IIT-Bombay to go completely online next semester, other IITS may follow suit

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New Delhi: Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay will go completely online next semester in view of the COVID-19 pandemic so there is no compromise on the safety and well being of students, its director said on Thursday.

The decision, the first by any IIT, followed deliberations that went on till late night Wednesday.

This is the first time in the institute's 62-year history that a new academic year will start with no students on campus. Other IITs are likely to follow suit with similar announcements for the autumn semester that runs from July till December.

"After a long deliberation in the Senate, we have decided that the next semester will be run purely in the online mode so that there is no compromise on the safety and well being of the students. The COVID pandemic has made us rethink the way we impart education to our students, IIT-Bombay Director Subhasis Chaudhuri said in a statement to the media.

"To ensure that our students begin the academic year without further delay, we are planning on extensive online classes details of which will be informed to all students in due course of time," he added.

With a large section of students coming from economically weak families, the director also appealed for donations to help bridge the digital divide.

"A large section of our students come from economically less privileged families and would require a helping hand to equip them with the IT hardware to take these online classes. We look forward to your overwhelming support to help these bright young minds to continue their learning without any further hindrances or delays," he said.

IIT-Bombay's announcement comes at a time the HRD Ministry is holding discussions on revising the academic calendar in view of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ' Nishank' on Wednesday asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to revisit the guidelines for intermediate and terminal semester exams and the academic calendar. He said the foundation for revisited guidelines shall be the health and safety of students, teachers and staff.

According to officials, exams for final year university students planned to be held in July are likely to be cancelled and alternative modalities of assessment will be worked out. An opportunity will be given to students to improve their score at a later stage, they said.

The commencement of the academic session, earlier planned for August for existing students and September for freshers, is expected to be deferred to October. However, no final decision has been taken yet and revised guidelines are expected to be announced within a week.

The guidelines are advisory in nature.

The various IITs have been deliberating on delaying calling students to campus this year.

"Considering the challenge of uncertainty thrown by the pandemic, it is not wise to delay the academic session because we don't know yet that by when will it be completely safe to call students on campus. It is better we start the academic session and figure out ways to help students who may not have access to computer or internet," an IIT-Delhi official said.

The highest-ever single-day surge of 16,922 COVID-19 cases pushed India's total tally to4,73,105 on Thursday whereas the death toll climbed to14,894 with 418 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry.

With this, India has registered over 14,000 cases for the sixth day in a row.

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