People First – An Emphasis on Employee Value Proposition

These are the turbulent times when everything under the sun is under pressure. The pressure is to change the normal way of working. The work, the business, all need to run to survive but in a new normal mode. Everyone needs to cope up with the challenges of the new normal. In this scenario, employees have taken the pivotal role of continuing their work from anywhere, any mode, so that the organization does not suffer. The education sector, not being an exception, is following the same norm. The faculty members of Adamas University are also handholding the students in this difficult time as well as supporting the management to run the organization smoothly. To value the employees, Adamas University has launched the program People First. By this approach, Adamas University is helping its present employees to pass on in this difficult time.

The concept of People First has come up from one of the important strategic areas of HR, which is Employee Value Proposition (EVP). This concept is used to attract and retain skilled employees. By definition, EVP means, the comprehensive offering by the employer to his employees, present as well as prospect. The EVP implemented with the People First approach involves a proper mix of characteristics, benefits, and ways of working in the organization. This one is an unwritten contract between Adamas University and its workers that, University will provide value to its employees, and in return, the employees will be loyal to the University.

The terminology has been taken from the well-known marketing terminology – Customer Value Proposition. There is always a conflict as, to whom the employer focuses more, customers, or employees. As a result of the debate, customers need to be served by employees. So, without putting them first, nothing can be achieved by the employer. Sometimes employers focus more on the customers to get business, but they fail to retain the critical element – the employees, which actually, let them achieve success.

The concept of EVP evolves around filling and retaining the skill gap in the ever-changing business scenario. In higher education institutions this is more evident, as here, highly skilled employees are the cornerstones, which need to be filled as well as retained. The private higher educational institutions like Adamas Univesity, which value research as well as education on the same scale to rank higher than the others, EVP stands out to make them count. Earlier, the scale to measure the employee impact was by higher compensation provided to the particular employee. But in higher education institutions this is not the key element to attract employees. The latest research by LinkedIn showed that the prospective candidates not only are looking for the compensation packages provided, but also to the brand, and the perception they build on how the enterprise will look after him regarding his career advancement, intellectual appetite, and other needs.

Organizations always strive to become “Employer of the Choice” for the talents they are hiring. The EVP is one of the elements to win this talent war. During the tough times of the organization, employees hold hand of the entity to lead it through the turbulent waters depending on their leadership. But if the employer leaves the hands of employees, then brand building gets hampered. And if once the brand-building gets affected, then it will have a far-reaching impact. The concept of People First has successfully implemented this process, of valuing employees, and thus helping to make the brand Adamas a truly global brand.

PUSH to PULL: When COVID-19 ushered a student centric active learning model that works

Search “professor with students” on Google image. The majority of images that we find are of professors standing or sitting with a group of learners. In the pre-COVID-19 era, those were the most common images ingrained in our mind. The setting told us about the nature of the relationship that existed between the facilitator and the learners and the way the guided learning process took place.

When we finally leave the pandemic behind, the construct of teaching and learning paradigm will already go through a transformation. No longer the formal setting will be crucial; we will need the content, irrespective of the location of the teacher. The question will revolve around efficiency and effectiveness of the teacher in clearing doubts of the learners. With things going online and “work from anywhere” concept catching up, learning becomes a 24×7 process.

Online teaching is very different than offline teaching. As internet connectivity in all parts of the country is not uniform, online education as of now suffers from infrastructural bottlenecks. The speed in which COVID-19 ravaged human civilization resulting into our adoption of online mode of operating, internet service providers are overwhelmed by the exponential demand for their services. With 5G coming in and proactive support from the governments, infrastructural questions will be resolved to a great extent in future. The “human” part of the learning process will still pose questions. I have given a few instances of what I did while conducting my classes at SOMC, AU to enable learning through participation.

First, instead of a linear way of teaching, I showed them the outcome first. To cite an example from cooking, let’s imagine that we are cooking sweet corn soup. Instead of the traditional method of starting from peeling the corn, boiling the corn, cutting vegetables in a particular way etc, I cooked the soup and asked them to taste. Once they found it delicious, now they asked how to make it. I asked them to note the ingredients used and observe the process in general. Instead of instructions, it was a discussion. I wanted them to see for themselves what worked and what not.

Now let me cite another example related to Conflict Communication. Traditional method is to go through the theories. Now let’s make it upside down. Let’s design a conflict situation through a role play, while one student can be a customer and another a PR head or customer service executive of a company. While they fought by taking different positions, I asked other students to tell us how they would resolve the conflict. They came up with ideas that they had. Once we wrote down all the ideas, we went back connecting each idea with a theoretical framework. One student may say “I think the company should straightaway refuse the claim by the customer as fraudulent.” Then we connected this version of response with the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) and the strategy called “attacking the accuser”. Other methods involved finding audio visual clip from a movie or a drama series or a television commercial and present how a theory was demonstrated in the clip that they showed.

