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COVID19: Bridging the Digital Divide

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COVID19: Bridging the Digital Divide

NAVEED BHAT

The COVID19 has resulted in the closure of all educational institutions across the world. About 1.2 billion students are out of the classroom worldwide. Though nations are at varying stages of COVID19 contamination, there are currently more than 1.2 billion children worldwide in 186 countries affected by school disruptions due to the pandemic.

Education has drastically improved as a result, with the distinctive emergence of e-learning, whereby instruction is carried out online and on digital platforms.

Preparing NextGen Leaders

Universities have to play a significant role in training a professional global population as the gatekeepers of information and guardians of intellectual resources. To do so, an ecosystem oriented mentality will be needed, using online offerings to expand the scope and create collaborations with other universities and suppliers of content. In that respect, the much greater investment would be expected than 3% of total spending currently allocated to technology in the education sector. Much like industries, educational institutes will need digital solutions to solve the big problems in higher education.

Global-scale higher education

There is a need for expansion of universities beyond campus boundaries and inspire diverse learners on a global scale by harnessing new technology. It starts with stackable, online learning, which offers accessibility and affordability that facilitates access to educational curricula and encourages students to enrol in smaller pieces of learning before committing to broader degree programmes. Technology powered formats like mobile-friendly experiences meet the learner where they are, enabling more seamless transitions for those entering a new learning environment or picking up where they left off. At a more advanced level, embracing AI-powered adaptive learning will enable universities to personalize education for millions for more effective outcomes. Immediate and powerful results from online degree programmes have now been seen by colleges. Such programmes also have stackable learning, such as a short-range of online classes, and allow students to close particular skills gaps or add specific skills to reach and touch the career goals.

By embracing technology in its many forms, universities will be able to offer life-changing access to millions more globally. But that’s not the only prize. Through deeper engagements and local industry partnerships world-wide, top colleges will be able to create a virtuous cycle that advances research and collaborative thinking to tackle some of the most pressing challenges we face today.

Game Changer to bring new Educational Ecosystem

Working together to scale up access to higher education would require a global community. Through leveraging technologies to combine together and create a collaborative learning ecosystem, universities will be the hub of this movement, supplementing their own curriculum with top courses from other institutions. Educational institutions came together for first-of its kind collaboration to share access to online courses available from the institutions. Universities can also pool resources to launch a common credit or grading system, to create virtual collaborative learning spaces, or to combine insights from a larger network to shape the direction of programs.

COVID19 brought a sense and opportunity related to technology-driven collaboration that will surely help to mitigate workforce deficiencies in establishments around the world. In India, personnel deficiencies are blocking the effect of top institutions. Digitally fuelled biological systems could flawlessly associate substance specialists from the scholarly community or industry to convey custom learning programmes for students anywhere in the world. Universities would be able to leverage the best minds in the industry or open the doors to online faculty exchanges between institutions.

Turning industry-ready

Dearth and shortages of skill grow worldwide, institutions and enterprises have an opportunity to chart partnerships that equip learners with employable skills. Due to COVID19, industry and academia came together.

Educational institutions are being approached to serve more assorted students for an enormous scope. They need to make qualifications that grab the eye of businesses that are progressively centred around aptitudes over customised degrees. They have to create shorter pathways to new skills and alongside foundational knowledge, they have to offer the flexibility for learners to upskill throughout their careers since lifelong learning is the only way forward. Technology will be the link through this change, revolutionizing what we know as higher education.

Vision of Accessibility

Online educational instructions empower us to study and educate from anyplace on the planet. This implies there’s no compelling reason to drive starting with one spot then onto the next, or follow an inflexible timetable. What’s more, we save time, yet in addition cost-effective, which can be spent and used on different needs. The virtual digital room is additionally accessible anyplace there is a digital web network and a decent method to use while travelling. For example, if you’re studying abroad and want to get a job, online education is a great choice. There’s no reason to give up on working or studying while exploring new and exotic places.

Case Study

With the sudden outbreak of a deadly disease called COVID19 caused by a Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2) shook the entire world and drastically had an impact on the educational system across the globe.

The situation challenged the education system across the world and forced educators to shift to an online mode of teaching overnight. Many academic institutions that were earlier reluctant to change their traditional pedagogical approach had no option but to shift entirely to online teaching-learning.

Among the various Universities of Jammu and Kashmir UT, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) under the ambit of National Agricultural Higher Education Project funded by the World Bank and Indian Council Agricultural Research, New Delhi, has taken this challenge of pacing up the academic/student-driven activities/National and International collaborations and proven their capability and determination to live up to the expectation of New Educational Policy 2020.

