NeTT Nalanda: Impressions from virtual classroom sessions during lockdown

One of the biggest impacts of the lockdown has been on the educational institutions. HPPI’s NeTT Programme being implemented at DIET Nalanda, Bihar, has leveraged from the available digital tools to ensure that teacher-training — the crucial part of quality of education  — does not suffer. Ashutosh Ranjan, NeTT Project Leader at DIET Nalanda, shares his team’s experience of using these tools during the lockdown. 
 
The sudden announcement of lockdown across the country to tackle the spread of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone. This was even more so for students and teachers at educational institutions who found their daily activities and interactions – all linked to the crucial aspect of transacting ceaseless education – suddenly come to a grinding halt. 

The feeling was not much different for me and my student-teachers in the Necessary Teacher Training Programme (NeTT) being implemented at the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), Nalanda, Bihar. Improvisation, however, is inherent to human ingenuity. One can say this is even more so for teachers and teacher-educators for whom surmounting a new challenge is almost a daily activity. 
Conducting remote classes is integral to the NeTT Programme. With the announcement of lockdown, the NeTT team of teacher-educators, in consultation with the DIET faculty, decided to leverage the existing technological tools to start the classes and ensure there is no loss to the student-teachers. 

The start was made with the most commonly used app: WhatsApp. It was readily available on the phones of almost all our students. We made two groups on the app, one for the first-year students and the other for the second-year students. The interactions slowly began to pick pace with increasing ease of participation and sharing of content and assignments, though, needless to say, we all missed the usual dynamism of a regular class that we were used to.
As the days under lockdown continued, we decided to use the platform of zoom video conferencing to help with synchronous learning and conduct more interactive classes online. Student participated in these classes with much enthusiasm. As soon as we learnt about the flagged security issues with the Zoom platform, we switched over the Google Meet platform. With the experience of Zoom classes, the students were able to transition to Google Meets with much ease. 

Understandably, with video classes we could definitely observe that students’ participation increased substantially. They were asking more questions and were generally more involved in the sessions. Simultaneously, the NeTT team set up a Google Classroom profile for each batch of students. This platform made the posting of tasks and courses more streamlined while also assisting the team of teacher-educators with assessment of the completed tasks. The teachers regularly posted subject-specific videos, study material and instructions for tasks which were accessible to all the participating students.

A dedicated evaluation sheet has been made to check the progress of the students. In line with the practice of the NeTT Programme, online ‘Tracking our Progress’ sheets are also made by students to help them check their own progress on each task. One of the most interesting observations from this platform has been the increase in students’ participation in helping each other in their tasks and also during the class sessions. This is a seamless progression of the group learning method followed in the NeTT Programme where smaller functional groups of students take charge of the progress in their learning.
We are as excited as our students with the manner in which they have taken to this new medium of classes and we are sure the process will help them adapt to the new normal as they graduate and engage with primary school students. 
 
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