What was the result of this method? Let’s hear from a few learners who completed the course.

“…Not many teachers can build such a great relationship with the students in such a short span of time and that too by teaching online And I was lucky enough to meet you in person and sit and have a conversation with you. Will always keep your words in mind along the way. Thank you Sir”.

“Sir your classes were the most interactive and interesting in this journey of our 3 years. The way you explained us the theories by giving real life examples and in a story telling method, it was so much easy to understand as well as to implement. Your teaching style through storytelling is really helpful for the learners, I still remember the examples you gave while explaining the theories of conflict communication. In your classes we used to have presentations, feedback sessions and it has helped me a lot to boost my self-confidence…Thank you so much sir for guiding us this way.”

Learning and teaching process has changed. Instead of “information push”, the learners need to “pull information” towards them. Both serious learners and teachers who can inspire to learn have become very important.  COVID-19 has wiped the slate clean. It’s now our chance to draw something wonderful on it.

Interesting Ways of Producing Learning Content for Learners

The pandemic situation has affected our daily lifestyle to a considerable extent. Each field got hit by this pandemic situation. We cannot go for a lockdown regarding everything. So, to keep up the pace, multiple changes and modifications have been done already and numerous are in pipeline too. Apart from the regular teaching methods, some new and innovative concepts are required to be added considering the current scenario. To bridge up the gap between the instructors and learners, these newer concepts and learning tools can play a vital role. The internet provides us with numerous resources so that both research and learning domains can become rich enough. E-learning comprises a wide range of learning processes, methods, etc. Irrespective of place and time, e-learning is one of the best options for continued learning. Employing these multimedia technologies increases distant exchanges and collaborations. The term “e-learning” supports and enhances learning by utilizing the use of information and communication technology which is different from traditional classrooms. Moreover, it provides flexibility in the learning processes since it includes video presentations, online quizzes, puzzles, webinars as well as many other methods of learning. The primary advantages of e-learning include interactivity, customizable nature, repeatability, self-paced, etc. There is a chance of high interaction between the instructors and learners compared to the traditional environment. E-learning based on web-supplemented and web-dependent services makes rigid schedules much more interesting, active and enjoyable.

The types of e-learning include lesson-based learning, course-based learning, video-based learning, game and activity-based learning, self-paced learning, “lesson a day” learning, group learning and many more. The change we are bringing in is that by using various innovative e-learning platforms for learners, the learning content can become much more interesting and acceptable.

One of the e-learning platforms which we may use includes LiveBoard. It is an interactive whiteboard where we can draw as well as write. LiveBoard should be operated by the stylus and by using our hands. We are currently, trying to implement this e-learning tool in our classes to make things more interesting.  LiveBoard offers various benefits like real-time drawing and whiteboard sharing, unlimited board space, unlimited groups, cloud storage, unlimited undos and redos.

There are several ways by which innovative learning is done that promote creativity. Instructors understand and foster the creative environment; make a room for better visual reflection since it provides information that learners absorb more deeply; keep the creativity flowing for which classroom layout should be flexible; include unconventional learning materials like ted talks, podcasts; encourage vibrancy by displaying inspirational posters; incorporate humour which flourishes creativity like using some relevant jokes, any pop culture references; give rewards and recognitions which may motivate learners like providing them e-certificates; add motivational posters and quotes; involve learners more and more in team-building exercises which provides better communication as well as collaboration; explore different cultures of learners which produces diversity which is something outside the box. There is a wide range of e-learning platforms which include Adobe Captivate Prime, Talent LMS, Learn Upon, Moodle, Alison. Virtual classroom softwares include WizIQ, Vedamo. Web conferencing and webinar tools incorporate Google Meet, Webinar Ninja.

E-learning includes synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning means learning, teaching is occurring in real-time which means that the instructor and learner are physically separated from each other. Examples include online lectures, watching a live television broadcast. Asynchronous learning means the instructor prepares the course materials before the course takes place, which indicates that people are not online at the same time. It allows learners to participate according to their schedules. Examples include self-paced courses, recorded audio/video presentations, seminars.

