Teams, Meets and Webex : A Zoom in on the Online Semester Part I
Updated: Feb 17, 2021
This is a strange and historical time; we can all feel the significance of the moment, of a pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill. But today, nearly a year after the first case was reported, we are less concerned with the big picture and more worried about the daily details of living happy lives. Had we been asked last year how we would feel about an online semester, we might have looked at our beloved gadgets and shrugged: ‘I could probably manage a few months online. I’m glued to my laptop anyway.’ And yet this is so very different from anything we could have imagined. Being glued to your laptop in a quiet room at home is not the same as sitting in your loud, busy hostel wing and trying to work. There is a disconnect.
This is why we bring you an analysis of how this transition has affected the students of IIT Delhi. We’ll examine what everyone’s academic lives look like today, how socializing is taking place, and also think about some insights we received from non-student figures. And hopefully, along the way, we’ll understand how everyone is living, scattered to their own little corners of the country, and feel a bit more connected.
Handling today’s academic experience feels like staring down an entirely unfamiliar beast. The semester is shorter, lectures are less accessible, most lab components are a bygone dream, technical hiccups are inevitable. It is undeniably frustrating. But then, this isn't to say that there aren't some pros along with the cons. The distractions of campus are absent, we can dictate our own workdays, commuting time is nonexistent, and attendance is usually unenforced. There are both restrictions and freedoms. Let’s look at which way the balance has fallen for most students.
Concentration on online vs campus lectures
Firstly, the ability to concentrate on lectures has gotten more difficult for most students across the PG and UG sections. This might be due to internet problems, as 40% of our respondents tell us that internet connectivity is their primary problem with live lectures. However, there is still a substantial number of students - 25% of the UG section and 12% of the PG section - who find it easier to concentrate from home. Seems like some of us are definitely better off without friends to mess around in the lecture hall.
Recorded vs live Even though most profs prefer live lectures to recorded lectures because they’re a better approximation of offline teaching, 46% of students preferred recorded lectures over live lectures, and 27% had no preference either way. Also, there is a clear trend between this preference and the student’s CGPA. While only 39% of the students in the 9-10 range preferred recorded lectures, this number increased to 54% for students with CGPAs less than 7.
Problems with live lectures
Not surprisingly, the main problem faced by students in attending live lectures was internet connectivity. We see another dimension to the issue of internet connectivity in the fact that among the students who faced financial challenges due to lockdown, 49% faced internet issues as a primary problem and another 22% faced it as a secondary problem. It does raise an eyebrow, however, that the second most cited issue was household chores. 13% of our respondents say that being involved in household chores is their primary problem. The majority of these students (60%) are PG, which is understandable as they are older and have more household responsibilities.
We also see that a substantial number of students face issues due to odd class timings (11%) and the prof’s technological issues (12%). Understandably, over half of these students prefer recorded lectures to live lectures.
The environment on campus and studying
How you like to study is something that’s unique to every person - you study alone, you have study groups, you study with music, you prefer the quiet, you study at a table, you study on a couch… the variables are endless. So when asked, ‘Do you believe you studied better on campus?’ and the answer was a resounding yes.
74% of the UG section and 86% of the PG section preferred studying on campus. However, a significant part of the student population also seems to be enjoying their academic at-home experience - as one ecstatic student put it, “I am studying much much much better at home, and the same is the case with 90% of my friends.” 8% of students - the true survivors - are indifferent to whether they’re studying at home or on campus.
Besides the teaching and studying, there’s another important component of any course - the structure and policies. That’s why we asked our respondents if their professors’ course policies were in agreement with institute guidelines for the online semesters, and this is what we found: