Learning Under the New Normal – A student’s Perspective

– Anirudh Srivatsa, PGP 2021

As Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO in January 2020, little did we, the PGP1s of IIM Bangalore, know back then how much our lives were to be changed by the weeks and months that followed. The campus buzz revolved around eager anticipation for our internships, the people we would meet and the places we would visit, and of course, intense strategizing and planning for the exchange process – essentially, a once in a lifetime opportunity for a 3-month Europe trip!

All of that, and more, were quickly unravelled in March 2020, with Covid-19 making its presence felt in India and the imposition of the nationwide lockdown. Suddenly, in a brutal realization of the ancient “man proposes, God disposes” aphorism, all our seemingly infallible plans came falling apart. Excitement and anticipation transformed into uncertainty and trepidation, travel-intensive internships gave way to a laptop confined to our desks, and dreams of a view of the Northern Lights in Iceland were replaced with the reality of the view of tubelights on our walls.

As the pandemic raged on, the “new normal” soon went on to define all of our second year of our MBA – with all of our classes being held online. This posed a variety of new challenges, for students, faculty and staff alike. Students rushed to arrange stable Internet connections, juggling household chores and managing makeshift workspaces in homes not designed for full-time working, while the professors got themselves up to speed on the intricacies of Zoom and various online exam platforms, supported by a newly recruited team of online learning facilitators. Online classes were a pale shadow of their previously offline versions, with Zoom fatigue quickly setting in after several hours of attending back-to-back lectures. However, many faculty members did their best in adapting to the new medium and keeping their lectures as engaging as possible.

Group projects suffered from a lack of peer learning, one of the biggest attractions of any MBA programme, as students could not interact as easily online leading to curtailed discussions. Students also sorely felt the lack of social connections – unable to interact with their batchmates, with text messages and video calls being a poor replacement. This was felt more than ever by the incoming batch of PGP1s, who could not meet their batchmates and seniors in person and hence had to go the extra mile to make new friends and seek mentorship for academics and summer placements.

However, these challenges have also revealed within us a streak of resilience and hidden sources of sheer willpower. As we, the students of the batch of 2021, graduate into a second wave of a pandemic far worse than the first, we leave with the hope that our experiences over the last one year would stand us in good stead to face and meet unexpected and demanding challenges in our future careers as well.