It has been nearly a year since Ghaziabad resident Anshika Singh enrolled at the Delhi University (DU) for under-graduation. However, with online classes continuing to be the norm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult for her to gauge how college functions or access the facilities on campus.
For several first-year students like Ms. Singh, who are set to appear for their second-semester examinations next month, a lack of interaction with professors and peers, sans the computer screen, has meant that the “college life” they expected was in dissonance with the reality.
Ms. Singh, a student of Miranda House, said: “After boards, we thought we’ll get to go out, explore an independent life which DU offers and meet people coming from different parts of the country. But we lost out on the chance. The exposure that DU offers, including extracurricular activities, is also why you want to join the university. But due to the pandemic, interactions got restricted.”
The BA (Programme) student added: “At times attending online classes feel like listening to podcasts. Interaction with teachers also gets restricted and you simply do not get the exposure you hoped for. For many, mental health issues are also on a rise. When there is interaction, you get to learn stuff, which is not present online. We do not even have direct interaction with the administration. The experience for which I joined Miranda House is still unclear for me. Even for teachers, this is a whole new scenario.”
Attending online classes was not equivalent to the “human connect” that you would expect on campus, others added.
Prathit Singh, a Political Science student of Ramjas College, said: “When you join a DU North Campus college you have expectations. Initially, I adapted to the life of online classes but eventually, the enthusiasm faded away. Online lectures are difficult to focus on at times. Even though I was able to make a few friends and meet them online, the human connect is missing. I am missing out on a very important thing.”
It was more stressful during the onslaught of the second wave. “During the second wave, it was even more stressful when professors were also unwell. Everything around us was distraught and gradually the pace of classes was also reduced as several students and teachers were infected. The motivation is slightly slipping away but we don’t really have an alternative at the moment,” said the Kolkata resident.
Stating that the current batch was “extremely unfortunate” due to curtailed dreams of independence and self-discovery, Dhruv Garg, a student of Kirori Mal Col lege (KMC) said, “In order to have bonds one has to step out and college is essentially the first time people travel and live by themselves. That is something we missed out on. I have been able to make friends online but for a lot of people it is difficult.”
“Last week I met a few of my online friends for the first time and it did not really feel overwhelming. It was quite normal. I think the transition from online to offline will be okay for me,” said Garg, a student of Economics.
Professors at the university also said that the current structure of teaching-learning, brought in due to the ongoing pandemic had an adverse impact on the students.
Tanvir Aeijaz, professor at Ramjas College, said: “Students have been impacted both academically and socially. Academically a lo t of things we do in the classroom like impromptu discussions are missing in online classes. The liveliness and experience of the classroom are not there. This makes a huge difference. A majority of the students often do not have their videos on for several reasons which also make it difficult for the teacher to know if the student is even present.”
There are manifold hindrances, he said. “Communication gets distorted online. University is a space that once students enter, they are in a different mind space altogether and there is some purpose. The academic charm is missing in online classes. Teaching-learning within a structured environment is not there and if that ecology is missing then the factors that determine learning also changes. Online students are getting impoverished in terms of learning and knowledge and it is a huge loss for them,” said Mr. Aeijaz.
Speaking of a “dystopic reality” that professors and students are currently experiencing, St. Stephens College professor Nandita Narain said: “There is no sense of a community, class or college. This is not even a pale shadow of what is actually experienced in a college, mostly from each other and to a large extent from teachers. In this virtual reality, most people do not even switch on their videos so one doesn’t even kno w who they are speaking to.” “It is to be seen how the current batch copes in the second year as their first year foundation will be shaky,” lamented Ms. Narain.