The deadly coronavirus has spanned across the globe and has impacted 29 states and union territories in India leading to a total lockdown declared by the Prime Minister. Keeping in mind that the University campuses with their congregate surroundings are considered particularly susceptible to contagion, SRM AP announced suspension of classes on 16th March 2020 till the end of April. This imposes a host of challenges to the students who are experiencing unprecedented ripple effects pertaining to their academics.

What are the measures taken by SRM AP to combat COVID-19?
From travel restrictions to national quarantines and self-isolation requirements, measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the students in the time of a swiftly transforming global health emergency. Immediately after the declaration of suspension of online classes, the students were requested to vacate the campus within 2 days, so that they can travel to the safety of their home and maintain self-isolation. The international students were advised to stay back in the campus and weekly health check-up by Medical Officer, Dr. Lakshmi Rajyam was organized and was made mandatory for the students. IT-Km Helpdesk was developed to answer the queries of the parents and students associated with the updates and decisions undertaken in view of the pandemic.
Furthermore, in lieu of the situation, SRM AP has sensitized the students, faculty, and staff by conducting a session on 6th March 2020 to create public awareness. Organized by the Department of Biology, the lecture session was coordinated by Prof. Jayaseelan Murugaiyan, Head of the Biology/Biotechnology Department. The lecture was split into 3 sessions- "Biology of Coronavirus" by Prof. C. Durga Rao, Dean-SLABS, "Coronavirus diagnosis" by Prof. Jayaseelan Murugaiyan, Head of the Biology/Biotechnology Department, and "Precautionary measures and handling the infection" by Dr. Lakshmi Rajyam, Medical Officer. The details of the session can be found here: https://srmap.edu.in/awareness-campaign-covid-19-coronavirus/.
Also, SRM AP has come forward to contribute to the Corona Virus Public Relief Fund. Please view the details here: https://srmap.edu.in/news/srm-ap-joins-covid-19-fight-with-a-donation-of-25-lakhs/

How technological innovation has paved the way for online classes?
Responding to the disruption in academics, in less than a week SRM AP has proactively joined what might be the world’s largest remote learning experiment. Given its infrastructural adequacy and openness to new technology, SRM AP could come up with the online classes in a limited window of time. To minimize the adverse impact of the outbreak on the learning graph of the students, SRM AP has collaborated with Zoom Platform where they host online classes to ensure that the academic progress of the students do not get compromised.

What is the present scenario?
At present, over 40-60 classes are being conducted online daily, where the students are intimated regarding their schedule a day prior. Faculty members are preparing online polls, quizzes, and assignments to engage the students. Moreover, various LMS platforms - GSuite Classroom, Moodle, etc. are being used by the faculty to share the reading materials with the students. SRM AP has developed an exclusive helpdesk for faculty and students to reach out to, regarding any support regarding the online classes. Regular feedback is sought from students and faculty members to enhance the learning experience through online classes.

How faculty and management has collaborated?
Quickly and proactively the management and the faculty community became adept at harnessing their technological expertise for managing virtual classrooms. It would be otherwise impossible to pull off this alternative pedagogy without rigorous and prompt action by faculty and staff members. Dr. Ragunathan, Professor and Head of the Department, Computer Science and Engineering and Dr. Murali Krishna Enduri, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering along with support from the management took charge in preparing time-table, scheduling the online classes, and ensuring effective maintenance of the systems. Seeking to bridge the digital gap, the faculty ensured that students without access to internet bandwidth required to participate in live streaming classes or who are grappling with poor internet connections, are provided with lecture playbacks through the Zoom Platform.

What are the features of the online classes using the Zoom Platform?
The various features of the online classes through Zoom include:
1. The teachers have redesigned their lectures, considering the limitations of a virtual classroom.
2. The Learning Management System, Chats, Polls, Digital Pads, etc. are being used to make the session productive and interactive.
3. Virtual Labs are also being set for the benefit of students.
4. Faculty members prepare video lectures and upload to Google classroom. Discussions of the lecture materials are held through Zoom Platform. Some also conduct remote teaching.