SKUAST-K with having seven faculties (Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries, Forestry, Veterinary Sciences, Agricultural Engineering and Temperate Sericulture) utilizes the pandemic period as an opportunity and show their mettle by conducting more than 350 national/international online programmes for the student and faculty development. Fostering Leadership, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, collaborated with leading/Premier Institutes across the globe like Western Sydney University, Australia, Lemon School of Entrepreneurship Mumbai, Ross Michigan University, GIMI University, Israel, NIESBUD, CSB, Bangalore, Indigram Labs, IIT-K, IIT-Kharagpur, ICFA, IACG etc for various online programmes.

Under the ambit of IDP, SKUAST-K has made brand equity in Innovation and Entrepreneurship development by challenging and competing at national/international level of contest and marked their footprints by being the top winners. This University management and the team has proven that the real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the situation (Pandemic).

Conclusion

Being the gateway of information and stewards of human resources, colleges need to assume a significant function in setting up a global skilled labour force. Doing so will require an ecosystem-oriented mindset, using online offerings to extend reach and establish partnerships with other universities and content providers. Much like industries, universities will need digital solutions to solve for the big problems in higher education. By harnessing emerging technologies, universities can reach beyond campus walls to empower diverse learners at a global scale. It begins with embracing stackable, online learning, which provides flexibility furthermore, a reasonableness that builds admittance to college educational plans and permits understudies to take part in more modest lumps of learning prior to focusing on bigger degree programs. Innovation fueled configurations like versatile encounters meet the student where they are, empowering more consistent changes for those entering another learning climate or getting back on track. At a further developed level, grasping AI-controlled versatile learning will empower colleges to customize training.

Naveed Bhat is BDA  at Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cell, SKUAST-Kashmir. You can reach him at [email protected] 

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COVID19

Covid19 reopening: A close watch needed

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Covid19 reopening

Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, continues to battle the Covid19 pandemic. Though the number of daily positive cases is not as alarming as it would be a few months earlier, yet there are some indications of a slow rise in positive cases in the past few weeks. This situation clearly calls for very careful handling of the situation, especially in view of the apprehensions of a possible third wave hitting the country in the months of October and November.

In a welcome move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently ordered phased reopening of educational institutions, including colleges and higher-level schools. It was a long-pending demand of all stakeholders, in the larger interest of the student community, to allow children to return to their on-campus classes after a long hiatus. The move coincided with the phased reopening of businesses in the Union Territory to infuse a fresh lease of life into the otherwise ‘dismal’ economy that was badly hit in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.

The post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

There is no denying the fact that the post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

It was therefore imperative upon the administration to take care of the interests of this section of the society. It is equally a fact that the resumption of academic activities across Jammu and Kashmir was the need of the hour to enable students to interact with their teachers and peers, re-socialise on the campuses and heave a sigh of relief. To this extent, the administration took certain welcome decisions. However, the fact that the pandemic is still not over can’t be overlooked in such a scenario. It is therefore important to watch the situation very closely for its better management and minimal disruptions in case of any eventuality like the third Covid19 wave.

The onus to ensure a close watch on the situation certainly lies on the officials concerned, especially the Deputy Commissioners of various districts. In the past two months, the number of daily positive cases largely ranges from 100 to 200. This is not alarming if a comparison of these figures is made with the figures of the previous few months. But the level of unpredictability is too high to be taken casually. On September 22, the UT recorded the highest single-day tally of 204 Covid positive cases—up from 145 cases recorded a day earlier. This is where the situation demands utmost caution. At the official level, it is important to keep a track of these figures to decide on further reopening. If the rate of positivity surges, it would be in the fitness of things to reconsider the further process of reopening and reimpose the curbs, wherever necessary. Alongside, it is imperative to ensure that mass gatherings are disallowed and people adhere to the Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) in letter and spirit. The administration also requires to watch the Covid scenario in other states of the country and handle the inflow of tourists and visitors to the UT accordingly in strict adherence to the SOPs. The situation just cannot be allowed to go out of control any longer. Sustained and focused attention on the situation can go a long way in facilitating its better management at all levels.

