Education in COVID times: DU students gear up for first class, first impression, but virtually

They pull out all stops to become a part of the campus fashion and join the gym to tone up a bit before the classes start.
The Rajdhani College, located in West Delhi, however, is preparing to open the campus partially for science and other courses that have practicals.
The Rajdhani College, located in West Delhi, however, is preparing to open the campus partially for science and other courses that have practicals.

Happy to be out of school uniform, for the first-year students of the Delhi University, looking good in the initial few days is as important as creating a lasting impression on their professors on the first day. They pull out all stops to become a part of the campus fashion and join the gym to tone up a bit before the classes start.

Aniket Solanki, who took admission in BA History (Honours) in Moti Lal Nehru College, too, has shopped clothes of around Rs 6,000 for his college, hoping for a grand welcome, orientation programmes, cultural events, fun games and free snacks at the canteen.

But for Solanki and thousands of freshers like him, getting an experience like that could be a distant dream as Delhi University’s academic session for the first year classes of undergraduate and postgraduate students will begin from November 18, but online — the first time in varsity’s history, thanks to Covid-19 pandemic.      

“As the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, and offices and even schools in many states were resumed, I thought Delhi colleges will also re-open. But, unfortunately, I will have to interact with my batchmates online this seasion. Online classes can never replace classroom teaching and fun,” says Harikesh, who has cleared the fourth cut-off list and is looking to take admission in prestigious Sri Venkateswara College at South Campus.  

Ishika Gehlot, who has been enrolled in Zakir Husain College for BA philosophy, always wanted to study at the Delhi University. But this year’s sky-high cut-off lists have crushed to take admission in her desired college. “But still, I was happy and excited that I will be studying at the DU and going to my college and enjoy with my new friends.

Probably, I was hoping against hope... I wanted to join the dance society of the college, but everything appears to be a distant dream now,” a disheartened  Gehlot says.

A student from Tamil Nadu, who wished not to be named, took admission in BSC chemistry at one of the top institutions — Hindu College. But he feels it won’t be easy for him to learn online.  “Science courses have practicals, and I and my parents are not sure how we are supposed to do that online,” the student says. 

‘Difficult to study on a cell phone’

Voicing his concern over holding online classes, Mukesh, who comes from a humble background in Bihar, says he had scored good marks in the Class XII board examination this year and took admission after the second cut-off list was out, hoping that the DU would give her better academic exposure. “But now, I am worried because it is not possible to study everything with the help of a mobile phone,” says Mukesh, who wants to be an IAS official. 

The DU is one of the prestigious central universities of the country and more than 50 per cent of students come from across the nation. Despite high cut-offs, the varsity sees the enrollment crossing the reserved 70,000 seats in its colleges. The highest cut off in DU this year was 100 per cent. After admissions, the central university will go completely online. 

How are colleges preparing?

“The first day of the college is a very special and memorable for newcomers. Though due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the session will begin online, but to cheer up the students, we have made a detailed plan. First, there will be an orientation session in which the students will be introduced to the staff, departments, rules and disciplines.

They will also be introduced the teachers of their respective departments and then, the libraries,” says Suman Sharma, principal of Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) Sharma adds: “This year, we may not be able to provide that classroom teaching experience to our teachers, but we will make sure that they are provided with required materials online. There are different education and societies such as dance, debate, drama, art and street play in our college.

The students will be introduced to all such activities. The details and prospectus will be uploaded on the college website and the students will also be auditioned online.”Besides, the college will also have a special orientation programme for general elective classes. “It is difficult for students to choose the disciplines in a day. So, they will be properly explained, guided about the different disciplines we have. The students can choose the courses after two-three attempts,” says the LSR principal says.

The LSR, an all-woman off-campus college, released the highest cut-off list this year with 100 per cent marks in three honours courses — BA political sciences, economics and psychology. The Rajdhani College, located in West Delhi, however, is preparing to open the campus partially for science and other courses that have practicals. “We have a special committee for the UPSC and civil services aspirants. Thus, an online discussion will be conducted and a general interaction session will be organised online department-wise. Besides, there are courses like BA programmes and BSc programmes which have combinations of multiple courses, and the students may face difficulties online.