What is expected out of students?
In the present scenario, students are advised to:
1. Access to the online classes through Zoom Platform. Students must download the application on their laptop/ tablet/ mobile phone to attend the classes.
2. Students are advised to take the classes regularly and seriously as the attendance is recorded and will be considered for the final examination.
3. Our dedicated faculty and staff are rigorously trying to make the online classes a useful platform to learn from home under the circumstances. Students are encouraged to utilise the facility entirely.
4. Students are advised to use their internet bandwidth thoughtfully to completely utilise this opportunity that is available during this suspended academic session.
5. Students are advised not to travel to a friend’s home or Internet Café or any place in the pretext of accessing the internet.
6. All suggestions and feedback may please be sent to itkm.helpdesk@srmap.edu.in. Students are also advised to stay connected with their respective HODs for recent updates.

SRM AP wishes all the students a safe stay and hope that they productively engage themselves in this online teaching-learning opportunity to maximise the learning experience.
The university is confident that the relentless effort and commitment of all the faculty members and staff to make this endeavour successful will be apprehended, and students will undoubtedly reap the benefits.
This pandemic has compelled us to revolutionize the pedagogy to mitigate the challenges, which is also believed to shape the future of education. We also trust that we will emerge as a more equipped educational system by the end of this pandemic. Till then, hang on, extend the required support to the government and society by maintaining self-isolation and basic hygiene.

Feedback from Executive Leaderships and Faculty Members

Dr. D. Gunasekaran
Registrar

Amidst COVID-19 outbreak, every sector is receiving a setback. Our foremost concern Is the safety of the students, at the same time, not compromising on the academics. With the help of the faculty members and our technical team, who has put in their relentless effort, we are successfully offering online classes to our students. In the testing times, SRM AP has exhibited infrastructural excellence and commitment towards the student’s community by providing innovative solutions to combat the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

Dr. K Mohan
Director, IT-KM.

The necessity to suffice the requirement of academics has led us to grapple with the resources in hand. We have consulted various platforms and collaborated with Zoom platform to conduct meetings, and online classes. The team has given adequate training to the professors so that they can seamlessly take classes. We are extending our constant support to them through a dedicated helpdesk and express our gratitude to the faculty for their cooperation.

Prof. C. Durga Rao
Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences

Being a very young university, to implement the program in such a short time and on such a large scale is commendable. This decision has helped the students in saving valuable time and finishing the semester on schedule under the present most difficult conditions the country and the world is subjected to, that are unprecedented. The student engagement was very good. They were replying and answering the questions. Slow teaching and repetition of the things is helpful to the students. The students are frequently asked for their response to make sure they understood. The student engagement was very good. They were replying and answering the questions. I am satisfied in the absence of regular classes. Of course, online classes cannot replace regular classes with respect to the level of satisfaction to both students and faculty. Access was good, although I had initial problems. The technical problems were promptly addressed by the technical team support. Slow teaching and repetition of the things is helpful to the students. The students are frequently asked for their response to make sure they understood.

Prof. T Ragunathan
Professor and Head, Department of Computer Science and Engineering

We have always kept the academics of the students at the forefront. In the advent of COVID-19, the faculty and management have left no stones unturned to ensure that the student’s learning remains unhindered. We have come together to prepare schedules, timetables, training sessions to the faculty, which has resulted in ensuring that the students are benefitted holistically.

