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From IIMC To JNU: 5 Reasons Online Classes Are Not Working For Anyone

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The Covid-19 Pandemic forced youth all over the world to embrace online classes. In the Indian context, online classes have been a reality for more than a year, and their end does not seem to be near. This time has been marked by protests in universities all over the country for the phased reopening of campuses, disbursal of scholarships, lowering fees, and against administrative apathy. In the last two months, Delhi University, Ambedkar University, Indian Institute Of Mass Communication, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and many other universities have seen these protests.

Credit: Upendra (Via Twitter)

IIMC students protesting for campus reopening and immediate disbursal of scholarships.

Online classes are a prominent feature of the NEP, which advocates blended mode (online + offline classes for a course) and correspondence courses. However, the experience of online classes in the pandemic, where it is a necessity, has been a complete disaster which raises questions about the NEP’s implementation of the same.

Here are 5 reasons why online classes are not working:

1. Zoom Fatigue

zoom class
Representational Image

Online classes have a detrimental effect on students physically and mentally.

Attending online classes all day, for 5 hours or more every day has a lot of detrimental effects. The obvious physical health implication is a heavy strain on the eyesight, while also affecting the mental health of the student who does not get the interactive nature of the classes. 

In many cases, university administration and some teachers have been unsympathetic to these woes of the students. One such incident comes from the winter semester of 2020, where students from Jesus And Mary College spoke out against having 6-7 hours of classes every day and asked for fewer classes. The administration’s response was to just give them a one-hour break per day without reducing the total time of the classes.

2. Robbing Students Of Their University Experience

Sumeet Inder Singh/The The India Today Group via Getty Images

The pandemic has robbed many of the opportunity to experience college life.

For many students, the university campus is a space to grow, learn, and make friends. It’s an environment conducive to learning and where students take their first steps of adulthood. Online classes have robbed every student of this experience.

Navneet Kaur, a student from Lady Sriram College, explains the effect this has had on her. She says “Online classes have taken a big toll on my health and productivity. I feel my enthusiasm for things, especially my college and course has decreased a lot. Online classes have never been something I advocate for, considering how it robs me and every one of the on-ground experiences of learning and the aesthetic beauty of being in your own college and making friends. 

Technically, it has been even more difficult considering the Internet speed struggles people like me from small cities have to face. I almost feel as if our individual efforts of making it to our preferred or dream colleges have gone to waste as we can’t live in that space. Online education is something that I hate the most, considering how it has added to only wrongs and woes. I hope the universities understand this and colleges open soon.”

3. A Lack Of Resources For Many

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Many students do not have the resources to access online classes.

Online classes require a lot of infrastructure from the side of the students, such as laptops, phones, a working internet connection, etc. Many students studying in universities do not have access to these resources and were not given any help from the government or the university administration except for a few exceptions. In Jadavpur University, the administration, teachers, and students came together to fund smartphones and data packs for around 800 students.

In many cases, university students took up the initiative to raise funds for their peers. One such example is St. Stephens where students started a massive fundraiser to fund underprivileged students.

These student-run endeavours can only do so much without any help from the government to make online classes work. The government has not been able to disburse scholarships to students who need them, pushing many students out of education. Cases of students dying by suicide because they could not pay their fees or access electronic devices were widespread in the pandemic. 

This is the same Government that has collected 1000s of crores from the PM Cares Fund for which there has been no accountability yet.

One must understand that these problems intersect each other, with the other effects of online classes more gravely affecting some other than others. Kashvi, a Delhi University student who has been working with others to make study notes and readings for those who aren’t able to attend online classes explains this.

“The issue with what we were trying to do was that ultimately, there was a fall in morale and people stopped reaching out to us altogether. We had circulated messages asking for people to reach out if they needed help. The thing is, if people did not have internet altogether, they couldn’t reach out at all.”

On the impact of virtual learning on students, she says, “It’s not the same (as compared to normal classes). Discussions are not the same. There are no lively debates. It’s just not possible.”

4. “Crushing For Professors”

The negative impacts of online learning are not restricted to the students but have also had an impact on the teaching community. Professor Abha Dev Habib, teaching at Miranda House, explains her experience. She says. “I feel totally crushed with work, without seeing the output, or enjoying it.”

“A teacher is a performer in many ways. We look at the class, we look at the student’s faces. In the classroom, we improvise by looking at the feedback which we get from the students when we are teaching. Aap kuch bolte ho, student ko acha nahi lagta, uska body language change hota hai, usse aap apne lecture ko tweak karte rehte ho (you say something and you can tell whether the student does not like it allowing you to tweak your lecture). The students lead the lecture.”

She explains how this is different in online classes. “Because of bandwidth issues or space where students are sitting in. Some students might not have devices and the space at home where they are sitting and attending class is different for everyone. When we are teaching in a classroom, there is an equal environment for all students. Now, the house is coming into your lecture.”

She rues that the professors are feeling “completely lost” as their scope to interact and bond with their students has been completely dissipated by online classes.

Professors protesting for the disbursal of salaries in 12 DU colleges by the Delhi Government. Photo: Abha Dev Habib Via Facebook

5. No Work-Home Divide

Professor Abha Dev Habib, who touched on this issue for students, also explains how it has affected her as a professor. She points out that there is no dichotomy between home and work, and instead of a fixed time for work, professors have had to take on an increased staggered workload throughout the year. This includes exam invigilations, checking papers while also having to take classes on the same day, and so on.

She points out that this has left no time for personal work, be it recreational or other academic work, as in many cases, professors have to work throughout the day at different intervals.

Students protesting to reopen the DU campus in March.

All of these issues have led to demotivation of the students as well as many professors, with the quality of learning in online education also being much lower than classroom learning. With no end in sight and a government hell-bent on making online education a reality, the future of education seems bleak.

The neo-liberal agenda of the NEP to commodify education loses out on the very point of academia. The vigour and learning will be lost, and those having to opt for the correspondence courses will eventually be those who are marginalized, furthering the BJP-RSS agenda of destroying critical thinking in education.

Featured image credit: SFI Ambedkar University Delhi/Representational purposes only.
You must be to comment.
  1. puja pal

    well this problem is not only restricted to universities but also in schools. students living in remote areas are deprived of computer laptop and internet. hence are isolated from learning. schools and universities on digital era is quiet different from offline tuition to online tuition.
    students became lethargic , unfocused, deprived from socialization and finally became a serious game addicted person.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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