Subsequent to the spread of Covid-19 in 2020, governments and institutions all over the globe brought in significant provisions to continue remote teaching-learning at a distance during the pandemic, and individual scholars and refereed journals brought out research publications and guidelines to deal with the new normal. Important research and professional guidelines included that of Bates (2020), Daniel (2020), Hodges et al (2020), Kanwar and Daniel (2020), McCarty (2020), Mishra and Panda (2020), Panda (2020), TeachOnline.Ca (2020), UNESCO (2020), Weller (2020), and some international journals devoted special issues on Covid-19 and higher and further education – Journal of Learning for Development, 2020, 7(3); Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 2021, 19(4); International Journal of Educational Development, 2021, (87); Open Learning, 2021, 36(3); Online Learning Journal, 2021, 25(1), among others. National strategies to cope up with teaching-learning during the pandemic surfaced - Bao (2020), Zhang et al (2020) and Zhou et al (2020) on the People’s Republic of China; Brandt and Thompson (2020) on the United States; KPMG (2020) and Farooqui (2020), Dhawan (2020) on India. Open and distance learning got further strengthened during this remote teaching, and conventional higher education also navigated successfully through the pandemic with remote online teaching-learning. Many lessons have been learnt through institutional and individual experiences during the pandemic (which still continues in one form or the other). As argued by Naidu (2022) in a recent editorial, open and flexible learning with a variety of flexible models could contribute to building resilient and sustainable teaching-learning post-pandemic, as also that the fundamental principles of learning and cognition need to be the base for such a flexible educational operation. As for this journal – Indian Journal of Open Learning – we had been bringing out research papers on the pandemic and changing educational scenarios especially in India; and the present issue of the journal is devoted to important recent research on Covid-19 and open distance learning and blended learning. It contains eight research papers, one book review on a very significant area ‘digital learning for sustainable development’, two workshop reports, and abstracts of papers in Hindi.
The first paper by M. Rajesh reports the findings of a study on the perceptions of 117 learners of IGNOU (who attended online counseling during Covid-19) and 31 educators of online teaching toward blended teaching-learning during the pandemic. While the results showed positive attitude of learners and teachers towards online and blended teaching-learning during as also post-pandemic, a few suggestions given by them need to be addressed: backend infrastructure, access to network-based learning, digital content based on appropriate pedagogy, and appropriate training for teachers. S. Siji in the second paper, reports the health impacts of online classes on school children during Covid-19. The survey on 50 school children, who had gone through online classes, revealed that while students generally appreciated offline mode of learning, they expressed behavioral anxiety and cognitive load during online learning. The author suggested having a well designed and facilitative blended learning mode of delivery. In comparison, in a factor analytic study on undergraduate students, Dubey and Riasudeen reported four inhibiting factors for online learning during Covid-19: learning difficulty, infrastructure and networks, motivational issues, and audibility issues which need to be considered in the design and delivery of online and blended
In a study on 67 students (out of 467 administered students) and three faculty members of MAJMC, Shikha Rai reported that the device used for attending online classes included mobile, laptop, desktop and tablet in that order; 43 per cent used the downloaded e-books/ e-modules; only 19 per cent students studied daily after their online classes; 57 per cent students reported increase in their productivity due to online classes, and only 21 per cent reported decrease in productivity; large majority of the students appreciated the learner support services, for keeping them busy during the lockdown, and the formation of a sense of community amongst themselves; and about 67 per cent expressed online teaching-learning to continue post-pandemic. The faculty members, though not much prepared for the new normal, adapted quickly to the new mode of delivery and to online and blended pedagogy, and appreciated the increase in the frequency of communication with their students in comparison to the offline ODL mode of delivery. In a study on the attitude of university students towards online teaching-learning from an ethnographic perspective, Barua reported that students had positive attitude towards online learning as a teaching tool for languages and for interaction and communication, and expressed preference for a combination of online and offline blended learning for the future.
In the next paper, Dikshit, Gupta and Garg report the findings of a survey involving 254 BSc. students of IGNOU on science labs, and suggest that student preference was for an integration of both virtual labs and physical labs. The virtual lab can take care of experiments, e-mentoring, online collaborative learning, and synchronous counseling, which could be followed up by physical lab activities relating to conduct of experiments in contiguous contexts. In another study at IGNOU on 153 potential learners from education, research and non-government organizations, Vankatramanan and Shah report a needs analysis study which shows positive demand for a programme on climate change education with judicious combination of appropriate knowledge and skills, and which can be offered through English and other national and regional languages. The findings of this study could lead to a new programme in this area of study. In a similar study on needs analysis for a master’s programme in geoinformatics, Gogoi, Deshmukh, Mishra, Prasanth and Verma reported the opinions of 552 potential learners and experts from all over the country which suggested: i) a judicious combination of both specialized areas and emerging application areas for skill development, ii) that open-source data and software tools could be used for conducting practical, and iii) a dissertation should be a compulsory component of the programme. This needs analysis being the first step, the findings should contribute to further design of a master’s programme in this area.
As per our previous practice, we have included one book review by S. K. Pulist; two STRIDE workshop reports by Murthy, Mythili, Ramakrishna and Asgar; and the Hindi translation of abstracts of the eight papers by Seema Rani which should be useful to our readers. While we appreciate receiving comments and suggestions, we also encourage to submit quality research papers on open, distance, online and blended learning to this journal.