AWS Toppr School OS Webinar: Challenges, changes and capabilities of hybrid classrooms

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With school closures and learning loss across the world, it’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has created the largest disruption of educational systems in history. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, schools are looking at technology-based solutions to provide quality education to students and to compensate for the loss of the traditional, interactive classroom. One of these solutions is the hybrid classroom - a blend of face-to-face classroom instruction combined with online learning.

Hybrid Classrooms – Futuristic School Learning was chosen as the theme for the AWS Toppr School OS Webinar, hosted by YourStory. Panellists Rohitashwa Choudhary, Senior Vice President, Toppr; Durga Kakaraparthi, Head, AWS Solutions Architecture, AISPL, Public Sector;

Dhriti Malhotra, Director Principal, Manav Rachna International School, Gurugram and moderator Shivanni Muthanna engaged in an insightful conversation on hybrid classrooms. The hour-long session also included interactive poll questions, informative videos and a live Q&A session.

Here are some highlights from the conversation. To watch the webinar, click here

From blackboards to smartboards

The evolution of classrooms started long before the pandemic struck. Technology had already begun to make inroads into schools and education. Dhriti pointed out that technology has fundamentally changed the way we learn. From a board and chalk to a laptop and from an abacus to a smartphone, the educational experience has evolved for both teachers and students. However, she also stated that while technology has helped education take great strides, there is still a need for the classroom environment for students to learn – either through physical or hybrid classrooms.

Toppr’s Rohitashwa narrowed down the challenges in setting up the hybrid model - idea sharing and training of end users. The solutions to these challenges will affect engagement in the classrooms. Teachers must understand how to use the tools available to effectively teach via the hybrid model. Speaking of deploying the Toppr School OS platform in over 250 schools in the last year, he said, “The schools that succeeded the most were the ones which invested a lot of time in training their teachers.” He also spoke about the general fear and hesitancy of schools in adopting this new educational model. Rohit also expounded on idea sharing as the second greatest challenge. He shared an anecdote, where he had joined a hybrid classroom, where the teacher used a tool like Google Maps to teach distance covered versus displacement. While this is quite an innovative method, he shared how it highlighted a gap within the larger teaching community who are unaware of these tools or how to use them effectively.

How technology and AWS are contributing to education

While Durga agreed with Dhriti that technology wasn’t new in education, he said the only way to bridge the digital gap in the country was to pay attention to the geographical distribution of students, and ensure all had equal access. He said, “If you want to be able to educate and empower the millions of students within India, we need to be able to use digital technologies to be able to reach out to them and bring equality.”

He also pointed out that technology would always be an enabler in the context of education. It could never replace traditional teaching. With learning management systems being around for a long time, he believes that the first wave of the pandemic empowered people to pick up these existing systems and use them in order to continue the educational process during lockdowns. Durga shared that this year, companies like Toppr School OS and educational institutes have already taken a step ahead to make these online learning platforms even more engaging and efficient, build better content and improve the quality of education.

Power of hybrid classes

The future of education, according to Rohitashwa, looks exciting. While there might be multiple new scenarios in education given the state of flux the world is currently in, he believes that hybrid classrooms will lead the way in personalising education for each student – specifically learning aids such as videos and simulations. He said, “If every student has a device of their own, technology can work wonders in figuring out the improvement areas for each and every student.” Hybrid classrooms can also overcome psychological barriers that students may struggle with, such as being afraid to ask questions.

Speaking about the rapid tech adoption in schools, Dhriti emphasised that teachers need to be empowered and constantly motivated as a lot of work remains to be done on the training front, which needs to go beyond tech. Teachers need to learn how to engage students. She shared, “There are times when the class is underway, a student is logged in, you call out the name and you do not get a response.” Additionally, she pointed out that schools are involving teachers, students and parents to make this new model effective and believes that hybrid classes are here to stay.

According to Durga, the National Education Policy (NEP) outlines the overall vision of India’s new education system. The emphasis, he says, will be on practical knowledge and guidelines will be formed around that. The focus should also be to raise the standard of education at institutional and faculty levels. With the NEP, he believes that the stage is set for the hybrid and blended models of learning, which will give students in remote corners of India access to quality education.


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