The ground on impact we are making is that by utilizing e-learning, the courses are becoming more interesting and acceptable to the learners. The learners are going through a large number of online platforms which shows their immense involvement in various courses. Access to multiple courses, audio-video lectures of various professors from different universities is now at the palm of our hands. To provide quality education to the learners, parents spend a lot of money. Not only for education purposes, but they also invest a big amount in lodging and transport facilities. E-learning resources efficiently provide quality learning, reducing the cost and saving time. Finally, we must say that e-learning culture makes the learners self-directed, self-regulated and self-motivated.

The New Normal Era of Teaching-Learning

The year-long global pandemic forced us to accept the new normal. We all are now adapting ourselves to the changing socio-economic environment. But the process is not yet done. As academicians, we also had to face challenges. In fact, initially, every change has to face challenges. For students also, it was quite difficult to accept the challenge of new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based learning. However, this ICT based learning played an anchor role for the students to get uninterrupted learning. Due to the phase-wise lockdown and absence of traditional chalk and talk method of learning in the educational institutions, initially, it was difficult for the students to accept this ICT based learning.

To overcome this situation, Adamas University, the best private university in the Eastern India, has immediately introduced MS-Teams as a tool of ICT based learning for uninterrupted teaching and learning process. MS-Teams is a digital platform where students and teachers can connect themselves from anywhere any time to exchange their thoughts, ideas, views etc. by forming a group. Moreover, they can also exchange their documents, study materials, assignments etc. by using this teaching-learning platform. Gradually, the students have overcome the situation and accepted the new normal of the ICT based learning.

Apart from that, Adamas University has also introduced a plan for every faculty member to maintain individual Course Files. It will be really helpful for the students as well as the teachers. From this, students can now able to understand the purpose of the study of a specific course, what will be their knowledge addition from that course, what will be the pattern of the questions, previous year’s question papers as sample, lecture notes on different sub-topics etc. Apart from these information, teachers are also keeping track of the progress of each student through continuous assessments like quizzes, assignments, class tests etc. Accordingly faculty members also conducted remedial classes, arranged special lectures for the slow learners as remedial measures. Faculty members are also keeping records of different categories of answer scripts as sample documents for the students.

As a tool of continuous development in the teaching-learning methodology, Adamas University has implemented an Outcome-Based Education (OBE) system replacing the conventional system. Under this system, every programme and course is designed in such a way that it can fulfil certain objectives to attain its specific outcome. This teaching-learning system completely focuses on the achievement of the students so it is very much flexible in terms of mode of instructions, evaluations and assessments.  Students’ involvement is very high in the entire procedure of this system. This OBE system introduced more clarity in the purpose of the study of specific programme or course.

So, in this road of the new normal era of teaching-learning, our Adamas University, to continue the uninterrupted teaching-learning, has extended its full support to its students and also to the faculty community on its way to “Pursue Excellence”.

#AU4CHANGE: Why ADAMAS? Because it cares!!!

  • Do you like to study in an organization where faculties know how to stand beside students and guide them in Lockdown?
  • Do you like to study when someone personally taking care of you as an e-mentor?
  • Do you like to study in an environment where between classes you can enjoy some greenery?

 If the answers to these questions are yes then for ADAMAS UNIVERSITY is waiting for you.

An unseen uncertainty entered in the many aspects of national and global society, including education. It’s still a problem for many educational organizations that how the rapid conversion of most instruction to an online platform or how to handle students in an online mode of education? Even now due to the second wave of COVID-19 organizations facing problem in choices that balance health issues along with in-person learning against the educational requires of students, which may be better served when students are in their physical classes. Especially in different lab based courses in all levels undergraduate and postgraduate students have been affected significantly due to suspended experiments for long time which causing extreme stress to the students by thinking how to cope up with this loss when in future they will enter in to the job market. The use of blended learning followed in Adamas University keeping it ahead of others. Blended learning process is a combination of offline and online instruction. By differed from hybrid learning techniques it uses online instruction to complement or supplement traditional face-to-face instruction, without replacing it. It mostly consists of online interaction via asking questionnaire, student faculty-collaborative project work, presentation, virtual lab etc. Through above mentioned ways a faculty using blended learning might schedule both days for face-to-face instruction (When situation improves) and assign students to engage an online forum post outside of class time. More over use of virtual lab make lot difference to lab oriented course. Virtual labs are simulated learning environments that allow students to complete laboratory experiments online and explore concepts and theories without stepping into a physical science laboratory. Students can try out lab techniques for the first time and become more familiar with different lab equipment that might otherwise be inaccessible. Through interactive videos and animations, students can explore the practical experiments in virtual mode.

