universities opt for virtual classes, cancel programs

The University Grants Commission, the country’s apex higher education regulatory body, has directed all universities and their affiliated colleges to follow a set of guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Human lives are more important than some delays”

“Universities and colleges have been advised to avoid large gatherings on campus. Any staff member or student with a recent travel history to any of the coronavirus-affected countries, or in contact with such persons in the last 28 days, should be monitored and home quarantined for 14 days,” explained the letter issued by the UGC to vice-chancellors of all universities.

They have also been asked to follow hand and respiratory hygiene measures, with campuses of all universities being sanitized and cleaned on a daily basis.

Hostel students at some institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi were asked to vacate the premises by March 15, while a lot of college hostels are also vacant with students refraining from returning till the end of the month.

Many state governments have also sprung into action and have directed that schools and/or colleges be closed until March 31. These include Punjab, Odisha, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

Several exchange programs with foreign universities in COVID-19 affected countries and Indian universities will also be impacted.

With several cases that have been detected in India, the country has suspended all visas until April 15. The government has advised all Indians to avoid non-essential travel abroad.

Universities and institutions such as University of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi have suspended classes till March 31.

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, one of the country’s top B-schools, has deferred its annual convocation ceremony which was to be held on March 21.

“The decision has been taken to preclude any health risks to students and their families and friends, faculty and employees of the institute,” said a spokesperson from the institute.

Every institute will follow the guidelines issued by the respective state governments and in case of Central institutions, also those issued by the Centre.

Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, said: “We are acting in accordance. As and when we get further instructions, we will implement them. We are also rigorously implementing the medical precautions suggested by the state health department.”

Officials said deferring and cancelling exams and classes will impact the academic calendar of institutions.

“This will delay the calendar by a few weeks and is necessary under the given circumstances to control the outbreak. After all, human lives are more important than some delays,” Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman, All-India Council for Technical Education, told The PIE News.

The AICTE is the statutory body and a national-level council for technical education, under the Department of Higher Education, ministry of human resource development, the government of India.

Cancellation of events may lead to financial and other losses too.

“If tickets booked are cancelled, there would be some losses financially to individuals and organisations. But this is a price worth paying at this time of an emergency,” said Sahasrabudhe, adding that it is tough to quantify financial losses at this stage.

Institutions are considering online classes to help students. “The teachers will make study material available online to students. Internal assessment will also be done online until the pandemic is contained,” said AP Siddiqui, registrar, Jamia Millia Islamia.

“Teachers will be available as per schedule online through e-resources”

The University of Delhi, another top Central university, has also decided to offer online classes.

“To maintain continuity in the teaching-learning process in all undergraduate and postgraduate programs, the study material will be available weekly on the university website by teachers from all departments, faculties and centres of the university.

“Teachers will be available as per schedule online through e-resources,” said the University of Delhi registrar in a statement.

Many other universities and institutions are following suit and resorting to virtual teaching full-time, including private universities and institutes.

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