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COVID19

‘COVID-19 and We’: The new book on pandemic from Kashmir

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'COVID-19 and We'

‘COVID-19 and We’ is the first book from Kashmir about COVID19 by Maheena Zehra. The book is an anthology compiled along with 20 co-authors from different parts of the country.The book is a dedication through words to all the people who died because of the virus. The people who suffered during the pandemic. And the people who felt and even feel helpless and hopeless due to the pandemic. The book contains a series of articles, poems and paragraphs in English and Urdu language and, all the writings revolve around the different topics on the theme of COVID19.
For example, the book contains poems on hope and strength that we understand as the most important tool to fight any circumstance in life. The book contains articles structured on the map of the loss of lives due to the virus. The loss in business due to the lockdowns. Loss in education. Mental stress, retained by people of all ages and the psychological problems faced that seem to stay for a quite long time until the fight is initiated against the fear in the consciousness.

covid-19-and-we

Maheena Zehra

‘COVID-19 and We’ contains Nazms (Urdu poems) that are meant to make the human understand his hidden strengths and see the light that the heart produces itself to make the self shine beyond all the boundaries, miseries and calamities.
Lastly, the aim of this book is to give people an insightful and brief descriptive analysis of the lessons taught during the whole miserable period of the pandemic. We hope that you enjoy reading the book and, make prayers for the people who lost their lives due to the virus. Also, make prayers for a healthy, safe and beautiful future that is awaiting ahead of this terrible period.
The time is now to move on and to look at the future because the past memories are only going to drag us downwards. We hope that this book is worth the time of the readers.

 

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COVID19

Editorial | Covid19 third wave: Time to stay alert

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Covid19 third wave

Jammu and Kashmir is, fortunately, registering a low caseload of Covid19 cases for the last more than a month. And it is certainly a sign to cheer about. The second Covid19 wave not only wreaked havoc vis-à-vis loss of human lives, it also crippled the economy alongside stretching the healthcare sector to the fullest. And given the devastation it wrought on almost all facets of life, it would take a very long time to recuperate from that deleterious fallout.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the daily Covid19 caseload has remained in the range of 100 to 300 in the past month while the number of daily deaths reported due to the infection has also come down considerably in comparison to the horrific situation witnessed in the months of April, May and June. This points to the fact that the second wave may be ebbed much to the respite of people. However, it also, alongside, points to the pressing need to keep a close vigil on the impending third wave which many experts believe might hit the country by the end of this month or early next month. And this is the opportune time for everyone, especially people at the helm of delivering a public health response, to take lessons from the second wave only to ready themselves for the third wave and contain the same in its track well within time. All it requires is a determined effort, coupled with a sense of seriousness, to make it happen.

The authorities concerned must keep close track of the daily caseload across the country, especially the one related to the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, which is expected to be much more infectious, if not as lethal, than the previous variants. A close monitoring mechanism is required to be put in place with regard to incoming travellers to Jammu and Kashmir, especially from places where the resurgence of the virus is seen.

To begin with, the authorities concerned must keep close track of the daily caseload across the country, especially the one related to the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, which is expected to be much more infectious, if not as lethal, than the previous variants. A close monitoring mechanism is required to be put in place with regard to incoming travellers to Jammu and Kashmir, especially from places where the resurgence of the virus is seen. Previously, one of the flaws witnessed during the second wave was the free flow of incoming travellers to the Union Territory which led to a huge surge in cases. Alongside, all public gatherings have to be urgently limited in case of the Covid19 resurgence in the UT. Presently, public gatherings continue to remain restricted. However, many public gatherings continue to be held with the presence of a large number of people in violation of SOPs concerning Covid19. Such a phenomenon has to be curbed. And finally, the healthcare sector has to be continuously reviewed and monitored to ensure that all facilities in Covid-designated hospitals are put in place well in advance to meet the possible third wave requirements. Any laxity in this regard can cost dearly. The infrastructure in the hospitals—especially the supply of Oxygen and availability of Oxygen beds—has to be guaranteed to make the health facilities third wave-ready.

With regard to the reopening of educational institutions, the UT administration has thus far acted diligently. While it would be prudent to let online education continue to be imparted in view of the third wave concerns, any reopening of educational institutions in the month of August and September has to be strictly done in a phased manner, beginning with calling only fully vaccinated staff and students to schools, colleges and universities. It could only be problematic to allow the mass reopening of educational institutions.

While the government has to be proactive to stop the 3rd wave from making a dreadful impact in the UT, the public at large must fully cooperate by adhering to the Covid appropriate behaviour and following all Covid19 SOPs in their true spirit. Only a collective effort can stop the 3rd wave in its tracks.

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