To address the issues faced in the online semester by the student community, the Students’ Parliament prepared a set of forms. This form was filled by students across all the batches from UG and PG, except for UG1. The Students’ Parliament used these responses to present a summarized view of what the student community felt about the semester: the stress levels, the workload, isolation, and mental health in general. Shown here is a summary of the events that unfolded after that.
The student body was appreciative of how well the institute handled the transition to an online semester when most other educational institutes were struggling with the same. However, the monsoon semester that followed seems to have had a pretty heavy impact on the students. Their (students’) responses to the forms mentioned how they were in a home environment, which felt very different from a classroom or a lab. It was not always easy to focus for an extended period of time. Additionally, issues pertaining to mental health, along with a call for a mid-semester break, have been mentioned in a brilliant Ping! article by Zubair Abid and Shelly Jain in October this year.
credits: Students’ Parliament
The consensus is that the number of assignments, quizzes, etc. has increased. Collaboration and working in teams have become tougher, on top of connectivity and time zone issues. The frequent workspace meetups and JC visits had disappeared. Regular surprise quizzes and in-class submissions meant that students were still compelled to attend classes. However, amidst all this, recorded lectures are a welcome change.
- “Sometimes it gets very hectic. Some labs were conducted during late nights. Difficult to reach out for help to seniors or friends due to online mode.”
From FSIF Part-1 Summary document, Students’ Parliament
The polls also indicate that the time spent on research by students had decreased, which was due to numerous factors, including course workload and the inability to access a focused lab environment.
This semester was much more compact than a conventional semester. However, the syllabus coverage for almost all the courses remained the same. Further, since there were practically no formal exams, the number of assignments and evaluations had increased, as evident from the almost-full moodle calendars in circulation. Some responses also compared the offline semester’s mid-sem exam week to a break week, considering that there are usually lesser deadlines in that period.
credits: Students’ Parliament
As mentioned previously, many responses indicated that students felt sluggish. Interaction within peer groups has decreased. Further, everyone isn’t always present in a relaxed, conducive environment at home to study for extended periods. The time spent in front of screens has increased, with students sometimes starting at laptop screens up to 12-15 hours a day. Additionally, some students were also concerned with the extended use of earphones. A suggested solution to improve the mental health of the students is to start support groups and organize regular meetups.
- The gap between college work and personal time has vanished. All I do is stare at my laptop almost the entire day till I go to sleep
From FSIF Part-1 Summary document, Students’ Parliament.
Initially, the institute had announced a two-term extended semester plan with a tentative duration of six-months, including a fifteen-day midterm break. This announcement was not received well by the student community. Thus the Parliament sent another iteration of the FSIF form using the responses of which they explained to the institute the discontent among students towards the new plan. Also, many students who responded to the form wished to return to the campus for an offline semester.
Following signed email requests from UG and PG alike and after a series of discussions with the students’ parliament, the institute withdrew the two-term plan. The almanac for the upcoming semester was released by the institute recently, and they seem to have done a great job of addressing student concerns. Credit is due to the Students’ Parliament who painstakingly summarised all the issues from the hundreds of form responses received. Many other problems from the past such as the Spring semester’s opening conflicting with New year’s day have been resolved. A mid-semester break has been introduced. Hopefully, these changes will ensure that this semester goes smoothly.
Almanac – Spring 2021
FSIF Doc link.