Dr. Tejashree Deshmukh, Dean-Academics, PTVA’s Institute of Management.
MHRDM, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies.
Ph.D., SNDT Women’s University
Began journey as an academician in the year 2005 and took up assignments as a visiting faculty at various colleges teaching management related subjects.
She plunged into Academics as a full time profession in the year 2011. Dr. Tejashree is a paper setter/moderator/examiner of the HR-MBA subjects in the University of Mumbai. She has also played an active role in syllabus revision of the subject of Organizational Behavior in the University of Mumbai.
Dr. Tejashree believes in an inclusive society where every individual irrespective of his/her/their gender identity and sexual orientation, will be accepted wholeheartedly by everyone and is currently trying to work for this cause.
While the covid-19 situation has put forward many challenges currently, it has also created great opportunities. So, we are putting together an industry story on ‘Opportunities & challenges for universities, institutes & colleges in a Covid-19 world’.
- What have been your key challenges during the lockdown?
I am associated with the B-school in Mumbai which is affiliated to the University of Mumbai and approved by AICTE, New Delhi and DTE, Maharashtra. We are required to follow the guidelines of all three bodies.
Our flagship program, Master of Management Studies (MMS), is a fulltime MBA program affiliated to the University of Mumbai. When the lockdown due to COVID 19 began in March 2020, we were running semester II and semester IV of MMS. Both semesters threw their own sets of challenges in front of us due to this lockdown.
Challenges for MMS Semester II due to Lockdown are as under:
- As per the guidelines received from the University of Mumbai, the students shall be sent to the next semester without conducting Term End examinations and their aggregate marks from the immediate preceding semester shall be given the weightage of 50% and the remaining 50% shall be based on their internal assessment. As a practice followed by our Institute with respect to the internal assessment of the students, we were supposed to conduct the mid-term examination of the students in the same week that the lockdown began. As the lockdown began suddenly, the attendance of the students which is always an integral part of the internal evaluation of the students even as per the guidelines of the University of Mumbai, remained in the Institute. Few faculty members had begun giving internal assignments to the students before the lockdown began and few were supposed to give assignments in the weeks to come. Bringing in an uniformity in the internal assessment of the students, in such circumstances was challenging. Luckily all our faculty members and students cooperated with us and we could implement a uniform pattern of internal assessment of these students. However, the data related to the performance of these students in the immediate preceding semester is in the Institute and due to lockdown, going to the Institute and retrieving this data still remains a challenge as education institutes do not fall under the category of “Essential Services” and hence commuting to the Institute for this purpose is difficult for many staff members.
- The decision about MMS Semester IV is not yet taken and hence there is an ambiguity about if these students shall be declared “Pass” without writing an examination or if their examination shall be conducted after the lockdown gets over.
MMS Semester IV is of 500 marks, the division of which is as follows:
- Project Management (University Paper) – 100 Marks
- Specialization subject (Internal paper) – 100 Marks
- One project each in the area of General management, Specialization and Social relevance of 100 Marks – 300 Marks
For every theory paper, the distribution of marks is: 60 marks for Term End Examination and 40 marks for internal assessment.
Though the internal assessment of these students is done, the challenge is to prepare them for the University Paper, if at all examination is conducted after the lockdown is over.
To be on a safer side and to ensure that our students are well equipped to write the University paper, we have already started conducting online lectures for our students. However, there are students who live in remote parts of the country and hence don’t have an access to digital technology. Then there is a huge problem of internet connectivity and speed of internet even in urban areas. While teaching subjects which involve numeric problems online, such issues create an obstacle as the speed of the internet used by the teacher and the students don’t match often .However, for us it is important to ensure that whatever we teach, reaches every student of ours irrespective of where they live and what kind of such facilities they have access to. So now we are also considering an option of recording the lectures for the students which we can send to them via emails.
When it comes to the three projects that these students undertake under the guidance of the assigned faculty member, their constant interaction with each other becomes crucial for the good quality of research work. The kind of interaction that happen when students and their guides meet each other in person in the Institute, can surely not be the same using phone calls, WhatsApp, emails or any other digital medium. When these interactions happen in person in the Institute, there is a lot of brainstorming that takes place between the guide and the student. However, such an interaction using the digital medium has its own sets of limitations.
- How do you see digital technologies helping you overcome these challenges?
