy.

CollPoll platform had been in use for 1 year by now where we were utilizing modules such as admissions, attendance and other administrative workflows. On going deeper, CollPoll’s Learning Management System seemed like the right platform to organise our whole academics. Soon all the faculty members started using CollPoll LMS to create lesson plans, upload learning material, manage assignments and conduct quizzes.

Today, on the 11th of April, I can say with confidence that we are fully prepared for the future. Even the University has appreciated the speed at which DME has adopted digital technologies.

Launch of DME CollPoll Platform on 26th February 2019 by His Excellency, Mr. Michael Aaron N. N. Oquaye Esq (Jnr), High Commissioner of Ghana to India, honourable Vice Chairman of DME, Mr. Aman Sahni and Founder & CEO of CollPoll, Mr. Hemant Sahal.

Last 30 days haven’t been easy for anyone. What has been the toughest challenge for you in managing this situation?

It wasn’t easy in the starting. I have to honestly admit that we, the academicians, were not prepared for teach-from-home. We are the last ones in the queue of technology adoption.

I had a double challenge to manage. On one side we had to convince and prepare our teachers for digital learning and on the other side we had to give full confidence to our senior leadership that we will be able to pull this off.

Initially, there were some discussions of declaring leaves and adjusting it with the summer vacations. However, in the end, the senior leadership showed full confidence in their faculty members and decided to continue with the learning process and not disrupt the academics.

In a physical campus, it is very easy to stay connected with your colleagues and students. How are you doing this now remotely?

60% of the work right now is happening over phone calls and video calls. I had to invest in good earphones as it would have been almost impossible to deal with such high volume of calls otherwise (smiles). The rest of the academic coordination and activities are happening on the CollPoll platform. Everyone has become a problem solver and are finding all possible ways to make sure we stay connected.

Our Deans, HoDs & faculty members have risen to the occasion and moved to the digital way of working very swiftly. Obviously a special thanks has to be extended to Prof. Poorva and Prof. Bhupendra for their continuous effort in implementing the CollPoll platform in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

Now, being seamlessly connected, we feel as if we are going to the college.

This crisis is going to leave all of us with life long lessons. What according to you would be the long term impact of this on our education institutions?

All would agree that education Institutions were earlier very reluctant on investing in technology. It was an additional cost which could be avoided. In this regard, I am thankful to our leadership team in being ahead of time and being far-sighted in investing in the CollPoll platform.

I think the biggest change going forward would be that Institutions will look upon at technology as an important partner. The blended way of learning where physical in-campus learning experience is complemented by online learning environment will be the new normal.

What could not happen in the last 10 years, this crisis has made it happen in 10 days. It has opened the eyes of education leaders & academicians, and made them change their long standing opinions.

They say “Once bitten twice shy”. What plans do you have at DME to be better prepared for such situations in the future?

I feel we are twice prepared already. Rather than a collapse, our systems have improved substantially. We have far better processes and policies then ever before. If the compliance was 80% earlier, I would say it is 100% now. We are already working on the next 30 days plan.

However, one thing we are sure of at DME, we are going to adopt Technology in each function, at every single level. We plan to have a single integrated platform, be integrating Zoom for video calls or Turn-it-in for plagiarism-check with our CollPoll platform. I want to create a seamless unified experience for our stakeholders to get everything they need at one place. We will also be providing insightful dashboards to our senior leaders to keep a track of progress and stay in control.

We hope to continue getting the support from CollPoll team in making this happen.

Thank you sir for your valuable time and insights. For the benefit of our readers, could you please share a little bit about Delhi Metropolitan Education (DME).

Sure, I will love to. Delhi Metropolitan Education is a premier educational institute affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi and approved by Bar Council of India. DME offers high quality programmes in the areas of Media, Law and Management education.

Our society has been involved in education over the last 13 years. We are running the esteemed Mayoor School, Noida in collaboration with Mayo College, Ajmer and Delhi Technical Campus at Greater Noida.

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