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.
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