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Madras University students log in for virtual classes

Teachers at the department of journalism and communication at the University of Madras encourage their students to check their Facebook pages. They can also ‘Poke’, ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ on subjects and lectures. Welcome to the ‘Facebook classroom’!

The students record and upload lectures using voice recorders, cellphones and laptops and play it as podcasts later on their ‘official’ Facebook pages. Gopalan Raveendran, the head of the department, said the idea of an extended virtual classroom came to his mind after seeing the difficulties students from Sri Lanka, Japan, Thiruvananthapuram, Tirunelveli and Chennai who are sitting next in his classrooms.

“Different social backgrounds, language barriers, English accent are some of the factors that limit students from being actively involved in discussions in a physical classroom,” he said.

Out of 100 students in the department of journalism and communication (DJC), at least 70 of them are active participants in this virtual classroom. They play podcasts on media, culture or listen to analysis of Charulata, Subarnarekha and Parzania that are being delivered by their professors.

Theerka Narayanan, a second year MSc Electronics and Media Communication student, says the Facebook page helps them recapture each classroom session. “There are students who never join a conversation in the classroom. On Facebook, they shed their inhibitions and join in discussions and share ideas with professors. The Facebook page also has details of their semester syllabus, course modules and links for reference and additional reading,” she said.

The idea of using social networking and micro blogging sites emerged in the higher education sector a few years ago. It began with informal pages of institutions and student batches. Gradually, leading universities and Indian Institutes of Technology in India started exploring online forums in order to maintain communication with students in a casual and informal manner.

In Madras university, at least 70% of the students participate in its ‘official’ virtual classroom. “Such a virtual class room helps students to ‘Poke’, ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ on subjects and lectures, especially if they have not attended or not being involved in the classes. These are the most democratic forms of education and it erases boundaries and hierarchies of a normal classroom,” said a senior faculty of IIT-Madras, where students’ online forum posts notes, podcasts and videos of major lectures and debates organised in the campus.

Another faculty at SRM College said Facebook platforms work well in academics as it is one of the most familiar online space for students. (TOI)

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