Interactions help faculty improve sessions
Faculty Speak: In this section, we shift the spotlight on our faculty as they share their online teaching experience.
Arun Bhattachrya, who teaches Industrial Marketing at Pondicherry University, has 17 years of corporate experience in managing design and marketing efforts related to systems, products and services. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies from Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (4th year). Prior to venturing into online teaching, he taught in conventional classroom set-up for 5 years teaching subjects in business management, marketing, entrepreneurship and strategy.
In this interview, Arun shared his online teaching journey, thus far:
Do share with us how long you have been into online teaching.
This is my first venture into online teaching, prior to this, I taught in a classroom for 5 years and come with 17 years corporate experience. What I have noticed is that depending on the target audience, the approach to teaching differs, if the class has working professionals or practitioners then there is an emphasis on theory-to-practice/example-based learning, lots of contemporary scenarios are shared in the classroom. If the students are primarily fresh graduates, then there is a focus on applications of theories and concepts and internalisation of the concepts through examples and cases to ensure concepts are clearly understood.
How has your online teaching experience been so far?
It has been a good experience, online teaching involves a need for modification of the “teaching stance”. For instance, when recording a session, I am looking at what I call the one-eyed monster (the camera) [laughs] instead of students. But over time, I have learnt to visualise a classroom full of students and that has helped me prepare for my lectures, because I try to pre-empt the possible questions that can come up while a topic is being taught. And this is where an understanding of the target audience plays a vital role. I try to customise the methodology to the target audience [students], for practitioners there’s theory and concepts supplemented with more examples based on the current trends and present-day scenarios and for fresher’s the emphasis is on theory as concepts are being introduced with ample examples that aid in learning these concepts.
What is the one thing that you absolutely love about online teaching?
Teaching in a classroom set-up is spontaneous, once a lecture is delivered, it’s done. That’s not the case in an online session. We get a chance to review the session and in case, we need to correct ourselves or add something that was missed, it can be done accordingly.
Another advantage in an online teaching is that there is a focused learning experience built, because each session covers one topic or concept. This gives us [faculty] a chance to delve deeper into a topic and cover all possible angles related to that topic/concept.
Did you face any difficulties getting accustomed to the online medium? And how did you overcome them?
Since each session covers one topic, sometimes it handicaps, in that, in a management course, there are several topical overlaps and sometimes when covering a single topic one cannot bring in the linkage to other related or cross-functional topics. However, this can possibly be overcome, by covering single topics and then having a session that brings out the linkages between key topics. This way, the learner gets the best of both worlds – in-depth knowledge of each topic and understanding linkages and correlations of concepts and topics.
Visualisation of a target audience while delivering the lecture has helped me a lot, initially the session duration would be just 7-8mins, now it goes up to 12-15mins. So, instead of going on a monologue, I imagine my audience is right in the recording room, and asking me pertinent questions relevant to the topic at hand. When I work with that premise – second-guess expected questions – then the lecture delivery will change accordingly.
What are the benefits of online teaching for faculty members like you?
In classroom learning, there is sometimes a chance of dilution of certain concepts because of a multitude of interactive discussions that is avoided in the online teaching as we cover one concept/topic per session. This focused learning ensures that the concept is drilled into the students mind as we cover all possible angles, questions pertaining to the topic. It also equips students with deep knowledge on the topic.
On a national level, how do you think online learning can contribute to the education system?
I think so. Online learning is able to reach out to people who can’t afford to attend regular college both in terms of monetary and time aspects. I have sometimes seen working professionals in my class who attended the class but, were too tired to concentrate. This is ideal for executives as they can learn at their convenience. Instead of just studying out of the books [as in conventional distance courses] online learning supplements this with audio/video sessions that ensure that the student understands the concept.
Could you share your most memorable online teaching experience – an instance that has stayed with you?
The recording sessions, I’d say because when I am recording the sessions, the videographers become my LIVE audience. They not only help me keep time, but their expressions can be quite encouraging, because even though it is a recorded session, it can get monotonous. However, with them in the room, it creates a classroom vibe.
What would be your advice to students learning online?
I’d suggest that when they watch a video or listen-in to an audio session, jot down pointers, questions or doubt you may have and when the mentoring session is conducted share these with the class. Moreover, staying in contact with faculty through email or phone or chat helps reinforce what is learnt. Enhances the interactivity within the class and encourages all to contribute and learn.
Being in touch with the faculty helps not just students, but also provides insights to us [faculty] on how to better our online course delivery.
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