Thinking ahead of time always goes a long way when coping with the challenges that arise in unprecedented times, such as the pandemic, and that’s what Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director of Gemological Institute of America (GIA) India, talks about in the interview with Praveer Sinha, highlighting GIA’s state-of-the-art distant learning infrastructure.
Praveer Sinha: Due to the pandemic and social distancing norms e-learning accelerated like never before. How do you look at the online mode of education delivery in India?
Sriram Natarajan: eLearning has been an important method of delivering GIA’s decades of knowledge in a convenient way for students and professionals at their own pace. GIA has been offering distance education courses since 2009. Since the pandemic has forced us to keep some of our schools closed, GIA remains committed to sharing its knowledge through its digital avenues across different geographies.
Students who enrolled in GIA distance education learn using the same curriculum taught on GIA campuses with ample completion times to study, submit assignments and take the exam online. GIA distance education instructors are available on phone and email to provide support guidance and expertise through the course duration. This ensures that students or professionals who take up GIA’s distance learning courses get as close as possible to a classroom experience.
Keeping student experience in mind, GIA India has now expanded its course offerings to include instructor-led remote learning programmes – and I’m glad to share that we have received a great response from the industry.
Praveer Sinha: What has been GIA’s experience with the transition to virtual training? Are there any special challenges in imparting gemmology education through an online model?
Sriram Natarajan: As your readers might be aware, GIA India has been delivering online courses for more than a decade. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly adapted to the situation and conducted numerous training programmes and knowledge webinars for retailers, students, and several trade members across India. Thus, it was logical to develop remote learning as a preferred method of delivering content that combines the best of both worlds – a live instructor to solve your queries and the convenience of any location with minimal or no disturbance to your work life.
So, for the SWIFT Jewellery Design Course – Remote Learning, we invested in state-of-the-art screen projection technology that transmits the instructor’s sketch from paper right to the students’ screen – completely live.
We’ve also kept the student-teacher ratio for SWIFT at 6:1 to ensure individual attention and monitor student progress. We’re continuing this approach for the new remote learning offering, Applied Jewelry Professional (intensive) – Remote Learning. Gemmology is a unique subject that is a mix of art and science. The subject requires students to learn not just about the mine-to-market journey of the gemstones through theory, but also to study these gemstones and their unique characteristics through a loupe or a microscope.
GIA’s distance learning courses contain media-rich materials on topics such as diamonds, coloured stones, pearls, and jewellery. For students to get hands-on experience, GIA offers lab classes on the same topics through short-term courses across its campuses worldwide. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a challenge and we hope that our campuses can restart as soon as government guidelines allow so students can take advantage of GIA’s huge inventory of gemstones.
(Read the full interview with Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director, GIA India in the January-February issue of Jewelpedia)