Mentoring is one of the most crucial aspects in higher education. Good mentorship provides guide line to lots of issues. Students often come from diverse backgrounds, varying by class, nationality, sexuality, race, gender and gender identity, and many other factors. Mentors help to alleviate stress and reflect the specific identities and needs of their various students. Our esteemed faculty members recognize the resources, backgrounds and understood the need of their students, rather than assuming that students are all the same and have all of the resources they need. Faculty members always provide a clear advice about the way forward, without giving either too little or too much detail. Through true mentorship our faculties help students to recognize differences and feel that they belong in their institution and their program also matters.

 It was reported that there is a huge contribution between green space and academic performance to each other. Green space can promote performance.  Multi-level analyses experiments already reported that students showed better preference ratings to the indoor spaces with a nature poster, a green wall, or a green wall plus interior plants with respect to the standard designs and the designs with the colourful posters. Demographic characteristics cant modify the preference and perceived restoration likelihood however students having strong connectedness to nature rated preference and perceived restoration likelihood overall higher than students with weak connectedness to nature. As Adamas University host a sprawling green campus extending over 100 acres these advantages can only be possible here.

AU SMARTLABS: The new initiative in making in-house virtual labs for the students of Adamas University in this ‘New Normal’

Why are virtual labs essential for the “New Normal”?

Coronavirus (COVID‐19) disease is an emerging situation that brought challenges to all sectors, including academia and research since 2020. In different lab based papers/practical, undergraduate and postgraduate students have been affected significantly due to the recent laboratory closures. Experiments have been suspended for long causing extreme stress to the students. In this crisis situation, virtual laboratory would be a powerful educational tool that can enable students to conduct experiments at the comfort of their home. An excellent opportunity to engage students with technology and in parallel to avoid unforeseen disruptions, as happened recently due to pandemic. Virtual labs are simulated learning environments that allow students to complete laboratory experiments online and explore concepts and theories without stepping into a physical science laboratory. Students can try out lab techniques for the first time and become more familiar with different lab equipment that might otherwise be inaccessible. Through interactive videos and animations, students can explore the practical experiments in virtual mode.

 

Advantages in making Virtual Labs:

  • Student will be able to conduct the same experiment several times in virtual mode according his/her ability to absorb the information even he/she is absent due to some unavoidable circumstances.
  • Virtual labs can be used to help you as a teacher explain complex theoretical concepts. A visual, immersive experience can make it easier for students to get to grips with complex concepts, such as the composition of DNA.
  • Help the faculties to cover all aspects of the course curriculum with practical applications and help the student understand all the points of the course curriculum.
  • Help students and teachers study and prepare laboratory experiments at any time and place.
  • Help the teacher to evaluate students electronically and easily to guide them and follow their progress in conducting experiments.

What we are doing in Adamas University?

Adamas University has already implemented AU SmartLabs since 2020. SmartLab’s virtual lab simulations allow students to work through real-life case stories, interact with lab equipment, perform experiments and learn with theory and quiz questions.

Figure 1: Mode vs Interaction availability diagram

The SmartLabs creation is done by login to WordPress which is an open-source content management system (CMS) written in PHP and paired with a MySQL database. Every new content can be added to it through a H5P plugin mode.

We can design the entire virtual lab contents by incorporating following components sequentially:

  • Course Presentation:

This component can be used for making slides. Course presentations contain slides where one can add various multimedia- and interactive elements to engage the learner.

  • Interactive Video:

This component can be used for making videos which can have interactive content. Interactive video content type allows one to add interactions on top of video clips. Interactions such as images, elaborating text, links and quizzes pop up while the learner watches the video. We can upload a video file (preferably in WebM format and 480p resolution) into H5P for creating interactive videos.

  • MCQ interaction:

This component can be used for creating Multiple Questions which will popup while a video or presentation is running. Multiple Choice questions can have a single or multiple correct options per question.

  • Branching scenario:

Branching can be used for creating dilemma-based learning, where the result or the outcome will be dependent on the choices which were taken by the user. It is used to make learning materials that branch to different paths based on user’s answers/choice.

Figure 2: In the branching scenario, each path can take the user to a different timeline or can later be merged or looped to the original timeline.

 

  • Fill in the Blanks interaction:

This component can be used for making slides. Course presentations contain slides where one can add various multimedia- and interactive elements to engage the learner.

 

  • Image hotspot interaction:

This component can be used for making videos which can have interactive content. Interactive video content type allows one to add interactions on top of video clips. Interactions such as images, elaborating text, links and quizzes pop up while the learner watches the video. We can upload a video file (preferably in WebM format and 480p resolution) into H5P for creating interactive videos.

