Internet is your blackboard

Diversity in reading material and digitisation of education at Sciences Po, paves the way for academic growth.

Published - September 17, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Academics has become a digital enterprise. Everything from the prescribed syllabus to classroom notes can now be found online. This was the case when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Delhi University. But the degree to which technology has taken over classrooms in the West struck me when I joined The Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), Sciences Po in France, for my master’s in human rights and humanitarian action.

I discovered there that PowerPoint presentations are considered a requisite for all lectures delivered by professors. But PPTs are child’s play, compared to operating some of the equipment in classrooms, including the projector and screens. I struggled and stumbled quite a bit while trying to operate the touchscreen classroom boards on the campus. Funnily enough, an American professor also cursed the touchscreen board regularly… especially when he invariably lost the content he had written on the board after accidentally pressing some button or the other.

Another professor devoted an entire page of his personal website to parodying PPTs. One can safely conclude that the rapid transformation of the luxurious Western classroom into a gadget store is contentious for both professors and students.

Nevertheless, I was quite relieved at the realisation that extra money would not have to be spent on expensive course textbooks. Rather than carrying around heavy textbooks in a backpack all day, only the weight of the laptop has to be borne. This is a definite advantage considering how much people walk and use public transport in Europe.

The diversity in reading material provided mainly through technology marks an important difference in the European approach to higher education, in comparison to those in India. The emphasis on consistently utilising both traditional and digital forms of resources to broaden one’s perspectives is markedly different from the spoon-feeding culture that one becomes used to in the Indian educational system, where memorising prescribing textbooks is the norm.

Internet access and Wi-Fi connections were requisite facilities everywhere on the Sciences Po campus, enabling access to academic resources at any time. While libraries remain important sources of information and an integral area of investment, online catalogues providing access to research papers and articles from all over the world are also treated as indispensable. Even ageing professors who visibly stumbled over classroom gadgets provided their students with lengthy reading lists of both digital as well as traditional resources.

This underscores the underlying motto of western universities, which is, the more you read and discover on your own, the more you grow as an academic and an individual. This was the case at Sciences Po, as I learned more about the unique field that I was specialising in, and grew as an individual who could undertake substantial academic tasks on my own.

Ankitha Cheerakathil graduated in master’s in human rights and humanitarian action from Sciences Po, Paris, in 2016.

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