Prof. Ranjit Thapa
Professor and Head, Department of Physics

The term online class is related to the virtual class through World Wide Web technology. The teaching and information of experts are captured in various forms and deliver to the viewers in multiple ways. Out of all type of online classes, the live online class using some software platform is a big challenge for teachers and universities. It needs considerable time to understand the live class protocol and execute it properly by any university or organization. SRM University –AP has implemented the live online class in a record time of ten days. The SRM University –AP has declared emergency shutdown and work from home due to COVID-19 on 16th March 2020, and the live online class to more than 2000 students by 100+ professors started on 26th March 2020. This fast implementation was possible due to the vision of higher management, authority, and teamwork of faculty members. The students of SRM University – AP took this initiative in a positive way and came forward with more than 95 % attendance in the live sessions. Few of the faculty members stayed back on campus, which is completely isolated from the rest of the places and did their best to implement the live online classes from 26th March 2020 onwards. In short, the faculty members are the key makers and the IT team is the backbone of this effort. Now more than 200 live online classes are under progress per week taught by 120+ professors and attended by 2400 students.
The live online class for Research Methodology for PhD students is started on 31st March 2020. This is to ensure that all academic plan of SRM University – AP goes parallelly.
Students of SRM University – AP did a wonderful job by cooperating with the new initiative, and the engagement is more than 98 %. Students are interacting with the faculty members in the live sessions and attending the polling with maximum possibility. Access to the live online platform is quite easy to adopt by any new participant.
I personally found that for better live online sessions, few essential techniques are: Presentation mode should be either ppt or pdf format. Writing on the pptx file during any doubt helps students for easy understanding. Writing pad is a necessary device for the live online class to derive the equation, drawing of a few important phenomena, solving numerical, etc. We need to prepare our self-more before each online session to communicate our understanding in an easy way for the students. Polling in a google form helps me to be more interactive with the students.
SRM University – AP management is always unhesitant to support any initiative taken by the faculty members or students. As I have mentioned that, without the vision of the management, it was impossible to implement the LIVE ONLINE sessions.
I am enjoying my teaching in this lockdown, and I am happy to help SRM University –AP for such initiative.

Dr. Srabani Basu
Associate Professor, Career Development Centre

Challenge is the father of creativity. Training students online that too on Soft skills is a considerable challenge but the online training has spurred and enhanced my creative quotient. Designing a content intetesting enough to effect interaction for a batch of 137 students is surely a brain teaser. The attendance and participation is much better than face to face sessions.

Dr. Anil K Suresh
Associate Professor, Biotechnology

I engaged BSC students on 2 April 2020 from 1.30 to 3.00 pm. All went well. As my fellow colleague Imran previously mentioned, I found that zoom is highly useful under such situation. The students were quite attentive to the class that involved introducing them to Viruses, a portion of the unit 3 syllabus. Through online, we had interaction session, questioning and answering similar to the class environment. I Did not feel much of a difference, but acceptable, under the current crisis. Like Manjunath's class, only one student was absent due to network issues. I also share the opinion of some of my colleagues that the classes to be shortened to 50 to 60 mins max. Otherwise, it is difficult to keep the students attentive, especially post-lunch when they feel lazy.

Dr. Anirban Ghosh
Assistant Professor, Electronics and Communication Engineering

The transition from the physical classroom to the virtual one was never supposed to be an easy one.However given the current situation, it shows our university leaders have synergised their vision rightly with the changing needs of education across the globe. Despite being one of the budding institutes in the country, our university has already foreseen the need for online education. We have been offering the same for the last two semesters for the first- year engineering students through one of our foreign collaborations and I have been fortunate enough to be a part of it. Under these troubled times however, the challenge was to extend the services of online classes across all the courses in the university without any foreign help. The entire SRMAP family stood up to the challenge and after testing several options zeroed down on offering online classes via one of the most user friendly platforms - Zoom. Online classes, with a newly developed time-table, were launched across all departments of the university within a record time. Extensive training sessions were arranged by the university to explain every logistical and technical detail to facilitate the transition for faculties. In this age full of distractions, it is not easy to keep students focussed on a thing for long even in a traditional class. My previous experience with online classes as faculty, however, came to my rescue . Thus mundane monologues, from the teachers in a traditional class, got replaced by the concept flipped classroom, where the students are provided with materials about the topic to be covered in the class before the class and they are supposed to come prepared. The online classes started becoming more like a discussion forum, where students started clarifying each other's doubts from their pre-class reading. Wherever I felt the need for some consolidation in their concept, usually I would give a poll where students would individually answer it and then come back to find out the answer through guided discussion. If I have to deliver any new information (not present in pre-class material) I would usually provide it either via interesting videos or through some funny presentation. The idea is to, not make them passive listeners but transform them into active learners each brimming with pot full of ideas!

