Interview

Digital Mode of Academic Delivery Here to Stay| Dr. Sunil Kr. Pandey

Dr. Sunil Kr. Pandey | Director (IT) – I.T.S Ghaziabad explains the digital models and how they can help offer affordable education

What are your roles and responsibilities in managing the IT infrastructure of your organization?

I joined this institute in the year 1999, and apart from academics, I was given the responsibility of looking after the ICT infrastructure. We started with 2 very small computer labs with 25 machines but now today we have one of the best ICT infrastructures in place. We are having connectivity with over 4,000 machines connected in wired and wireless mode.

I am responsible for planning, designing implementation of this entire ICT infrastructure and enforcing security mechanisms so that seamless connectivity and access of all the resources is provided to all the users.

What all functions are involved in managing the IT programs of your institution?

IT contributes to around 2200 students combining these 3 programs, BBA, BCA and MCA. My responsibility includes these university affiliated academic programs, the course curriculum,  semester planning, ensuring smooth functioning of classes and academic planning.

We do conduct lots of activities, including sports activity, industrial widgets. We have foreign tours for the students also, and we have 14 clubs in which, we have students team mentored by faculty members. This entire activity of this UG campus and IT is to keep everyone in the campus engaged. 

My role is primarily to guide, to see that academics run as it should be, to see the coordination with university with affiliating bodies. Since we never compromise with the quality, our campuses are NAAC accredited with A grade, and our PG programs are NBA accredited. We are also among the top 100 institutions of NIRF, Ministry of HRD Government of India.

What is the role of digital technologies in the current situation?

The most impacted sector would have been the academia if people would have not accepted it in right spirit. We adopted technology well in advance, so that also helped us. Initially it was a challenge because we were not prepared for such situation, and we had to train the faculty members. We had to convince our students and within 48 hours, we completely migrated from conventional mode of academic delivery to the digital mode.

We have conducted 6,500 online sessions for the students, three quizzes in all the courses, all the subjects, online workshops by industry people. We had 17 alumni talks from all across the world and then we had three very good events. 

We had one, a very good successful program on cybercrime where 900 plus people joined on WebEx platform for us, and we had a faculty development program as well. 

What are the digital models for education that you feel would finally emerge & stabilize?

Initially, we started with forced digital transformation, but then very soon, people who had no experience realized that technology adoption is definitely going to be a key in time to come. Even if things are back to normal, this digital medium, this technology is going to remain there. Now this technology has given alternate ways to the people, to the administration, to the faculty, to all the stake holders, to keep things on. Those who cannot come physically, they can at least interact online. We never thought that activity like admissions would have also been taken care of in online mode, and now internships are also online.

So this entire conventional system is going to be enabled by technology and going to be re-aligned by exploring the possible adoption and inclusion of technology.Assessment is one of the biggest challenges because most of the institutions are not equipped with that kind of infrastructure.

What are the business models & operating procedures of this model for different stakeholders in the education ecosystem ?

The culture of academic delivery, the culture of being engaged or being involved into the process was a faculty driven model and now we are trying to make it learner driven model. Now this is going to take a paradigm shift, where this model will not be the delivery mode model, but it will be a participative model where students, faculty will be engaged. This model is going to be more participative than that conventional uni-mode model where faculty comes to the class, delivers and goes back. 

And of course, stakeholder participation is going to increase and that will definitely help in redefining the processes and re-alignment of the processes. Institutions will also be required to plug into those things so that they can address those probable concerns. That is their feedback.

What are your key takeaways in terms of digital transformation of organizations?

Technology is going to be the key enabler. The second is online mode of academic delivery is going to remain. It will redefine the existing processes. It will make a shift in paradigm. The third is the security of ICT infrastructure because still now academic institution have not been the target of the cyber criminals but now this massive technology adoption has definitely shifted their focus on this.

In a more digital education model, how would you ensure the security aspect?

There should be an awareness campaign so that we tell students, faculty, staff, everyone that how to use this ICT setup.Training and up-skilling is going to be very crucial. Besides we have planned technical training, regular monitoring of our server, our ICT infrastructure and make sure that appropriate security policies are in place.

How would you ensure education affordability to students from all economic strata especially in the current situation?

We can design certain courses and we can offer them in online mode, because this online mode does not involve other recurring expenses. The expense in building up that course and that too, if enrollment increases, the cost can be spread across. We have already started discussion on this, starting with some common courses which are important for everyone  through MOOCs. We have already created our MOOC environment. Having our own course will give us that flexibility, that freedom to design those courses. Then accordingly assist the cost and offer in the best possible way so that maximum number of people can enroll and can get it.

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