To ensure the desired academic continuity in Indian HEIs, it is recommended that some of the actions are taken centrally to address common issues across the board including the governance of the planning, regulatory flexibility, quality assurance, funding mechanisms, and centralised academic content management.
At a centralised level, it is recommended to understand and plan the course of action. For this, a central task force should be created to work on creating a repository of HEIs across the country with following details –
It would then be useful to coordinate with all institutions to classify them based on the ideal type of continuity – Online/Physical/Broadcast/Hybrid. Based on the type, a readiness checklist should be provided to the institution, which can be self-attested and audited by the HEI. The results of these should be shared with the central task force, to evaluate the current readiness status of HEIs to resume operations.
Based on this, further policy and infrastructure planning will need to be done to support the institutions which have the desired readiness to resume classes.
Based on the various challenges faced in taking forward the semesters in times of COVID-19, physical campuses may not resume for a while. Therefore, if institutions resume classes in online and broadcast mode, they may not be able to accomplish all requirements of an academic year, given the various infrastructural and resource limitations. Also, if physical classrooms do resume, they will operate under the new guidelines of the pandemic, thereby requiring certain flexibilities. Thus, it is recommended that certain essential areas documented below should be considered for certain regulatory relaxation, further to what may have been provided, and that these are regularly revised based on the progress of the current crisis.
It would be useful to coordinate with all institutions to classify them based on the ideal type of continuity – Online/Physical/ Broadcast/Hybrid.
Given the new norms under which classes may operate in the physical, online, hybrid or broadcast mode, the quality assurance mechanisms will need to be revised keeping in mind the new normal. It would help institutions, if the central bodies could create a central self-audit quality checklist which can ensure uniform and standardised implementation across all HEIs. This should be diﬀerent based on the mode of academic continuity and also take into consideration the health safety of all stakeholders.
Given the new norms under which classes may operate in the physical, online, hybrid or broadcast mode, the quality assurance mechanisms will need to be revised keeping in mind the new normal.
Based on the initial classification of HEIs, their requirements should be gathered as well. This will allow centralising the procurement of goods and therefore be more cost-eﬀective.
The key infrastructure requirements could be:
Based on this, the requirements could be aggregated and then based on large numbered requirements, a central agency could collaborate with private sector organisations to provide relief of cost overhead to HEIs in the following ways:
The GOI may also identify funding tools and opportunities to provide some financial respite to HEIs which may be limited by the impact of the admissions. This support may need to be extended to private institutions as well.
CREATION OF CENTRALISED ACADEMIC CONTENT
Special teams of academics can be deployed to create one-time content for online classrooms/MOOCs for the common subjects which can then be utilised across all HEIs, similar to Swayam. Additional budget can be assigned for engaging with Online Program Management (OPM) to have a special curriculum built. This way the expenditure can be minimised, quality can be standardised, and eﬀort can be streamlined to create class content which gets deployed to all HEIs, especially the ones which do not have the capacity to create content or conduct online classrooms.
Special teams of academics can be deployed to create one-time content for online classrooms/MOOCs for the most common subjects which can then be utilised across all HEIs.
Apart from the centralised governance, HEIs will need to ensure that they plan the commencement of their classes, and create a well-documented and exhaustive Academic Continuity Plan which should also include a Campus-Physical-Readiness Plan in case there is an opportunity to resume physical classes.
As a part of ensuring smooth continuity of education across HEIs, each institution should first establish the following to mobilise their academic continuity:
ACADEMIC CONTINUITY PLANNING
As a part of the Academic Continuity Planning, the following steps can be followed:
Define scope of actions based on the nature of emergency and tentative timeline after which the institution is likely to return to normal. The institution will do well by considering diﬀerent scenarios, i.e. optimistic, pessimistic, and most-probable, and create frameworks to switch between these scenarios as the emergent situation may demand.
In this stage, the institution management needs to identify the following:
The HEI should identify the policies that will require modiﬁcations and the areas which may need new policies or clauses within existing policies.
Therefore, it is recommended that a new task force/office should be setup to focus on academic continuity.
Document an ACP
Based on the analysis done, create an ACP to include the following:
This should also comprise the following:
It is recommended that a new task force/oﬃce should be setup to focus on academic continuity.
Along with creating action plans, create the following as well:
Based on the plans, and creation of the above, create a project management plan which will have clear-cut milestones, timelines, and assessment criteria for tracking the progress.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Keep collecting, collating, and sharing feedback with all relevant stakeholders (including the coordination committee). Based on continuous feedback as well as an assessment of a situation that forced emergency action, revise the specific action and the steps as required. While one may start with the most-probable scenario, there is a need to periodically revisit the assumptions to decide whether optimistic or pessimistic scenarios may need to kick in at some stage.
Closure of Emergency Response
After periodic assessment of the situation, once it is decided that the situation is back to normal, declare a date for ending the emergency response. Update all relevant documents with applicable changes when things get back to normal, i.e., previous status fully restored, specific clauses modified for limited period (e.g. mandatory internships can be done in 3rd year instead of 2nd year for one batch), clauses or policies modified permanently, etc. Dissolve the committees created specifically to tackle the emergency situation