23 Jul 2020 17:15 IST

Classroom to online transition smooth, says TAPMI Prof Sudhindra

Students exposed to Coursera, webinars to familiarise them; faculty attend Harvard workshops

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown open challenges for the education sector, including management education. Online learning has become the order of the day during the pandemic. In such a situation, the Manipal-based TA Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), which is one of the pioneers in management education in Karnataka, with accreditation from AACSB and AMBA, has been using multiple virtual meeting platforms, and has partnered with Coursera, an online education and training company, to ensure continuity and augmentation of operations, following the closure of institutions due to the pandemic.


In this interview to BL on Campus, Sudhindra S, Associate Dean (Academics), Professor and Chair, Information Systems and Technology of TAPMI, explains how the institute is handling the situation during the current pandemic. Excerpts:

What challenges did TAPMI face while transforming the learning sessions from classroom to an online environment during the pandemic?

We have faced challenges such as difficulties in giving personalised attention to the students, conducting group activities, provision of textbooks and making library resources available, evaluating class participation of the students, and dealing with the network issues faced by the students. Technology has helped in mitigating some of the difficulties, but some challenges remain.

Were the students/faculty ready for such a sudden shift?

We ensured that the students and faculty were well prepared for the shift. We had online discussions with the students regarding the way forward much before the commencement of classes. We have also engaged them with Coursera courses and webinars to familiarise them. The faculty were also provided training on using interactive devices, and most of the faculty attended workshops conducted by Harvard and other institutions on effective ways of handling online classes. Many TAPMI faculty have had prior experience in taking online classes for our virtual executive learning (VEL) programme. Hence the transition has been fairly smooth, given the circumstances.

Which programmes of TAPMI are being extended through online mode now, and how many students are getting this service?

All our on-campus programmes – PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management), PGDM – Banking and Financial Services (BKFS), PGDM-HRM and PGDM-Marketing -- and the TAPMI-Mu Sigma LEAD programme are being extended through online mode. A total of 1,100 students will be using the online method of training during the current academic year.

TAPMI was one of the pioneers to set up a finance lab for its students. Do the students get the benefit of facilities such as finance lab in this mode also?

The finance lab facilities are only onsite and cannot be accessed from outside the campus. Our other digital facilities such as Harvard case studies, simulations, journal subscriptions will continue to be available. Nevertheless, we hope that the students will return to the campus soon. Once they do, we will schedule the resources required to complete their learning using the lab facilities.

Any particular reason for opting for multiple virtual meeting platforms?

We use WebEx, Zoom and also Microsoft Teams to conduct our operations. We have subscribed to multiple platforms to ensure continuity and flexibility. Each platform has its advantages, and our faculty and staff decide the appropriate platform based on their needs.

I believe TAPMI has issued licences to all the students giving them free access to more than 3,600 online course offerings on Coursera. Does that mean they can study any other course other than their core areas on the platform? Which courses are preferred by the students on the Coursera platform by TAPMI students?

TAPMI has identified courses for the students that will be useful from the perspective of their chosen electives and the current and future requirements of their chosen fields. Two clusters of courses were suggested to every student. The first cluster had courses related to the students’ desired job profiles. The second consists of technology courses such as fintech, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and business analytics. As far as possible, the entire specialisations (a group of courses offered by Coursera) were suggested. All this was done after an in-depth, in-house review of the courses so that students don’t waste their time making their choices.

Nevertheless, the students are also free to take any course of their choice. We have noticed that students tend to take courses that are related to their professional aspirations.

Will TAPMI continue with the online model once the students are allowed to take classroom teaching?

TAPMI will continue to use online education model for executive programmes. For our on-campus programmes, we will revert to the regular classroom sessions as soon as the students return to the campus.

Apart from classroom teaching, TAPMI is known for its innovation in the areas of learning like its market research fair BrandScan, and other such activities. These activities require one-to-one interaction. What plans does TAPMI have on such learning experiences?

We intend to conduct all the events (including BrandScan) this year, with a bit of rearrangement of their schedules. If some events have to be held when students are still away from the campus, the one-to-one interactions will take place over the online platforms. Most of the activities are being redesigned such that they can be conducted using digital technologies.

The pandemic has affected almost all sectors of the economy. In such a situation, what advantages/disadvantages will the students coming out with online learning have in the job market?

Adversity also brings opportunities for those who are willing to reinvent themselves. Our corporate engagement (CE) team has been in constant touch with the industry leaders since the onset of the pandemic. The corporate sector has been working to adapt to the new conditions with changed business models, and this is leading to a significant shift in the job profiles. Our CE team has been putting together short-term and medium-term strategies to ensure that our students take advantage of the changing employment scenario. On their advice, we have started providing additional courses, workshops and other activities. We believe that our students will overcome the hurdles and will prove themselves to be assets to the industry in these difficult times.