Changing college life in the times of COVID-19

Ice-breaking and Freshers' Day were synonymous with the arrival of new students at college campuses. But all such fun concepts of the college have been re-written during these COVID-19 times.

Break the ice

During the pre-COVID era, seniors would welcome the freshers to their department and give them the opportunity to introduce themselves. New students would also be set fun tasks during the ice-breaking sessions of the Freshers' Day. But these days, several colleges have moved on to WhatsApp challenges to replace the ice-breaking sessions. The students have to choose a number on WhatsApp. Based on this, they would be set an online task. In data-rich colleges, getting acquainted with the newbies takes place on extensive online platforms.

Virtual campus tour

As the educational institutions remain shut, students lose out on those happy moments spent in the company of their friends on campus. But nobody has anywhere to go these days. To resolve that, colleges have been augmenting the 'campus virtual tour section’ on the college websites. The era of 360-degree videos. Attending classes in virtual classrooms. Students interact in the virtual space now. Songs rendered at different places become one song. Photoshoots done at various locations become a single photo. But then don’t we need to actually arrive at the stadium for the sports meet?

No elections at colleges either

Though the Assembly and local body elections will be held this year, there would not be any college union election. Though virtual classes are going on in full swing, nobody seems to be questioning as to why college elections cannot be held online.

Mixed reality

The convocation at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras was held recently using mixed reality technology. The academic version of the virtual reality that we have been familiarised through news channels. IIT Madras director professor Bhaskar Ramamurthy was among the dignitaries present on the dais and other guests were online. When names were called, students 'appeared' on the stage to receive the award.

How it worked? Certificates were sent to the students earlier itself. Videos of students receiving the award from their parents were recorded and sent across to the IIT. When the names were called, those videos were shown in the animation mode. And thus, creating a virtual reality of students directly receiving the award.

Not a substitute

N Sreeja, assistant Malayalam professor at SN College in Kollam, said, "Celebrations, including Onam, were held online in a bid to appease the students. We had a virtual farewell for colleagues too. But that felt inadequate. All celebrations are an occasion to get together. We are aware that programmes held virtually cannot be a substitute for actual celebrations."

Faheem Barami, a student of MA Media governance at Jamia Millia University, Delhi, too asserted that campus life was not just about studies and the buildings. “The outside world, strikes, speeches, travel, and food are all part of it. The biggest loss is the hostel life, wherein students from various state come together and everyone joins in the celebrations,” he added.

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