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Employing ICT for Professional Development of New-Age Educators

by Prof. Rajesh P. Khambayat, Ph.D.

© Flickr/frankieleon

Dr. Rajesh Khambayat is presently working as a Head, Department of the Education & Research, National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research (NITTTR) in Bhopal, India. He worked as an Individual Consultant with UNESCO-UNEVOC, International Centre, Bonn, Germany. He was involved as International Specialist, Skills Standards and Curriculum [ICT/Business Sector] for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded TVET Project in Cambodia. He was also associated as a Faculty Consultant of Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education (CPSC) Manila, Philippines an Inter-Governmental International Organization in Asia Pacific region.

OVERVIEW

In the preceding years, Asia-Pacific region has undergone a dramatic economic shift. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become one of the basic building blocks of the region’s modern society. ICT is a remarkable catalyst for stimulating collaboration, creativity & innovation, and bringing dramatic changes to the world of work, providing opportunities that would have been impossible to imagine just a few decades ago. The new developments in ICT have opened fresh prospective for life-long learning, including teaching and learning approaches. Integrating ICT towards better quality teaching and learning is gaining prominence and thereby creating a new learning culture in the educational institutions. Adopting appropriate ICT tools and techniques for enriched teaching and learning environment is crucial in this transformation. The desired change involves committed action from all key stakeholders.

Teachers are the central forces in tapping the new learning opportunities created by ICT. These educators are instrumental in deciding how teaching and learning shall take place in classrooms and laboratories of educational institutions. There is a growing recognition for employing ICT in changing and modernizing teacher education in order to improve prevailing practices and increase access to transformative learning opportunities created due to the growing use of technology in the recent years. This article discusses the experience of using exclusively developed Amrita Virtual Interactive E-learning World (A-VIEW) platform along with Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) learning management system for offering the professional development programs specifically designed for technical educators and professionals to meet the specific learning challenges in the varied contexts of the India.

EMPLOYING ICT FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Teacher Educators are the central forces in utilizing and applying the new learning opportunities created by ICT. The continuous professional development of Teacher Educators is pivotal in deciding how teaching and learning should take place in the present-day education system. More focus and greater investment need to be placed on preparing the existing faculty for the Next Generation students, who will populate the 21st Century classroom. The need for perpetual professional development for practicing teachers through periodic training interventions is widely acknowledged, as learning is an ongoing process. While formal education continues to be necessary, planned interventions through ICT-based professional development will also have to be infused to advance the knowledge, skills and attitudes among the ‘New age’ learners, as well as practicing educators. New technologies have a significant role to play in realizing these changes. 

Considering the diversity within the Asia-Pacific region, there are numerous challenges in the professional development of teacher educators in the region. Some of the notable challenges are; i) Large number of teachers do not have access to training; ii) Limited prospects for professional development opportunities iii) Shortage of teachers; iv) Inadequate infrastructure in meeting the training demands, and v) Bias still exist to adopt the new Technology. The author is involved in the ground-breaking initiative at the institutional level in using the new form, i.e. A-VIEW based training as instructional tool, which is briefly outlined in subsequent paras.

USING A-VIEW (AMRITA VIRTUAL INTERACTIVE E-Learning WORLD) PLATFORM

Amrita University’s E-learning Platform is an award-winning free platform supported by the National Mission on Education through ICT (Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India.) which has been successfully deployed at more than 2000 higher educational institutions across India. A-VIEW is part of Talk to a Teacher program coordinated by IIT, Bombay and funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under the Indian Government’s National Mission for Education using Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT) along with various projects. A-VIEW is now deployed at several IITs, NITs and other leading educational institutions across the country.

A-VIEW is an advanced multi-modal, multi-platform, collaborative e-learning solution, which allows an instructor to teach or interact with a large number of learners transcending geographies on a real-time basis through live audio-video streaming and synchronized content sharing. It allows the instructor to perform live evaluation of the learners and to get real-time feedback from attendees on the go. A-VIEW also act as an online meeting tool to support online social collaboration and interactions with multiple users from various locations simultaneously 1.  The major benefits of using A-VIEW platform is summarized below:

  • A-VIEW is a free learning platform for Higher Education in India.
  • Users can contribute to the content.
  • Designed to act as educational & meeting tool simultaneously.
  • Greatly Adaptable (Variable number of displays and potential usage in low bandwidth (rural areas)).
  • Highly Customizable for educational system in using multiple languages and existing infrastructure.
  • Versatile e-learning platform enables the teacher to setup Online Classrooms, Meetings and Trainings with ease.

It enables collaboration on content through multiple options. The users can collaborate on documents and presentations that are currently being discussed in the classroom. It features a white board option, where the instructor can share with the learner free hand content as he/ she does in a real life classroom using a blackboard. A-VIEW allows collaboration on interactive 2D animations and 3D models, unseen anywhere else so far, to provide a near life virtual experience to the learner in understanding complicated concepts with ease.

