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Can Online learning replace the Offline University Ecosystem
An unprecedented crisis in COVID-19 has dawned upon the world. More than 8 million confirmed cases globally, fatalities touching almost half a million, it is a crisis that evokes no recent memory of a parallel event. The only closer ones are the Spanish flu or the Great Depression. The crisis, along with ravaging the economy, has also induced some permanent changes within the systems. As people say, ‘the World is in for a big reset.’ One of the active discussion of this reset is about the online education paradigm.
Do we need the campuses to impart knowledge in today’s time?
Can we skill and educate the youngsters of today while they sit at their homes, perhaps enjoying a cup of Dalgona coffee staring at their screen?
Can we ride on the digital infrastructure and get the best-in-class teaching activity across the board and make it reach even the remotest corners?
There are pertinent questions, and there are diverse sets of opinions on them (check them here, here and here).
Let me focus my attention to universities and especially business schools (as I am part of one of the topmost business schools in this country). Most of them are debating about their next terms. Viral news did hit a lot of WhatsApp chatboxes a few weeks back about Cambridge University shifting online for the entire year. Albeit, only that Cambridge issues an update that didn’t receive much attention (sensationalism sells, tabloid media thrives). Even institutes within our holy land are debating about the next semesters being online. When such news hit me, I did some thinking about it.
I have been an early adopter of technology. It was in the late 90s when I was still in my Kindergarten that I started using computers. Full-time internet access was something that I got acquainted with when I joined by the BTech program in 2012 at one of the IITs. From someone who has been an early digital adopter yet opposed to the idea of online education is a paradoxical situation in some sense.
And when I tried to find answers to that opposition, I went back to revisit my learnings from a university setting. I am not even talking of infrastructural challenges and digital divide here that exist in our country or the precarious power cuts that happen despite being a power surplus nation. Infrastructure is a solvable problem in the coming years. But, does solving infrastructural issues mandate a shift towards online education? My opinion is not. To an extent, I tilt towards the view of the current director of IIM Udaipur, where he talks that for Tier – 1 institute, “tech is more an enabler than a replacement.”
In my opinion, top universities don’t just shape the graduates by the content they offer. Top universities develop the graduates by the ecosystem they offer. Today we live in an information abundance era. Almost everything is available online, and some people are making good use of it. Exceptional quality MOOCs are available that stream courses from the likes of the Harvards and MITs of the world. With such content availability, the universities should have become redundant by now, or at least an indication towards that trend would have been visible. But that hasn’t happened. I believe the strong reason is the ecosystem and the holistic experience that a university beholds, and that shapes its graduates.
When it comes to business schools offering MBAs, I used to wonder often: What do these institutes (the likes of IIMs/ISB/HBS/etc.) do in those one or two years that the graduates find the entire span transformational. The only answer that I could find out in at least one year of that experience is that they imbibe ‘leadership skills’ along with ‘managerial acumen.’ That managerial acumen is the direct part of the academic courses, the leadership an indirect outcome of the ecosystem. The classes of accounting, to managerial decision making, tend to build a theoretical foundation of that acumen. But that is just one part of the jigsaw. The practical application aspect of it and the leadership are the other parts. It [leadership] is built by the social capital that you get when you become part of the illustrious networks. It is created by various extra out-of-the-classroom activities that we try out.
The out-of-the-classroom discussion with peers ranging from diverse backgrounds is what develops the character of leadership. The diversity of culture, work experience, educational knowledge, perspectives, thoughts when discussed over tea or coffee is what enables the ability to become holistic leaders of the managerial world—the last-minute hassles of completing the assignment in its best form, to debating ideas for projects under the close guidance of the professor. The extra strive to raise money for college fests to network and finding out an entrepreneurial partner for the next venture. All these experiences shape an individual. How can online stand and replace this social cohesion and capital that peer interactions brings in is still unanswered. That being said, it forces me to think whether online education can replace in-person teaching and build an ecosystem that university campuses offer. I am still looking for answers.
As Ellen Glasglow, an American novelist, said, “All change is not growth, and all movement is not forward” maybe it is time for us to think more in-depth on this change that we perhaps are witnessing. The global pandemic, for sure, will induce some changes (maybe even permanent), and we will have to adapt to some of them. However, we have to be careful and investigate whether online can offer the perks of offline, especially when it comes to creating leaders and inspiring learning ability among students.
– Yash Pratap Singh, PGP 2021
The Stone Wall Saga
It has been a year with India’s a la carte business school – the third IIM of the country, i.e., IIM Bangalore. The welcoming, warm, and professional space warped in grey stone and lush green surroundings, IIM Bangalore, has been a dream institution for a soul like me. It was only last year when in June, I entered the hallowed portals of the place known as the #PlaceToB. I penned my thoughts about being captivated by the charm and effuse of this pristine campus in the Silicon Valley of India. Well, known as the Doshi’s marvel (as Padma Shri and Pritzker Architecture Prize awardee, B V Doshi is the architect behind this beautiful campus), it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful colleges in the country and unquestionably the most beautiful IIM campus.
A part of the holy trinity of IIMs, i.e., ABC, IIM Bangalore, is one of the most sought after business school campuses of the country. From the NIRF to FT, and the QS rankings, IIM Bangalore continues to dominate the top spot in the country. The tales of extensive academic rigor, to having world-class faculty, from amazing infrastructure and facilities to iconic alumni network are all known. But, after having spent a year at this place, I think it has much more than meets the eye. Here are a few things that remain etched in my mind as I miss the place to ‘B,’ locked down in my house pursuing my summer internships virtually.
