THE INDIAN Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai has become the first major educational institution in the country to scrap all face-to-face lectures for the next semester due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This means it will hold only online classes till the end of the year.
In an announcement made late Wednesday night, IIT-Bombay Director Subhasis Chaudhuri said the institute would teach the next semester “purely in the online mode so that there is no compromise on the safety and well-being of the students”.
“The Covid pandemic has made us at IIT-Bombay rethink the way we impart education to our students. To ensure that our students begin the academic year without further delay, we are planning on extensive online classes, details of which will be informed to all students in due course of time,” he said in a Facebook post shared close to midnight.
This is the first time in the institute’s 62-year-old history that a new academic year will begin with no students on campus. The other IITs are likely to follow with similar announcements on holding virtual lectures for the Autumn semester.
Chaudhuri has also sought Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s permission to gradually bring back senior PhD scholars to the campus to resume research activities.
“We have already written a request letter to the Hon’ble CM to allow us to slowly open up research activities… It is about the permission to bring in some of the senior PhD students to the hostels. It would be a small group, (which will be allowed) after appropriate quarantine, and will maintain all applicable social distancing norms. Once the first group settles down, then (we will) try for another small group and so on,” he told The Indian Express in an email response.
Last week, in a virtual interaction with IIT-Bombay alumni, Chaudhuri had said all research activities have come to a halt. “We are awaiting the lifting of lockdown by the Maharashtra government. After that, we will give the green signal to about 300-400 students who are close to finishing their PhDs,” he had said.
While the institute has begun admissions for post-graduate courses, it is considering deferring the joining of new PhD students by a semester.
The Autumn semester was earlier scheduled to begin on July 27. Since classes will now be held remotely, the institute’s Senate is reworking the curriculum, especially for courses involving laboratory activities.
Each professor has been asked to work out an instructional plan regarding the attendance policy for online classes. “If the Covid situation improves drastically, we shall be happy to bring them back to the campus,” Chaudhuri told The Indian Express.
Given that a large section of students at IIT-Bombay come from economically weak families, the director also appealed for donations to help bridge the digital divide. The funds raised would go towards assisting the institute in purchasing laptops and internet data plans for such students to access virtual classes, Chaudhuri said.
“We do not want a single student to miss out the learning experience for lack of money. We have estimated that we need about Rs 5 crore to help those needy students. Our alumni have committed a good amount of support, but that is not enough for all these needy students and I solicit, through this message, your donations, however small it may be,” he said in his Facebook post.
Subsequently, heads of different departments sent emails to all students, enquiring who all don’t have access to a personal computer or laptop and internet connection.
On June 16, The Indian Express had reported that the IITs were looking at holding online classes till the year-end for “continuing” undergraduate students or those already enrolled. Last week, a committee of IIT directors recommended moving all lectures online for the rest of the year.
According to sources, IIT-Delhi is also going to announce a completely online semester for intermediate year students. Students who don’t have access to a digital device or internet connection will have the option of dropping the semester or returning to the campus and attending online classes from their rooms.
Last week, the Punjab Engineering College announced its decision to move its next semester completely online.