PROGRAMME DESIGN & IMPLEMENTATION ASPECTS

As part of the continuous professional technical teacher development, this initiative was taken in response to the strong need identified for developing the education sector in India by empowering academic staff to master the art of teaching, using technology and modern learning techniques, thus elevating the quality of education in technical institutions. The training program organised at NITTTR, Bhopal 2, aimed at capacity building of academic staff & administrators for improving the teaching –learning system within the institute. A pilot trial was done before launching the formal programme. Based on its feedback, suitable changes were incorporated in the programme design. Guidelines and modalities were developed for all the Remote Centres (RC) Coordinators.  Forty RCs were established for conducting training programme. The A-VIEW based platform was used along with Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) learning management system for offering the professional development programme of one-two week duration.  The major outcomes accomplished comprised of competencies in curriculum detailing, writing instructional objectives, use of advanced teaching methods & media, designing laboratory experiences, and assessment of student learning. The programme beneficiary included Academic Staff comprises of HODs, Senior Lecturers and Lecturers from different engineering disciplines. The professional development of faculty programmes wa organized in two phases. Induction Training Phase 1 (Basis Programme) and Induction Training Phase 2 (Advanced Programme). The number of programmes and beneficiaries since June 2012 is shown in the following table.

Table 1: Training Programmes & Beneficiaries

YEAR

A-VIEW Based Programme

TOTAL

Induction Training

Core-Teaching Skills

Communication Skills

2012-13

535 (09)

NA

NA

535

2013-14

192 (09)

750 (09)

26 (02)

968

2014-15

31 (03)

NA

NA

31

Total

758

750

26

1534

 

The block diagram of connections and set-up is given below:  

 

 Figure 1: USING A-VIEW, REMOTE CENTRE & BLOCK DIGARAM

Source: Block Diagram from linc.mit.edu/linc2013/parallel.html

 

LESSONS LEARNT & OBSERVATIONS

The first training programme on a pilot basis, using A-VIEW platform was launched in June 2012. The program evaluation shows encouraging feedback & positive change as retorting by all the beneficiaries. Based on the formal programme evaluation and informal feedback received from the participants, including critical observations of programme faculty & resource persons, some of the observations are summarized below:

The A-VIEW platform has successfully created an opportunity for access to the professional development for teachers in the region. The new mode of programme offering was highly appreciated, especially by those who were working in far-flung areas of the region. The new learning tools such as, a) Online Virtual Classrooms; b) Online workshops; c) Seamless live audio -video streaming (Meeting tool); d) Content collaboration (Documents, Presentations, Video, 2D & 3D models, Whiteboards); e) Live Evaluation and Feedback; f) Video record, playback and edit functions etc. were found highly useful and relevant to meet the diverse training requirements.

It is observed that few instructional methods work well with the A-VIEW based training, e.g. online lectures followed by individual and group syndicate tasks/assignments. This approach was used extensively in the implementation of all the training programmes. The standard interactive methods, e.g. role-play, case study, and group assignments with presentations, teaching-practice is having limited applicability to A-VIEW based training programmes. The persistent challenge to be addressed in the programme delivery is creating opportunities for continuous two-way interaction and how to develop higher order skills among the diverse participants. There is a need to develop new pedagogical models to fully utilize the training opportunities possible using the A-VIEW platform. 

Looking to the unevenness of regional growth and infrastructure set up available at the institution level, internet access was found spotty, unreliable, and very expensive; institution departments were not well interconnected at few places. The infrastructure bottlenecks, necessary bandwidth remain an impediment in the effective implementation of such programmes. The institutions where ICT integration is low, experienced teachers were having difficulty adjusting to the new blended learning compared to the standard face-to-face contact approach.

Considering the regional diversity, there is a need to undertake a formal research study on the effectiveness of such programmes, issues and its impact that will have to be carried out. Investment for availability of educational software & courseware in local languages is needed to adapt to the local culture or practices. This will help in enhancing the quality, utility and outreach of the future programme.

WAYS FORWARD

The digital era opened up new horizons for innovations, especially in the field of education and training. The foregoing discussion has shown the significance of use ICT for professional development of teachers. A-VIEW based teaching and learning system, when carefully integrated, can create professional development opportunities.  Effective use of the A-VIEW platform  can go a long way towards enhancing access, equity and quality, but requires long and sustained efforts.

The foregoing discussion has shown the significance of the use of ICT for professional development of teachers. A-VIEW based teaching -learning system, when carefully integrated, can ensure interaction between the educators & learners to develop the right approach towards instructional design. Furthermore, we need to realize that the next generation educators will have to be trained in managing and developing the relevant instructional materials, including the selection of appropriate media.  As we commit ourselves to the post-2015 education agenda, the use of ICT- based tools such as A-VIEW platform along with MOODLE will have to be fully utilized for strengthening professional development opportunities for teacher educators. In other words, it can help us shape the contours of a desirable future for education.

 

REFERENCES

1.        Overview of A-VIEW Platform (2015). Retrieved from aview.in/aview  

2.         About National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR), Bhopal (2015). Retrieved from www.nitttrbpl.ac.in  

 

Contact info: Dr. Rajesh Khambayat, khambayatrp@gmail.com

 

Note: The opinions expressed in the articles included in this newsletter are those of the authors and editors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNESCO, nor of any particular Division or Office.



27.05.2015