Pharmacy institutions, faculties and students have to prepare for a transition from a conventional system of teaching and learning methods to a digital form of instructing and understanding lessons for the future.
This is one of the major challenges the institutions have to face during their shift from traditional classroom system to a virtual classroom mode, according to Dr B Suresh, president of the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI).
The present online mode of teaching pharmaceutical sciences that happened to be during this COVID-19 pandemic-created lockdown period will turn out as the beginning of technology-based online education in the years to come. But students need to be welcomed back to the campus sooner or later, and during this short period of lockdown the ongoing online sessions will become an add-on to the customary education that students used to get in the campuses. Teachers, although they have to equip themselves for the virtual teaching mode, are silent warriors of pharmacy education as nobody is there to appreciate their hard work during this COVID era, the PCI president said.
Dr Suresh, who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the JSS deemed-to-be University in Mysore, was addressing a national level online academic conference hosted by the students’ forum of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA SF). The subject of the conference was, ‘Online Pharmacy Education – a Boon or Bane for students”.
“Once the students are back on the campus, the faculties must focus more on the practical side as theory classes are learned by them through digital ways. Similarly, the students need to prepare themselves for self-directed learning and the colleges must strengthen their technology infrastructure for a shift from the traditional classrooms to a virtual mode,” Suresh said to the faculties and college managements who attended the webinar.
As an academician, Dr Suresh has pointed out that all over India, over 3.5 crore students including those pursuing various pharmacy programmes in the higher education sector are facing challenges for taking forward the online classes. Lack of infrastructure like internet connectivity often becomes a bane for them. He said disruptions are inevitable, but everyone has to prepare for the chaos that follows it. While teachers need to become versatile and equip themselves in conformity with the developments in education due to technology, students should attempt to access skills beyond their classroom teachings in order to become capable of 21st century skill-sets.
Coining out a new phrase, Learn from Home (LfH), in the light of ‘work from home’ (WfH) concept of the lockdown season, Dr Suresh said technology will support the teaching and learning exercises, but technology-based online education is not a substitute for the conventional classroom education. Students and teachers are now perplexed by a thought of their future. So, all the pharmacy institutions in the country must frame proper planning for changes and strengthen technology infrastructure for digital mode of teaching. He said the faculties should be motivated and prepared for online classes and many of them have no experience in imparting online education. This is a challenge the faculties have to face during this transition period of pharmacy education.
As regards various facets concerning boon or bane of online pharmacy education, Dr Suresh is of opinion that LfH will help students to learn anytime from anywhere and they can avail benefits of academic flexibility, ie, students are free to choose online lessons from any subject-expert other than their campus faculties. While doing a program in pharmacy, students can pursue additional courses with the support of technology by learning at their own paces and are able to revisit the virtual teaching classes whenever they want to.
At the same time, online education coincides with some disadvantages to students such as loss of campus life, lack of leadership of teaching, institution-industry contacts, preparation for practical exams, etc, he added.
Dr. Yogendra, director of Virtual Classes in JSS College of Pharmacy, Mysore introduced speakers to the audience. More than 1,000 pharmacy teachers and an equal number of students from all over India participated in the Zoom meeting.