Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia
For Nahid Parween, a first year nursing student of two-year diploma course in Revised Auxilliary Nurse and Midwifery (RANM), learning through a Virtual Classroom is a novel experience. The digital mode of learning from a remote centre is very useful because of its novelty and interactive nature.
Similarly, Pooja Kumar, also first year student of RANM, feels that Virtual Classrooms give students a sense of pride in learning as they also get an opportunity to showcase their knowledge before other nursing schools spread across Bihar. Virtual Classrooms also help them in revising the course studied in regular classes. Both Nahid and Pooja are undergoing nursing training at ANM School, Prabhawati Hospital, Gaya, which is one of the 29 nursing institutions imparting nursing education through Virtual Classrooms in Bihar.
Similarly, Sudha Priya and Priti Kumari, first year students of RANM at ANM School, Prabhawati Hospital, Gaya, feel that students practise more before making their on-camera presentation. “The demonstration on camera makes us more careful and responsible. Virtual Classrooms have an advantage in conducting both theory classes and practical demonstrations with the aid of technology,” they say.
Students of GNMTC (General Nursing and Midwifery Training Centre, Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College & Hospital) couldn’t agree more. According to Anjali Kumari and Aarti Kumari, final year students at GNMTC, theory classes substantiated by the figures and video demonstrations have boosted their confidence and made them more competent.
Ankita Kumari and Bhavna Kumari also find virtual classrooms helpful in covering the topics missed during their regular classes. Both of them appreciate that the demonstration of skills is followed by the return demonstration.
“The return demonstration increases grasping power as it acts as a feedback mechanism. Return demonstrations give us the confidence and experience that would help us in skilled delivery of our services. Return demonstration acknowledges the fact that we have learned that much,” say Ankita and Bhavna.
Bihar became the first Indian state to experiment with the idea of setting up Virtual Classrooms for strengthening nursing institutions in the state. It was necessitated due to lack of teachers in nursing education coupled with lack of adequate infrastructure, as was found out in an assessment in 2011 by Jhpiego, a global health NGO.
The Department for International Development (DFID) provided funding through Jhpiego for technical infrastructure sourced from Cisco till June 2014. However, after 2014, the funding is being provisioned through Bihar Technical Assistant Support Team (BTAST).
Patna-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) College of Nursing was selected as the State Nodal Centre for Nursing Service Excellence in Bihar. IGIMS serves as the instructor location for 29 nursing schools in Bihar spread across 21 ANM Schools, 6 GNM Schools and 2 nursing colleges, including the one located at IGIMS. The instructor location at IGIMS has three branches, including one for Virtual Classroom, another for the State Nodal Centre, the third for the Skills Lab for demonstration using anatomic models.
The Virtual Classrooms schedule is a 72-hour package covering 42 midwifery topics taught over 42 working days. Generally, the Virtual Classrooms run for one to two hours daily. On a routine basis around five faculty members of the IGIMS are involved in conducting classes for Virtual Classrooms.
Dr Pallavi Sinha, State Team Leader, Jhiepgo, says, “Virtual Classrooms have been designed to improve teaching skills, especially the midwifery subjects for ANM and GNM students.” Adds her team member Sandeep Sharma, Programme Officer, Jhiepgo, (Gaya and Patna): “Faculty can easily deliver the message to the students through audio-visual aids, which are effective in catching the attention of students during a Virtual Class.”
In the case of students, it’s not just their attendance, but also their attention, which is of vital importance. Since there is supervision by cameras, students try to be more attentive as they are aware of being noticed by other students and teachers present across the state. The scope of cross learning is vast. Since a large number of students are taught in one go, the opportunity of interaction is on a larger canvass spread across many institutions and it offers the students the chance to clear their doubts and raise queries. They can even interact with fellow students and learn from each other’s queries.
Virtual Classrooms are equally helpful for teachers. Ritu Kumari Sinha, Prinicipal, ANM School, Prabhawati Hospital, explains, “Individually teachers have limited knowledge, but collectively they can demonstrate much more skills. More knowledge is exchanged through Virtual Classrooms.”
Professor Anuja Daniel, Principal, IGIMS College of Nursing, adds: “Besides, Virtual Classrooms help in maintaining the quality of training by ensuring uniformity on any particular topic.”
Virtual Classrooms also help in identifying gaps in the educational package to make teaching more fruitful. While attending Virtual Classrooms, students are equipped with microphones for interaction, and classrooms proceedings are recorded for future research and improvement and also to highlight grievances.
Samapti Pal, a midwifery tutor (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) at IGIMS College of Nursing, adds, “In fact, Virtual Classrooms are futuristic because they connect statewide institutions on a common platform with courses extending from midwifery to other subjects like medical surgical nursing and fundamentals of nursing. “
If Virtual Classrooms are popular today, it’s also to some measure due to daily monitoring at the backend. Apart from liaising with the state government as and when required, BTAST has been monitoring the Virtual Classroom programme including pre- and post- assessment of nursing trainees in ANM and GNM schools housed in 29 institutions across the state.
Dr Satyajit Chowdhury, Director, Health, BTAST, says, “BTAST organises monthly coordination meetings with Jphiego to take stock of Virtual Classrooms programme and assess the current status and identify bottlenecks,” he says.
The sustainability of Virtual Classrooms initiative beyond March 2016 would be ensured by hiring an agency for operating and maintaining them. By then Virtual Classrooms would have been handed over to their respective ANM and GNM schools and the nodal nursing college.