 

By implementing SmartLabs we aim to:

  • Refresh students’ knowledge before teaching new material
  • Provide a pre-lab exercise
  • Provide lab work to courses with no existing lab component
  • Facilitate online learning
  • Deliver a post-lab exercise

Important links for SmartLabs content creation:

ComponentsLinks
 Course Presentation  interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-course-presentation
Interactive video interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-interactive-video
Branching Scenariohttps://h5p.org/tutorial-branching-scenario
MCQ interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-multichoice-question
Single choice set interactionhttps://h5p.org/documentation/content-author-guide/tutorials-for-authors/single-choice-set

Drag the words

 

https://h5p.org/documentation/content-author-guide/tutorials-for-authors/drag-the-words
Image hotspot interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-image-hotspots
Summary interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-summary
Fill in the Blanks interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-fill-in-the-blanks
Dialog cards interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-dialog-cards
Drag and drop interactionhttps://h5p.org/tutorial-drag-and-drop-question

Below is the one example of SmartLab has been prepared by Dr. Rajib Majumder from School of Life Science & Biotechnology, Adamas University

Experiment 1: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and data interpretation:

http://ivideo.adamasuniversity.ac.in/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=h5p_embed&id=105

#AU4CHANGE: A SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENT WITH PARTICIPATORY AND COLLECTIVE LEARNING

Covid-19 is no longer just a virus-induced infectious disease. It is much more than that. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement if we were to dub it as an unprecedented phenomenon. While acknowledging its disastrous consequences, we should have no qualms in accepting that it has been the biggest catalyst of instantaneous changes that we have encountered in our daily lives. As the second wave of the disease continues to ravage India, our lifestyles have turned upside down.

The sweeping changes due to Covid-19 have gripped all areas of human life. The field of academics has been one of the biggest areas of change. The nature of the virus is such that it requires people to stay indoors and interact with each other virtually. Thus, technology-mediated virtual learning has become the alternative for physical learning. Classroom-centric learning has given way to app-based remote learning.

Although, online interactions constitute the only way to continue learning at this juncture, the absence of personal touches and the monotony of continuously sitting in front of the computers have created a peculiar negative inertia among learners. Across the world, the euphoria that was associated with online learning towards the beginning of the pandemic is hardly there. Teachers, therefore, are having a tough time maintaining the interest level of the learners.

Like every other academic across the globe, yours truly, being a humble media teacher at the School of Media and Communication (SOMC) under the Kolkata-based Adamas University (AU), was finding it an uphill task to retain learners’ attention during online classes. It was contingent on me to try an alternative mechanism. This is where I thought I would pass the buck to the learners themselves so that the intensity and quantum of their involvement could be significantly enhanced.

On an experimental basis, I applied this decided reversal of roles for a course entitled ‘Contemporary Media Issues’, which is taught to the fourth-semester students of Bachelor of Arts [B.A. (Honours)] in Journalism and Mass Communication (J.M.C.). According to the deal that I had with the students, the entire class of 45 students was divided into three groups. Each group was given the responsibility to take care of two modules out of a total of six that were included in the course curriculum. Each group has a name, a captain and a vice-captain. Therefore, on a given instructional day, the captain of the assigned group would pick up a topic from the two decided modules and initiate the discussion. It is worthwhile to mention that the captain of a group is responsible for informing the topic in advance to me so that I can also prepare accordingly. During the class, each member of the assigned group would speak for a certain amount of time so that the entire topic is covered in a nutshell. I would also add my inputs to the discussion and invite members from other groups to contribute their ideas.

Initially, the quality of discussions wasn’t up to the mark and many learners couldn’t express their ideas owing to an inability to speak English. However, with sustained motivations, learners slowly started coming out of their shells. With some confidence, now I can say that the classes are a lot more interactive than what was the case earlier.

Additionally, each group is responsible for finding out all the resources pertaining to their assigned modules and distributing the same amongst all the learners. Not only does it enhance the researching skills of the learners, it also significantly adds to their repertoire of knowledge.

This technique had a significant bearing on enhancing the collective attendance of the learners. Additionally, all of them felt responsible for the course thereby inspiring collective learning. Learning essentially needs to be a democratic process and this procedure significantly added to the democratic fervour.

Participatory and group learning is the order of the day. As a teacher, it was my honest attempt to introduce the same at my school.

While depression among learners is at an all-time high subject to an uncertain future and reduced career opportunities, it is equally true that teachers have an inescapable responsibility to uplift their spirit. I am sure that a little bit of innovation can go a long way in reviving the confidence of learners on the teaching-learning process. The rest, they say, is history.