Medium Matters: Experiences of Teaching Online In India

Medium Matters: Experiences of Teaching Online In India

Rajiv Kumar (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, India), Abhishek Goel (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, India) and Vidyanand Jha (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, India)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-800-2.ch021
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Using three auto-ethnographies, in this chapter we have explored the experiences of teaching organizational behavior in an online environment. Before presenting the three auto-ethnographies, we have attempted to situate auto-ethnography as a tool in the domain of qualitative research. The analysis of these auto-ethnographies highlights the strengths and limitations of online medium in teaching organizational behavior. Our analysis shows that medium of teaching impacts the teaching style instructors adopt, poses challenges of mastering new technology, forces them to choose some content types over others, has an impact on their satisfaction with delivery and on their overall experience.
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In the last few years, there has been a growth in the spread of online education across the world. The revolution in Information Technology, the associated hardware and software, coupled with easier access to data transfer mechanisms around the world are understood to be the main drivers of such growth. The US and Europe, in particular, have seen growth in Web based interfaces. India too has not been far behind in terms of delivering higher education online. In late 1980s, the first experiments at online mass education were supported by a national open university (IGNOU) with the help of Educational Media Research Centers (EMRC) housed in various universities or other institutes of higher education across the country. These EMRCs recorded short video lectures on a select list of topics. These lectures were primarily meant to spread education to those with no or little access to physical classroom facilities. The programs were telecast over the national television channels in early morning or late night hours by the national television broadcasting service. The courses and delivery mechanisms have evolved a long way since then.

Today, India is witnessing a spurt in online education across various areas of expertise. Engineering institutes and science colleges are increasingly taking their faculty members online to spread higher education about various subjects, and universities in the online education domain are being set up. The online education has enabled reach to students located in farthest corners of the country, which is otherwise quite cumbersome for a large country like India. While the cost benefit analysis of online education, its utility for the students, and acceptance are getting more attention, there is little understanding of what an instructor goes through while teaching online (Webster & Hackley, 1997). The formulations or experiments in pure sciences have a tangible object on the screen that may change form, shape or color; soft subjects like behavioral training do not have such tangibles to bank upon. This paper presents instructors experiences about teaching “soft” organizational behavior courses to students of management and the challenges faced in delivering such behavioral courses online under the umbrella of a management institute in the country.

Offering Online Management Education

Initial forays into online education in business were suggested as innovative solutions to the problems of earning revenues to becoming self-reliant. Besides there were capacity constraints with existing facilities, and the time and resource required to pull up the existing infrastructure to meet market demand along with the benefit of a niche positioning in the virtual classroom/online education market provided an attractive option to follow. Some management institutes converted their on-campus long term management development programs in to online long term management development programs to increase their reach and increase revenue streams for the institute (Das, Chittoor, & Ray, 2007). Initially, most such efforts took place with increased spread of delivery infrastructure. Collaborations were set up with technology and marketing partners who were usually firms in the technology solutions or in the field of software development. Within a period of five years, the revenues from online education in one institute, for example, have grown to Rs. 110 million and now contribute nearly one-fourth of the total revenue generated by the institute from its various programs. It has become an important contributor, and if one were to think rationally about running an expanding management institute, it is likely to stay.

Various categories of audience have put forth a demand for interactive education methodology especially in management (e.g., Abeysekara, 2008). The demand for interactive classes seems to be a common factor in the classroom as well as online teaching. This interaction has to be a two-way process if the dominant teaching philosophy is participant-centered learning and it uses case teaching or discussions as the vehicle for instruction. The best management institutes in India are known to use case method of instruction extensively across various sub-disciplines of management. Behavioral sciences in these institutes comprise mainly of organizational behaviour, organizational design, cross-cultural management and other soft-skills related subjects. Physical classroom instruction in these subject areas generally takes place through a mix of case based discussions, simulations and other exercises to facilitate interaction and experiential learning. All three authors of this paper are colleagues in the same area or sub-group of management studies and have been regularly dealing with online as well as physical classrooms.

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