Thus, we have appointed special coordinators and teachers for these courses, so the students can have a one-on-one interaction,” says Rajesh Giri, principal of Rajdhani College. Giri adds that the administration is also discussing the syllabus and preparing a time-table for the online classes. The college is also planning to conduct practical classes once a week, he says. The principal says the students aspiring to join the National Cadet Corps (NCC) will be shortlisted online and will be called to the campus once a week for training. “Further, a proper webinar or session will be conducted on Covid-19,” Giri says.

Anju Srivastava, principal of Hindu College, says currently, the procedure is going on and it is too early to tell anything about this. “But, the college is planning innovative ideas to welcome, motivate and encourage the students,” Srivastava says. Rituraj, president of the Hindi Debating Society at Hindu College, says the society has planned to coordinate with the teachers and will interact with the students to explain to them about the body. 

“The debating society of Hindu College is very famous. Only 50-60 students are selected for the society. Thus, will use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to inform the interested students. Further, debate auditions will be conducted on Zoom App or Google Meet for which, students can register themselves,” he says. Manoj Sinha, principal of Arya Bhatta College and secretary of DU Principal Association (DUPA), says departmental representatives, student council-bearers will join the teachers and interact with the newcomers.

“The students have come up with very innovative ideas. Some have even made videos about the college and the facilities that the freshers can avail,” says Sinha. “In my college, there is no pure science course, but there are professional courses such as BA psychology, computer science, BBA, BMS which require practicals. For these courses, we will try to integrate practicals with online classes,” adds Sinha.

Preparing e-material
“Covid-19 cases are increasing every day in the city. But, the varsity is working and developing syllabi and modules with added practical components. The varsity has created ‘ONEDU’ — an online portal on how to prepare study material for promoting online education in the time of corona,” says Rajeev Gupta, Dean, Students Welfare (DSW). 

“The Education Ministry has permitted to open varieties partially for science and technology courses. We also have that permission and are looking into it. If we get requests from colleges to open the varsity for such courses, will revisit those guidelines. We have also thought of many options for science students — like how to call them in a staggered manner, odd-even or roll number-wise.

But what makes the DU different from other universities is that it is an open campus. Other central universities have residential complexes, where students can live and study. But, here, the hostel facility is less and the existing are sharing. There are pros and cons. So, once 80 per cent of admissions are completed, a meeting of all principals will be held by the varsity to discuss the issue,” says Gupta.

What DUSU is planning?
“If students cannot come to college, we will reach out to them. This is our motive and plan in the Covid-19 era. Till last year, the experience of the first day was very different. We used to visit all colleges, meet the students in societies, welcomed them with chocolates and parties and get-togethers. But this year, we are planning to organise online events where students can also participate,” says Akshit Dahiya, president, the Delhi University Students’ Union.

“The National Student Union of India (NSUI) is planning to take new initiatives for the students to help them with a smooth transition in the college life. We will be launching an online helpline portal for them that will cater to all the problems faced by students in their studies. We will also organise virtual sessions with seniors to acquaint freshers with the procedures, rules and regulations. Along with that, we will try to reach out to the maximum number of students and help them with study material, among others, says Lokesh Chugh, national secretary of the NSUI.

Paying guests business see income 
Despite the online sessions, students have started booking seats in PG accommodations so that they don’t have face any hurdles when the varsity switches to physical classes. Mohit Dhaiya, a PhD scholar at the DU as well as an owner of PGs in Kamla Nagar and Mukherjee Nagar, says: “The bookings have started coming from the freshers. We have already received token amounts from 30 students. Due to the pandemic, we will provide a single-room facility to each student and there will be no sharing.”

Admission against 4th list today
Admission against the DU fourth cut-off list will start on Monday from 10 am. The DU had released the fourth cut-off list on Saturday for admission to undergraduate (UG) programmes. A compiled DU fourth cut-off list for science, arts and commerce programmes has been updated on the official website — Candidates meeting the DU fourth cut-off can apply online at the college websites for admission to the university and its affiliated colleges. The admission process against the DU fourth cut-off list will continue till November 4 up to 5 pm. The university, this year, has been following a contactless admission process due to the pandemic and the social distancing norms associated with it.

One of the most prestigious central universities of the country, the Delhi University has more than 50 per cent of students come from across the nation. With online learning traditionally taking months to design, the university will be scrambling to produce something sufficiently professional and engaging in time

Come November 18, for the first time, DU’s new session will be conducting online amid Covid. With no on-campus studies, it’s heartbreak for newcomers, while academics are working hard to find ways to deal with complicated teaching online, reports Gayathri Mani

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