We have already started conducting online lectures for our students. There are some teething issues but we think we shall be able to get them resolved. As mentioned above, we are considering the option of recording the lectures for the students which we can send to them via emails. If the students have any doubts or queries, they can share the same with the concerned teacher using the digital medium such as email, WhatssApp, SMS or even an online meeting and get these queries resolved. This option wouldn’t have been possible without digital technology.
The discussions that took place between the guide and the student about the research projects, was possible in these trying times only because of technology. As I mentioned earlier though the quality of such discussions when they happen in person and when done using digital medium, may not be the same. But at least students got the right direction about how to approach every area of their research work from their guides. This wouldn’t have been possible without technology. Students submitted all their projects online. To ensure high quality standards of the projects submitted by the students, we run their projects through anti-plagiarism software online. If the lockdown extends and the University of Mumbai decides to conduct the exams of final semester students, we are exploring the possibility of conducting their via-voce also online.
All these would not have been possible without digital technology. There might be some apprehensions, certain level of discomfort by both teachers’ and students’ community as any change in the system usually faces resistance. However, as far as PTVAIM is concerned, till now, we as a family comprising of the Management, teaching and non-teaching staff members and students, have succeeded in handling such situations.
The infrastructure of our Institute is quite robust and fully equipped to handle the digital transformation and if the need arises, we can start using it more vigorously for imparting the management education.
- What changes in student behaviour do you foresee due to Covid-19 pandemic?
Many of the students are facing an anxiety due to COVID 19. Few of them are not being able to concentrate on their studies. We have started addressing these issues by conducting online counseling sessions for these students. Students at this point are unsure about what’s in store for them in the near future to come. Our placement team is conducting various online sessions for the students where they get an opportunity to interact with the industry experts. This helps in reducing their anxiety.
- Do you see online classes / online teaching becoming the new normal from this point onwards?
According to me, India is still not equipped to completely digitalize the education system. The priviledged class of the society might be able to switch to this online teaching as the educational institutes as well as the parents either have the required infrastructure or can afford to get one. However, there still remains a large chunk of the educational institutions and parents who do not have such facilities and can’t afford to build them in the immediate future. If at all online teaching has to become the new normal, then Government will have to first create and support the required infrastructure for all educational institutions and students.More importantly, human being s are social animals and if one decides to make online teaching a norm, then we are working against the basic nature of human beings. Teaching in isolation where teachers-students, students-students interactions don’t happen, can never be as effective as the current system of education.
- Do you predict an increase in the number of students signing-up for online courses?
Yes, signing up for the online courses will definitely increase, but that would be more for the certificates or maximum diploma courses. Increase in the number of students signing up for degree courses looks difficult to me at this point as degree courses are subject to various regulatory bodies and unless, an institute gets the required permissions from all their regulators, this kind of programs would be difficult in the near future.
- How do you plan to use digital marketing for your university/ institute/ college?
We regularly update our website internally. We also update our social media channels regularly about various events, activities, achievements, etc. related to our Institute. We have our FB, and Instagram accounts.
- Thanks to the many learning apps, students entering college education are now habituated to learning through education videos. Are you also planning to create education videos, to improve the pedagogy at your university/ institute/ college?
At our Institute, we are already supplementing our education with the audio-visual aids including educational videos. But completely transforming it to video training is not possible immediately. As I mentioned earlier, education without face-to-face human interaction, would be impractical. Learning happens not just by listening to the teacher, but more so through observation. Students observe their role models, other students, teachers and all these help in shaping their attitudes, values and their personality. All these things are integral not just to the success of the students in their careers, but also in developing peaceful, progressive society at large. To me, an online education cannot replace human interaction in studies.
- Communication & engaging the current students surely would have been a challenge. Do you think a mobile app would have made communication & student engagement a lot more organised and easier?
We at PTVAIM, regularly use Whatsapp, emails, SMSs, etc. for our internal communication with our teachers as well as with the students which include attendance, student coordination, lecture coordination, examination schedule, results declaration, Fees reminders. We have a robust communication system in place for all such routine communication. New digital platforms such as WebEx and Zoom helped us in this period for conducting group sessions and lectures of the students.
- Is building a mobile app for your university/ institute/ college among your top priorities now?
Surely not, at least till such time that we get clear guidelines from our regulators about how to proceed with the ongoing semesters as well as about the admission of the new students.
- Does your university/ institute/ college accept fee payments online? If not, do you plan to give online fee payment facility to students?
Yes. We use both online and offline modes of fee payment.
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