Tasneem Hussain, a third-year BBA LL.B. (Hons.) student at BML Munjal University hails from the city of lakes, Udaipur. Fascinated by fantasy fiction, she is a part of the women’s basketball team. She has also represented the university at Hero’s Challenge. Her interest lies in mooting and debating. EducationWorld presents its next story on the series Students’ Corner, which puts special emphasis on students and their views.
What kind of classes are being conducted currently in your educational institution?
My institution was conducting classes online but has shifted to the fully offline mode since 15 Feb 2022 and almost all students are attending classes offline. There are, however, a very few students who are unable to come to campus and such students have been provided special access to the lectures in an online set-up as well.
How has been the students’ response to offline classes and possible closures amidst the new surge in COVID cases?
Since the students have been back on campus after almost two years, and some of them for the first time, they are highly motivated and active in an offline setup. The shift from online to offline may have its own challenges, but it has not affected the enthusiasm of students. Feedback from the faculty has also been positive and students have been actively participating in classes. It is convenient to interact in a much more engaging way and understand the psyche of the students in physical classes. The possibility of closure amidst the new surge in COVID cases is indeed distressing. However, such dynamic times call for dynamic measures and the students have been well-prepared for any such situation that may arise.
The Students Council representative is a coveted position in institutions such as yours. How did you fulfill your responsibilities alongside virtual classes?
During virtual classes, there were several challenges that existed such as the lack of physical meetings which makes work fun and keeps the team motivated. However, the position of Student Council in itself is testing and prepares one for all situations. Managing work along with virtual classes was a learning curve for my team as well as me. I tried my best to fulfill all my responsibilities by scheduling all my tasks at the start of the day and planning all events in advance. Time management played a major role in delivering quality results, both in academics and student council duties.
Do you think administering your duties online restricted the scope of the work you could have done in pre-COVID times?
The exposure, gaining experience and knowledge during online events is indeed narrow as compared to offline events. The range of duties that are required to be fulfilled in both set-ups are also significantly different, however, the core remains the same. It would not be true to say that administering my duties online restricted the scope of the work that I could have done. This is because the virtual setup knows no boundaries of space and locations. We could go beyond and connect with experts across the globe virtually by sitting at the comforts of our homes and introducing a whole new range of events and opportunities for the student community.
Do you think offline exams are suitable for students at your institution?
Indeed, the students at our university have been prepared for offline examinations from the beginning. Despite two years of online classes and examinations, the students have always been tested in an environment wherein their understanding of the courses and the skills that are required to be obtained from those courses can be surfaced. Therefore, a mere shift of the mode of examinations is not in any manner a determinant of student capabilities, especially when the format of education at BMU is based on experiential learning throughout irrespective of the mode of classes and examinations.
How could your institution bridge the learning gap caused by the pandemic prompted closures?
The university has been trying its best to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken to contain the spread of the virus. However, the university is also prepared for any prompted closures. Right from investment in technology to creating a dynamic learning environment, the university has been taking steps to ensure that any such closures do not result in any gap in the learning process of the students. These steps include mechanisms for direct interactions with faculty, making every faculty and student tech-friendly, having a dedicated team for any student grievances, including IT experts, University counselors, etc. and a range of e-resources that are accessible to students at one click.
How has the journey been from March 2020?
To describe the journey as a roller coaster ride would be an understatement. With ‘n’ number of twists and turns, challenges, virtual memories, lockdown stories and learnings, the journey has been life-changing. The amount of damage done cannot be reversed but the memories that we created shall live forever. Academically, it has certainly been a testing period and students have experienced different forms of learning. Several students also engaged in building their start-ups after seeing the various opportunities that surfaced since March 2020. Furthermore, the range of events organized and creativity portrayed by different student clubs at the university brought out an entirely different skill set of the students. The pandemic did take away a lot of things, but it gave us a lot to think about as well.
How did you manage to stay connected with your friends during the pandemic?
The best thing about friendship is that it knows no limits. No matter what the mode of communication was, staying connected was never a challenge. Late-night google meet discussions and gossip, movie nights and birthday celebrations became a regular affair. Some new friendships started which would not have been possible otherwise as people felt more confident to interact with each other from behind a screen. The pandemic also brought me closer with my friends as we got to know each other better and hear all the lockdown stories.
Exam patterns and evaluation criteria etc. have changed. How did students cope with the stress?
The stress of evaluations can indeed be stressful. However, despite the change in pattern of examinations, the core idea and purpose behind conducting examinations remained same throughout the pandemic. The students were tested on their understanding of the concepts. It was ensured by the University that all the technical assistance that a student requires is provided to them. To help students deal with the stress, several sessions were conducted by our in-house counselors in order to ensure that the mental health of the students is in check. Exceptions were also made when it came to the health of the student and several steps were taken to ensure that the stress can be minimized.
Do you think the state and Central governments did enough to support education and children during the pandemic?
Several steps taken by the Government for ensuring quality education for students. A wide range of internships were offered to students in different Governmental departments such as the NCW in an online set-up which was quite beneficial. However, there were times when uncertainty in Government decisions made it difficult for institutions as well as students to plan their semesters and provide clarity on reopening of institutions. Moreover, a student-driven NGO named as SAVERA, which aimed at imparting education to underprivileged students observed that students were unable to join classes of their schools due to lack of technology or equipment.
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?
Initially, every student apprehended that they might miss out on several opportunities merely because it may not be possible to interact with faculty and administration outside classes and learn more about what awaits them in their professional endeavors. However, the university’s Career Guidance and Development Centre took complete charge of reaching out to students, inviting them to attend different webinars on higher education, helped them create career maps and brought to surface different opportunities that were available to the students. The different schools at BMU also played a major role in guiding their students towards different career paths based on their individual interests and skill set.
Have you understood the takeaways of the National Education Policy 2020? What is your take on it?
The National Education Policy 2020 was a much-needed initiative in the education sector. It would be unrealistic to say that the policy is free of any flaws, however, it does cater to the existing problems in the sector. One of the salient features of the policy, which is the promotion of regional languages in schools, has opened doors of accessibility of education and has given a new shape to the idea of literacy. The concept of free school could have been structured better in the policy, which is the need of the hour. The Policy also aims at building strong foundations right from a young age, and developing an all-around skill set in students by making institutions multi-disciplinary.
Also Read: Students Corner: Barbie Dua, SIBM, Bengaluru