CHENNAI: First-semester classes for undergraduate engineering programmes in colleges affiliated to Anna University will begin on Monday. Owing to the lockdown, preparation to train the newcomers has taken a new digital spin this year.
Increasing the bandwidth of college Internet, signing up for mass membership to virtual labs, equipping teachers with tablets or laptops and having digital mentor ship programmes are some new adaptations of colleges.
This academic year, the university released the revised academic calendar. While orientation programmes started in the second week of this month, full-fledged technical classes will start on Monday for first semester engineering students.
The first semester exam which happens in December each year, may happen in February 2021. “We have increased the bandwidth of internet connection. All our teachers already have a tablet,” said Sai Prakash Leo Muthu, CEO, Sairam Institutions.
Senior students have already had personal interaction with their teachers and peers and teachers have been privy to their strengths and weaknesses before moving to online classes. Sairam Institutions introduced an online mentorship programme where each teacher has been allotted 15 students to mentor, said Leo Muthu. G Maheswaran, an associate professor from Chennai Institute of Technology said that the orientation programme was used to bring students out of the ‘school mindset.’
One of the common problems faced is to recreate laboratory experience. Many colleges have signed up for virtual labs.
“We subscribed for mass membership for a virtual lab so that students do not lose out on the experimenting experience,” said the head of the mechanical engineering department from an engineering college. Another problem many colleges faced was teaching maths online.
Some colleges have conducted training for their mathematics faculty on various chrome softwares that can be used as virtual boards. Others have a classroom with equipment to live telecast the class. Colleges which have spread up to the digital learning are located in tier I cities. Some teachers, on condition of anonymity, said that many of their students have very flaky internet connections.
“We don’t know if online classes will work for a very long time,” said assistant professor from engineering college.