Dr. Bhanukiran Perabathini
Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

Online Teaching - a new paradigm of teaching:
From decades of Indian experience of mass-learning, there is no question that the conventional style of teaching and learning has seen serious limitations. Over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of debate in academia surrounding the replacement of conventional methods with active learning and flipped classroom techniques. Not surprisingly, the idea received as much resistance as acceptance by all the parties (teachers as well as students). People who resisted this idea initially were sceptical about its effectiveness. Needless to say, a sudden transition from a physical classroom to an online virtual environment is drastic and radical, and their scepticism is quite reasonable. However, with growing concerns about the ineffectiveness of the conventional education system, it is very hard not to look for alternatives. At SRM AP university, we have been playing around this idea for over a year. Last semester (June 2019), we introduced two courses on Minvera platform for the first-year students. Despite the little inconvenience perceived initially, all the parties got used to the new mode of teaching and learning and it ended up as a success. Although, some of us did feel that the material used should be organically prepared by teachers within the system rather than by a third party. Apart from that, it was an extremely gratifying experience for me (and I can vouch for several others) trying out this new mode of interacting with students. As a consequence of this experimentation, 90% of the first-year students have already gotten used to this mode of learning. Also, several of the 2nd year and 3rd year students (hundreds of them to be precise) were employed as teaching assistants (TAs) during these courses and they also got acquainted with the platform. Nonetheless, the percentage of faculty members who tried this platform was small and there was still significant resistance towards a paradigm shift. The pandemic of COVID-19 most certainly is devastating and challenged every aspect of modern human life. It challenged the public health sector, governance, transportation, businesses and also academia! As far as its effects on academia are concerned, I tend to take an optimistic view and I believe it has come as a blessing in disguise! The pandemic forced academia to reinvent teaching and learning. It has forced teachers to reinvent their methods to adapt to virtual classroom environments. Thanks to the prior experience at SRMAP, we have been very efficient with adapting this new paradigm in no time. Without this prior experience, it would have been a cultural shock! Sitting in front of a computer and interacting with students virtually is a new ball-game altogether but it is totally worth it! However, care must be taken so that these online sessions won’t become monologues. Students who are usually timid in the classrooms are less hesitant to answer a textual poll. That way we can maintain their attention as well as keep getting good feedback.
Some Challenges:
It remains a challenge to engage unmotivated students with attention disorders.
However, this was always a challenge, even in a traditional setting.
A significant additional effort needs to be made by every faculty in curating and preparing reading materials for the pre-classwork study.
Without pre-class reading, this mode of learning will not bear its fruits.
There’s always a scope for cheating and malpractice by the students and that can only be rectified by making learning sincerely more interesting!

Dr. Manjula R
Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

It is rightly said that change is the only constant. First of all, let me thank the technology makers and network engineers who made it possible – the online classes, to continue our profession despite such life-threatening havoc caused by COVID19. This is the first of its kind I am experiencing -- teaching online. I, highly appreciate the efforts put forth by my University’s officials, the IT section staff and other faculty involved in arranging the online classes using the ZOOM tool, which empowered me, as well as all faculty fraternity in general, to continue with our regular academics without hampering it. Initially, I was sceptical of students’ responses to online classes. To my surprise, I found that the number of students attending online classes is almost 99.5%. This shows that even learners are welcoming a new way of the learning environment – online teaching. To make the online classes more impressive, rigorous preparations are necessary, such as adding animations to lecture slides, linking online videos, framing quizzes, etc. All such activities, though time-consuming and challenging, are making online classes a success than was expected. Wish that the course materials provided to learners, to glance them offline, online video sessions for lecturing and doubts clearing sessions will make it a big success amidst the COVID19 threat.
Take a break when things don’t happen the way you want, but never stop form reaching your goal.

Dr. Anuj Deshpande
Assistant Professor, Electronics and Communication Engineering

Online teaching has been an enjoyable experience. As this was the first time for me to teach online, I was very excited to use the online platform. We used the Zoom meeting for conducting the classes. The University was supportive in terms of quickly providing us with the licenses and the training to use the tool. Initially, it was a little tricky to handle the tool, but with practice and knowledge of the functionalities, one can easily use it effectively for conducting online classes. I used a digital writing pad along with the ppts to give a real class-like feel. With the digital pad, it was easy to elaborate on some mathematical concepts. One of the major difficulty in online classes is to know the students’ feedback. It is difficult to track each student and know how engaged they are. To know their involvement in the class, I created some quick ‘poll’ questions. I conducted a survey with the same set of students after the class. In the survey, more than 85% of the students agreed that polls helped them to understand the concepts better. Some students reported problems with network fluctuations. However, around 80% of students had an overall good learning experience

