Anu Parthiban|Sep 23, 2021
AMU Online: How virtual teaching will work at the central university
Of all central institutions, Aligarh Muslim University is offering the highest number of degree programmes online.
NEW DELHI: The University Grants Commission’s list of universities allowed to start online degree programmes features over 40 institutions but only four of those are central universities. Of these, Aligarh Muslim University(AMU) in Uttar Pradesh is offering the most undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes -- in commerce (BCom and MCom) and BA and MA in economics, history, political science, English, Urdu and Hindi.
None of these programmes have launched yet but AMU started preparing for teaching online even before COVID-19 began its sweep through the country, said Nafees Ansari, director, Centre for Distance and Online Education. The CDOE began as the Centre for Distance Education to run ODL — open and distance learning — courses in 2017. It taught a range of diploma and certificate programmes. Later, it expanded its remit to include online education once the UGC cleared it.
Ansari was reluctant to compare the online degree programmes with the traditional offline ones taught at AMU for decades. Right now, his biggest problem is how little prospective students know about this new offering. “A comparison can be made only after at least two years when we have some data, then we can have some analysis, '' he said. “Many students don't know about the online classes. Even students within the campus have no information about it. We cannot put a banner at the crossroad announcing our online programme. This type of thing cannot be done by the central university”.
The online degree classes will be in the form of recorded videos of the faculty of AMU itself, as informed by an admission counsellor. The faculty have been conducting online classes for more than a year now.
Online and off
The UGC regulations require that universities offer only those degree programmes as online courses that it already teaches in the conventional, in-person format, presumably to ensure a minimum quality standard. AMU chose 14 such programmes but they are unlikely to exactly replicate the in-person experience.
A major difference between the online and offline degree programmes is in the cost. When the in-person version costs include hostel fee and travel fee, online degrees require students to get an electronic device and internet connections. In comparison to the “hefty course fees” for other courses, the online Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and Master of Commerce (MCom) degrees cost around Rs 25,000. Among the 14 online degree programmes, six branches in BA and MA programmes each are included. And getting in is easier.
While for a regular degree programme, AMU selects students on the basis of an entrance test, there is no such filter for the online degree programmes. To be eligible, students must have graduated Class 12 from any school board the university recognises. Even the number of seats for each degree is unlimited.
The courses offered are planned to make the students industry ready. In-demand subjects that would hone students skills for securing a job is the forte of the program.
The first round of admissions has begun and Ansari was unable to share data on how many had applied.
COVID-19 and online classes
Although these online degree courses have not yet begun, AMU teachers have had some practice teaching online. The COVID-19 pandemic forced all institutions to teach online and the economics department’s Shirin Rais found that it helps her keep to her teaching schedule and complete the syllabus on time.
“Earlier, there would be various holidays and students would go home for the festivals, come late and teaching would start late,” she said. “But now the live classes are easy to access anywhere by the students.” If a student misses any class due to illness or any other reasons the live classes are recorded and uploaded on the website where students can easily access them.
A member from the CDOE team told Careers360 that all classes will be pre-recorded and that the students' attendance will be marked after the completion of the videos. The students will be free to study in their own space and time.
As for the queries, students can submit the questions online on the website, using the query tab and they will be resolved online. Students will not be able to use library facilities but study material in the form of e-books will be provided to each student and, according to the official, will be sufficient. At present, the website provides the course lines only for the first few semesters. There will be live interactive classes as well and those will also be recorded and uploaded on the learning management system later for those who miss them.
AMU has developed a structure for online teaching, says Rais. Exams will also be conducted online with question papers including a mix of multiple choice questions (MCQs), short descriptive questions and audio-video based questions. The website says that continuous assessments of students will be conducted, whose results will be added to the final assessment report.
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