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In education’s ‘new normal’, college campuses undergo a virtual makeover

As students across the country begin with their classes while grappling with a strange new reality -- They try to make the most of an unprecedented situation

Written by Shambhavi Dutta | New Delhi | Updated: December 4, 2020 4:58:28 pm
school fee, west bengal school fee, school fee hike, college fee, school reopen date, education news, kolkata newsStudents agree that the pandemic has affected all aspects of college life, which they say is not only about classes. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna/Representational)

When 22-year-old Pragya Negi received her official college ID card via post soon after enrolling at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Panchkula, she knew her college experience was going to be far from conventional.

But Negi is not alone. Thousands of students across the country, who are starting college amid the coronavirus pandemic, are now forced to grapple with a strange new reality. The three-day orientation programme, which usually takes place in the college auditorium, has now been relegated to a Zoom call; classes have become an entirely virtual affair with teachers sharing their screen to explain concepts, and new friendships are forged over video chat.

However, it is not just classroom dynamics that have drastically changed, the much-awaited freshers’ parties, too, have undergone a virtual makeover.

READ | Being young in times of lockdown: Online classes, virtual dates and more

“The experience is fun but it can get monotonous. Yes, it is not what I had expected college life to be, but I am confident of making the most out of the situation,” says Shirin M Vetticad (18), who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University.

Shirin M Vetticad, a student at Jesus and Mary College is currently auditioning for societies through video messages and online forms

Negi is also trying to make the best of a bad situation. She is thankful to her teachers for not making those two-hour-long classes boring. “Our teachers make an effort to help us through the virtual glitches by providing us with recordings but it would certainly have been great when we would all be in a class sharing our anecdotes and views.”

Ananya Jain, a 19-year-old Delhi University student, agrees. “The classes are going on well, but I do miss attending one physically as one-on-one interactions (with teachers and fellow students) would have been so much better.”

READ | Virtually yours: Looking for the perfect quarantine date

“Online classes are less interactive, and there is an additional burden when we face network issues or technical glitches. It is so important to know and understand the people you will be interacting or living with for the next 3-4 years, but here we are sitting at our homes,” says Arpit Taneja (19), an undergraduate student at Thapar University, Patiala.

Students agree that the pandemic has affected all aspects of college life, which they say is not only about classes, but also about group assignments, conversations with college mates, being part of art and culture societies, hanging out with new friends and above all, a sense of freedom.

22-year-old Pragya is trying to make the most of her online classes.

But with students realising that this is the ‘new normal’, they have started devising their own ways to adapt to the situation in the hope that normalcy will return and college life will be back to what they wish it to be.

“I always wanted to audition and be a part of the college’s dance society to hone my skills. Who knew I would be doing that on video calls — filling forms, recording the moves — from my living room,” says Vetticad.

Echoing similar sentiments, Negi said that while college life at the moment is a “sad state of affairs”, she does look forward to her design classes where she will get to style outfits. “Our design teacher asks us to do virtual ‘look book’ sessions where we have to dress up for the class and categorise what fashion nomenclature our look falls under. The fun part is that the teacher also readily participates and gets dressed up for the presentations, etc,” she says.

Unlike most, Negi “surprisingly” looks forward to online assignments. “Group assignments are a blessing because they help break the ice, and in turn, allows us to know each other better by helping each other manage the pressure.”

Arpit shares how collaborating for assignments gets tough on most days.

 But, Taneja points out that it can also get tedious at times. “Especially when you are doing group assignments or collaborative projects online. That is because you somehow end up waiting until the other member finishes their part before you begin with yours,” he says.

READ | Indian students believe online classes creating digital divide, universities put profit over children: Report

According to the ASSOCHAM-Primus Survey, an overwhelming 88 per cent of students said they were missing out on interactions with their teachers, peers, and friends. Around 51 per cent said that they missed their extracurricular activities such as physical education, sports, art, music, and dance.

Ananya Jain, a Delhi University student says, “the classes are going on well, but I do miss attending one physically as one-on-one interactions.”

“I cannot express how eager I am to experience the ‘DU life’. I cannot wait to hang out at the hotspots, attending fests and experiencing campus life,” Vetticad exclaims.

Meanwhile, Negi, too, is waiting in anticipation to move to Panchkula. “I cannot wait to go out and enjoy the city with my new friends!” she says.

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