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COVID-19: Internet speed, connectivity emerging as challenges in holding online classes: DU professors


Press Trust of India Dew Delhi
Slow internet speed and connectivity are emerging as issues before the Delhi University professors, who are conducting online classes for thousands of students in the wake of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
From Skype to Whatsapp to Zoom app, professors and students are using all types of digital plateforms to save a college year and continue with studies, albeit remotely.
The Delhi University had issued a circular on March 12, postponing internal exams for undergraduate or postgraduate programmes till March 31. It also suspended classes and cancelled all functions in view of coronavirus threat.
"To maintain continuity in the teaching-learning process in all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes study material shall be made available on a weekly basis on the website by the respective teachers of all departments/colleges /centres," the university had said.
The varsity has about two lakh students and around 9,500 faculty members.
Professors also feel that given the current situation, the semester is likely to be extended since many students are missing out on classes.
"Some of my colleagues are taking classes through Skype and other online apps. Library has sent links to both students and teachers to connect online. We are trying our best and teachers are using three-four different apps....People who have left for villages are not able to join in but there are considerable number of students who are joining in," said Prof Raj Kumar, head of DU's English department.
Prof Nandita Narain of St Stephen's College said the teachers are using Google classroom, and also uploaded old recorded lectures on Youtube.
"Everything is going on informally. Many students do not have net access but we are trying (our best)," she said.
The threat of COVID-19 has also resulted in a double whammy for the students, who cannot go to internet cafes to access faster internet speeds.
In Science streams, practicals are necessary and there is a possibility that the varsity might have to extend the semester.
"Due to the semester system, we have exams twice a year which restricts us in case time is lost. In the annual system, there used to be a scope to cover syllabus. Even during 1984 anti-Sikh riots, universities were closed but we were able to make it up since we used to follow the annual mode of exams, she said.
Prof Rajib Ray, president of Delhi University Teachers' Association said the current semester will end in April but a considerable amount of time has been lost, and added that it is a crucial semester as final year students apply for admission to masters after this.
"Teachers are using whatsapp groups and online classes to reach students but not everyone is reaching everyone. We have written to the vice-chancellor for extension of this semester, he said.
According to Prof Rajesh Jha, DU has students from different social strata and not every student has access to a laptop or an internet connection.
"There are many students who come from resettlement colonies or who stay in a single room with many other family members. It is not possible for such students to attend online classes," he said, adding the university has 60 per cent ad-hoc teachers, many of whom also do not stay in the best of conditions, making the online mode of teaching difficult.

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First Published: Mar 30 2020 | 6:30 PM IST

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