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Keep Calm, and Carry on Learning – Virtually

Thirumala Arohi, Vice President & Head of Education, Training and Assessment and Satheesha B. Nanjappa, Vice President & Head Global Education Centre, along with a couple of trainees share how Foundation Training Course at Infosys went virtual

If one visits the beautiful Infosys campus at Mysore – a hub where young engineers are trained in the latest technologies, niche skills, and behavioral competencies –it would look seemingly bare today.

This, however, wasn’t the case a few months ago.

Young learners were going about their learning, and experiencing a new life, at the largest corporate education center in the world, for their Foundation Training Course at Infosys, even as the world was gradually coming to terms with a looming pandemic.

Abhinav TV, for instance was as happy as a lark at the campus – making friends, learning new things, and having a unique experience. For him this was a world that he had never seen, or experienced before. And ask anyone who has started their professional life at Infosys, the lure of the beautiful Mysore campus, and the six months that they spend there, is incomparable to anything else.

However, as soon as the Covid-19 concern hit India, the possibility of even a single case in the campus unsettled the management, and we immediately started to look for ways to ensure the safety of our employees and trainees: without impacting their learning. “We didn't even know that a lockdown kind of a situation will come,” says, Thirumala Arohi, Vice President & Head of Education, Training and Assessment at Infosys, adding that the problem would have multiplied even if one person was identified as Covid-19 positive.

“(It) would have set alarms across the campus, and then, it would have been even more difficult to evacuate the people,” Arohi adds.

Considering the campus, caters to more than 9000 students, it was imperative that swift action be taken. And that was the case, says Satheesha B. Nanjappa, Vice President & Head Global Education Centre. Soon after getting to the drawing board on the evening of March 14, the team had a phase wise plan of evacuation ready by the next evening.

Students were informed in a systematic way that they would now be helped to get back to their home towns in view of the situation.

Quite evidently, the students were both sad about having to leave, and worried about their learning.

Transition from physical to virtual training

Shruthi BM, another trainee at the campus was about to give in her final tests when this happened. She was, as was Abhinav, concerned about the continuation of her training once she headed back home.

Infosys however, had a plan. “Our own learning platform called Lex really helped us,” says Nanjappa, adding, “We also had another tool called Konnect through which we can conduct quizzes online and that helped us to engage with students while the trainings were going on.”

Arohi agrees, saying that the investments made around Lex as a learning platform were more relevant than ever in this scenario.

“We did not panic because we already had a platform on which everyone was learning even when they were in the campus. It was just about switching to a virtual mode,” he says.

As batch after batch of students went back home, they started filling the virtual classrooms to continue their learning.

Building an interactive learning ecosystem

This was, however, a new ground for the learners and trainers alike. So, clearly there were things to be kept in mind despite having the training material, and courses already available online.

For Arohi, this was about being able to make the interaction seamless, and highly interactive. “That is where I think trying to leverage some of these other social engagement apps we built in Lex, or a little bit gamified way of doing things was something which eased up people,” he says.

The students agree.

For Abhinav being able to get badges was his favorite part of the virtual training.

“You will get incentives, which will motivate you to learn more,” he says, adding, “And you basically have a sea of topics. Even if you don't know where to start, it takes your interests, and suggests you courses based on your interests.”

For Shruthi it was about being able to learn through video tutorials, which does not require extra assistance.

The essential task of connecting trainers to trainees

While the technology was in place, it was crucial to continue the level of interactivity which was the hallmark of the trainees’ time at the training center in Mysore.

That was also taken care of through the use of collaboration platforms.

“We used collaboration platforms to interact with trainees through voice, through chat, and also answering their questions post lecture, creating some discussion forums,” notes Nanjappa.

Abhinav raves about his trainer who would recommend that the students take the initiative to answer each other’s questions in the chat window, and she would come in to help out. A way to clearly ensure that students collaborate even in virtual classrooms.

Then there was an element of assessment, which became easy with technology in place which would act as a checkpoint, which would not only track how much time is being spent on the platforms, but would also help in assessments, and tracking assignments as well.

“All of that actually was very well oiled within the platform,” says Arohi, adding that the future is about blended learning, and a mix of both physical and virtual training is the way forward, and at Infosys we have always believed in the concept.

“This is something what both Nandan and Pravin talk about, as synchronous or asynchronous way of learning, whether you are in physical or virtual world. And then the fifth combination is self-learning anytime, anywhere,” he says.

Nanjappa agrees, adding that this environment of anytime, anywhere learning along with learning through collaboration is only going to help students when they start working on projects.

For young trainees who come to Infosys, known for its training capacity, and the ability to churn out excellent technology professionals, this was a just a bump in the road. As interns such as Shruthi and Abhinav navigate through this very new environment and enter the professional world of technology, a glimpse into how technology can be used at times like this is truly inspiring.

“What inspires me is that how are they managing 100, or more students, who are across India and helping our career move ahead,” says Shruthi.

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