Barbie Dua is ready to step into corporate life as she nears the completion of her MBA (Marketing) course from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Bengaluru.
As student secretary of the Student Leadership Council, coordinator of the Student Welfare and Sports Committee and a member of the institute’s literary club and dance club, the high-spirited youngster picked up valuable lessons in time management and leadership, all of which, she hopes will stand her in good stead in the competitive world out there.
Dua, who graduated in Commerce and Company Secretarial (CS) course from her hometown Indore, wants to move up the corporate ladder in the arena of marketing. “I think the CS role is more desk-bound and thus I consciously chose to study marketing which suits my personality and enhances my social skills as well as my creativity,” says Dua.
What kind of classes are being conducted currently in your educational institution?
Earlier in September 2021 after the decline in COVID cases, the campus reopened in a phased manner and classes resumed in the hybrid mode. From January 2022, our classes shifted online again considering the surge of Omicron cases in Bengaluru. However, the campus has since remained open for students who wished to stay at the hostel or use the library. Currently, no classes are being held as summer internships are on. Having a bio-bubble has ensured complete safety for all the students, faculty and staff members present at the campus.
How has been the students’ response to offline classes and possible closures amidst the new surge in COVID cases?
The students are enthralled to attend offline lectures and have in-person interactions with teachers. Networking is an important aspect of an MBA degree, and students are happy to connect with their batchmates, seniors and alumni through various offline college activities. Since offline classes are the preferred mode, students remain concerned about closures. However, they are quite adaptable to online learning as well.
The Students Council representative is a coveted position in institutions such as yours. How did you fulfill your responsibilities alongside virtual classes?
With classes and college activities shifting online, the Students Council too operated through text messages, emails and online meetings. Coordination of online events was done via calls and online worksheets.
I believe a major challenge of the virtual mode was keeping tabs on what was actually happening. In an online set up, you have to trust that the plans being discussed in the meeting will work out perfectly. In an offline set up, you can check on the actual implementation and suggest on-the-spot changes if required. The office of Student Leadership Council secretary has a responsibility to ensure the success of all events undertaken, thus keeping tabs during the process is important.
The communication gaps were evident as queries were repeated and common issues were communicated by more than one student. However, we resorted to forming common groups and creating query resolution spaces for common access and efficiency.
Do you think administering your duties online restricted the scope of the work you could have done in pre-COVID times?
Yes, working offline with events and classes would have entailed a lot more opportunities of interaction and learning than the online mode. We did replicate the mechanisms online but the medium was limited and therefore the scope and the arena of collaboration, communication and engagement was limited.
Do you think offline exams are suitable for students at your institution?
The online mode has covered all the syllabus thoroughly. While student tutorials and study groups go a long way for revisions and understanding of the concepts, the current offline revision lectures should help address any gaps. I don’t think offline exams will be an issue.
How could your institution bridge the learning gap caused by the pandemic prompted closures?
Our institute moved teaching-learning to the hybrid mode for a brief period a few students were on campus even as online lectures and materials were still available to all the students. All the live lectures were recorded and uploaded on our internal learning management system along with presentation slides and reading material for easy access by the students. Given the abrupt shifts due to institution closures, availability of lectures and materials beyond class timings helped students cope with the difficulty in following the curriculum.
How has the journey been from March 2020?
Our batch completed a majority of the MBA course online. With events and college activities happening online, our screen time increased significantly. To increase discussions and relevant interactions among friends, we resorted to WhatsApp groups and audio chats.
How did you manage to stay connected with your friends during the pandemic?
The major source of collaboration and interaction were the group assignments, student driven club, committee work, online events alongside birthday celebration meeting calls and section wise group calls.
Exam patterns and evaluation criteria etc. have changed. How did students cope with the stress?
Evaluating students through quizzes (on the college’s portal) is already one of the criteria at our institute. Student presentations and assignments were all replicated online. While the semester examination pattern was changed to online, our comfort with tech tools and adaptability to online medium made it easy.
Students at the institution have always had access to a counsellor at all times. Sessions are conducted to make students aware of the facility and reach out in times of stress.
Do you think the state and Central governments did enough to support education and children during the pandemic?
The steps taken to propagate online learning via the digital medium and TV channels were steps in the right direction to support online education during the pandemic. The challenges were new, and the measures were prompt and responsive.
In the absence of in-person interaction with teachers, do you think you have missed out on knowing the latest career options or higher education prospects available to you?
There is no denying that in-person interaction entails a lot more exchange of ideas and discussions than the online meetings. I believe, our potential learning and knowledge that we might have gained from our teachers had the classes been offline was compromised to some extent. Although our teachers were available in online lectures and beyond that, the periphery of in person discussions extends far beyond the ‘to the point conversations’ and therefore, we could have known a lot more about our career path from them offline than we did online.
Have you understood the takeaways of the National Education Policy 2020? What is your take on it?
The policy is student-centred and has addressed major challenges in the present education scenario. Provisions regarding the flexibility of choosing the subjects beyond the subject stream, the emphasis on vocational training, the credit system etc. all prioritise learning over the structures. Imparting self-evaluation and critical thinking by fuelling self and peer analysis of performance of the year will prepare students for the challenges lying ahead. However, permitting education in local and regional languages up to a certain stage in education is controversial and might hamper seamless education of the student across states and countries.