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The entire nation listened anxiously on the 24th of March at 8 PM, as the Prime Minister addressed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the entire country preparing to settle down for the long haul (21 days to be precise), the institute finds itself in an unprecedented situation. The eerily calm and quiet pictures that have emerged across various hostel groups paint a very serene yet forlorn picture of our insti. While the foremost priority is dealing with this pandemic, the institute administration is going through some turbulent times in the fight to safely return to normalcy. All students anxiously await the next ‘Campus Updates’ mail from the Director.
The institute authorities have taken a proactive approach since the beginning to limit the spread of the virus, and all the guidelines enlisted by the Central and State governments are being followed. From shutting down all academic activities and Gymkhana facilities to set up a student task force, they did all in their power to keep the situation under control. Although the higher authorities had proposed to utilise the hostel premises of IITB as the “official quarantine facility”, the students have been informed by the director that “no travellers had been quarantined inside IITB yet” hinting at it being a slight possibility in the future. A few students are still staying in the institute, CHMS workers have been looking after the mess facilities.
Academic activities have taken a huge setback. All classroom instructions and laboratory operations have been suspended since 15th March. Most of the research work has been suspended. Faculty have been advised to adopt online delivery of courses to try to mitigate the lack of academic instruction, uploading required resources such as reading material, video lectures, etc. However, all professors may not be comfortable in switching to the online mode of learning. Problems in internet access to students in various parts of the country restrain it further.
All of us have a lot of time to contemplate these days, so we at Insight have come up with a list of plan B’s that the administration may adopt to kickstart the normal functioning of the institute, decide on grading for the quarantined semester, handling the summer interns and managing the admissions for upcoming batches.
Extension of the Semester
One situation that seems probable is the extension of the semester in the summer to make up for the lockdown time. IIT Indore, which falls under the tutelage of IIT Bombay has already decided to take this course.
The biggest concern with this plan of action is the almost certain cancellation of any internships that the students might aim at pursuing. With the possibility of any foreign internships transpiring already looking really bleak, inviting an intern might not be very high in the priority list even for students with interns in India. This problem can still be solved by ‘Work From Home’ models though. Graduating students should ideally not be affected by the extension as their joining dates can be scheduled accordingly. This decision (if taken) may render many students unhappy as summer internships play a crucial role in their future endeavors. But then again, these are unprecedented circumstances and students can hope that this does not affect their placements.
Suspension of the Semester
The institute may decide to suspend this semester altogether, a measure that is being employed by many foreign universities.
Though Moodle can now be accessed from outside the institute without a VPN, the inaccessibility of the internet in various parts of the country remains a concern. Also, devising an altogether new system of grading which is fair to every student might be an arduous task. The biggest problem with this alternate is the Labs? The Lab courses will still be rendered incomplete and the remaining labs will have to be adjusted in the coming semesters which will result in an increased workload in those semesters. Also, this is not possible for graduating students.
Suspension of Classes and Conduction of Exams
Another possibility that the institute might consider is to suspend classes and conduct exams as soon as the institute reopens after lockdown.
The concerns with this course of action are very similar to those raised in the previous case. Having to gulp down all the new course content right before the exams might be difficult and unfair for the students who cannot avail of good internet connectivity in their homes. Completion of labs will still remain an issue. If this does happen though, students might get to pursue their internships.
Upcoming Semester –
One of the major concerns faced not only by the administration of IITB but also by the Ministry of Human Resource Development is conducting the JEE (Main) and JEE (Advanced) examinations for new entrants and managing admissions for the upcoming batch. While the exam for JEE (Main) has already been postponed, the recent decision of lockdown has further increased the uncertainty of timely admissions. Moreover, the admission to Masters and Ph.D. programs that require multiple interviews and travel inside the campus will also be hindered in the current scenario.
The Emptiness in the institute. Pic Credits – Shubham Tiwari
The Director, in his latest Campus Updates email, informed the students that they are planning an HoD meeting next week to discuss various options relating to academics and other issues. He further conveyed that an e-senate meeting can be called to address them. Therefore we can hope to receive some clarification by next week. In the article, we discussed some of the future possibilities in terms of academics. We can only wait for the next update from the director. While we are at it, let’s also use this time to hone our skills and develop our personalities. Read books, learn household work, develop soft skills, write poetry, let’s utilize the (ample) time that we have at hand and do something productive for the rest of the lockdown period. But above all, let’s stay at home so that we can see each other again whenever the campus reopens.