Dr. T. Manjunatha
Assistant Professor, Biology

I engaged my students in an online class this Wednesday. It went well and most of the students were attentive. Since my class involved solving problems on population genetics, they were quite responsive. One student however had issues with the network as she was connecting through her mobile. From the next time, some of us are planning to give the students topics and ask them to present for 15 mins. However, my suggestion is that maybe we should stick to our classes to 50 to 60 mins max. Beyond that, it is difficult to keep the students attentive.

Dr. Imran Pancha
Assistant Professor, Biology

First of all, I am very much thankful to the management of SRM AP and Prof. Ragunathan, for their help in introducing me to this platform called ZOOM for online teaching. It is hassle-free to use and has different options like whiteboard and share screen, which help me to explain the subject very easily. I did not face any problem while engaging with the students. Before beginning the actual course, I have also used a 40 min free demo class with the same students, and we are delighted and satisfied with the ZOOM platform for online teaching-learning

Dr. Writoban Basu Ball
Assistant Professor, Biology

I have just started teaching classes using the online platform Zoom. I find this platform very convenient for the ease of engaging students throughout the class. It is very easy to engage students as this can be done by dividing students into break-up rooms and giving them small tasks to perform. The platform gives the teacher effective means to control the class with various plug-ins. The application itself is very intuitive and easy to access across different platforms (smartphone or PC). The ease of access to this application has given me a lot more freedom to explore different means of imparting education. For example, I can give real-time assessments to students in the classroom and have an idea of how they are grasping the topic. It is easy to break students into small groups without much difficulty and engage them in group activities. However, to say the least, the support that I have received from the university administration goes a long way in equipping myself with this new mode of giving lessons. The University had arranged adequate and thorough online training sessions, faculty meetings, as well as feedback sessions to ensure my effortless transit to this new platform.

Dr. Deepak Kachave
Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

I am not photogenic, so initially, I was concerned about how students will perceive my image during online classes (the image of a faculty must not be distorted at any media). However, I have observed that most of the times, we are sharing our slides. So, my hesitance was gone as students were helpful in the beginning. Out of their curiosity, students tried to annotate while I was explaining something. However, in the second session, as we get familiar with the tool, we learn how to allow only the host to annotate. As I am using the campus internet, there are no internet-related issues. With the help of Prof. Ragunathan and his team members Dr Murali, Dr Atik, who conducted meetings daily to discuss our experience and participation/feedback/queries of each faculty member, it was quite easy to learn the features of the ZOOM tool. Overall, it has been a good learning experience so far for all of us (faculty as well as students).

Feedback from Students

Priya Yasaswini
2nd year, Computer Science and Engineering

I believe online classes are more comfortable as the environment allows us to concentrate more. We have more time to train ourselves and take extra courses. We also can plan study time around the rest of the day. We may not get the personalized attention like the normal classes but in online classes it improves the Student-Teacher Communication. Attending the online classes during this time makes us more punctual and disciplined.

K N Mohan Reddy
2nd year, Computer Science and Engineering

These online classes are benefiting us the most as we can complete our syllabus in time. The interaction between teachers and the students is also like that of real classrooms. At the time of a pandemic like COVID-19, these classes are benefiting us the most.

Raviteja Mudireddy
2nd year, Mechanical Engineering

I'm glad that our university is conducting online classes for the benefit of the students.
In this time of nationwide lockdown, I believe this is the best decision to go for. Time can be utilised well. Zoom Platform is providing useful features such as screen sharing, recording, polls, messaging. The audio clarity is good enough to ensure that the interaction is almost like the regular classrooms. Although nothing can replace real classroom experience, but in these times, I can say Zoom is the best option.

Kamma Samhitha
2nd year, Computer Science and Engineering

SRM University's initiative to start online classes is commendable. We were really worried about our academics and classes, but using the Zoom platform, the University had made our classes lively and interactive. With this, we are now able to attend classes remotely from home which is very much needed in this pandemic. It helps in maximum utilisation of university resources.

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