Pristine campus: The IIMB campus is the most beautiful place, something that everyone misses when she/he steps out of it. Encapsulating the varied flora and fauna, the creepers on its grey stone walls. The pavements packed with rustling leaves shed from the trees, the arching canopy along all the roads—the comfort of the mustard cafe, or the tea at the Prabhakar stall. The Harvard styled classrooms to the comforting forest pathways. Every nook and corner of this 100-acre campus along Bannerghatta Road (South Bengaluru) is something worth cherishing and adoring. Whenever I was stressed, be it from the academic hustle or the competition, or be it the intense summer placement weeks, a walk inside the campus has been an elixir to the stress. And lying down at the Open Air Theatre (OAT) at dawn with the morning dew is a common night out routine.
Sports Infrastructure: Business school campuses are known for their academics, cases, networking, and other business jargon. Sports are not something that one looks at when one evaluates or opts for a business school. However, it is when one enters the rigor of the classes packed with quizzes, assignments, cases, presentations, resume preparations, and whatnot, that one realizes the need for having a court to vent out and relax. IIMB offers the state of art sports infrastructure (tennis, squash, basketball, badminton, volleyball courts, to the swimming pool, table tennis rooms, football, and cricket fields). For a badminton enthusiast like me, sweating it out during the evenings at these courts used to be one of the best moments after hectic schedules.
The location: IIM Bangalore sits in the silicon valley and IT-capital of India. Right across the campus are glass buildings housing some of the big names. It allows the university to be frequented by business leaders time and again. In our marketing-101, we had ITC food division head, to Google H/W India head coming for our lectures. In our strategy course, we had the Urban ladder co-founder to one of the entrepreneurial course hosting a guest lecture every week. Moreover, apart from the proximity to major firms located in Bengaluru (minus the traffic within the city ;)), it is the climate that offers a more soothing experience. The pleasant weather of Bengaluru frequented with its bouts of rains followed by a foggy morning on the campus, adds to the beauty dimension. The climate often offers you comfort to concentrate well and handle the rigor with much more ease.
Curriculum and pedagogy: IIM Bangalore follows the most updated curriculum giving students an exposure to all dimensions of management. The delivery follows a structure via a mix of theoretical, conceptual learning, guest lectures, and case-driven (cold call) classes. Some courses are entirely case-driven, whereas some have a combination of regular lectures and cases. The entirely case-driven pedagogy can get students by surprise. A mix of it gives the student the opportunity to decipher and tackle the cases and the various prisms of managerial concepts more strongly.
The people: I guess it is the most crucial part of this place or any other place. Before entering, I had often heard about the hectic and rigor of IIMs. I had also heard that “at IIMBs PGP2s (second year PGP students) have got you covered.” The statement held its water once we entered the campus. IIMB is a pleasant place with welcoming yet professional people. The PGP2s have got your back at IIMB. From the day you enter to onboarding, resume guiding, navigating the courses, to summer placements, and every other thing on the campus – the PGP2s are there for you. It is a matter of culture and legacy that this campus beholds. A legacy of being known for its professionalism yet being supportive and caring. A legacy that has been passed on from batch to batch. One realizes the importance of it when one encounters the pace at which IIMB moves. The meteoric pace often overwhelms the students. However, when you have folks to knock up to and reach out for guidance, it becomes easy to navigate it. It is something extraordinary about this place to B.
Well, one can keep talking about IIMB for longer and longer. It is not just a place but an experience that gets etched in the brain. It is an experience that is profound and refreshing. As the cliche goes on the campus, “neither the stone walls forget you, nor can you forget these stone walls which held you.” It can be easily called as a differentially unique, ‘once in a lifetime experience’ that one would cherish forever.
– Yash Pratap Singh, PGP 2021
It’s calling us back..
It’s been days since we haven’t seen
Anything other than types of screens
Our eyes eager to see the stone walls
To its dear students, the campus calls
L square awaits their steps of dance
Cricket ground for its players’ glance
For their runs and the cricket screams
And classrooms to see new memes
On lush green campus, the long walks
In boring mess, food with random talks
The party beats and project night outs
The draining long meeting & the shouts
Dear Corona, we request you to pack
The hostel blocks are calling us back
At our beautiful campus, we want to be
We miss it very much, the Place to Be!
– Yashika Mehta, PGP 2021
The Rising Star..
The rising star has delayed it’s time
A Big dream is not at all a crime
After a long wait for its glow to shine
Diamond will be out of the mine..
At the last stroke, target will be hit
You’ll be at the position that’s fit
At delayed moment, don’t be stuck
Do not be disappointed at luck!
It’s not you but the tough to pass by
Don’t waste time questioning why
Follow your heart; passion isn’t weak
Soon glory will be at its true peak !
Your journey will make you so proud
Success will make its noise aloud
Accomplish and you will be reverend
The purpose for which life is meant !
– Yashika Mehta, PGP 2021
The Magic of Smile
Tired, fatigued to cover a long way ahead
I returned home listening a sad song
Voice of the boss was banging in my head
Wondering hard what had gone wrong
Smiled a stranger passing by the lane
I couldn’t make out who the man was
Was he known person or just an insane?
But he replaced the ugly frowning boss
Fresh new air cooled my heated head
A Sudden new energy ushered in me
A smile on his face could be read
Though I hadn’t had a cup of tea.. :p
I ‘d forgotten all happenings of the day
A significant change the smile had made
Smiling to self I resumed walking my way
It was as if a magic wand was swayed
Rejuvenated refreshed I restarted positive
Truely priceless gift a stranger ‘d given
A lovely smile just like a wine addictive
Now I smile before new projects I begin
The toughest of situations get their way
Patience and courage to overcome strives
Smile..your smile can make someone’s day
And you can influence a thousand lives !!!
– Yashika Mehta, PGP 2021