Following government advisories to avoid public gatherings amid the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) scare, top education institutions and universities, including the IIMs and IITs, have either cancelled or deferred campus gatherings such as convocations and classroom lectures.
The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, for instance, has cancelled its convocation programme scheduled for March 21. IIM Bangalore has deferred the same scheduled for March 20 till a later date, according to campus sources. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has suspended class work and examinations until March 31, while refraining faculty and students from organising any event on the campus that requires the gathering of people during the period.
According to the institutes, advisories from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW), Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) and World Health Organization (WHO) have led to such drastic steps being taken to avoid public gatherings.
"In view of the advisories issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organization to avoid large gatherings since the eruption of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, we have decided to cancel the annual convocation scheduled for March 21, 2020. The decision has been taken to preclude any risks to students and their extended families and friends as well as to the faculty and employees of the institute," said an official communique by IIM Ahmedabad, with the institute mulling granting degrees one-on-one to students instead.
IIM Indore's annual convocation programme, scheduled on March 24-25, has also been postponed. "We are closely monitoring the situation and the new date for the Convocation will be decided depending on how the situation unfolds in the coming days," said IIM Indore director Himanshu Rai.
As precautionary measures, Indian School of Business (ISB) has suspended classes across its Hyderabad and Mohali campuses, asking all students to vacate campuses by March 18 evening.
"The remaining session will be offered online for the student to complete the learning process. For the first time in the annals of ISB, the annual graduation ceremony, that was supposed to take in the first week of April, has been postponed until further notice due to Covid-19," ISB stated.
Apart from suspending class work and examinations, IIT Delhi has also sent out advisory on overseas travel.
"In case you must travel abroad for official reasons, please seek special permission through an appropriate authority in the institute. International students studying at IIT Delhi and currently residing in the hostels will be allowed to stay in the hostels during this period. Basic mess facilities will be available on the campus during the period," said Ramgopal Rao, director of IIT Delhi in the advisory while maintaining that these were "special circumstances requiring special measures".
All academic activities across departments at IIT Bombay including research have been closed till March 31, with the institute asking students who are still remaining in hostels to leave the campus by Friday, March 20.
IIT Gandhinagar has extended its semester break for two more weeks till March end. The Institute has removed common hand towels from the washrooms and hand sanitizers have been put up at strategic locations of mass gathering such as students’ mess, hostel lobbies for outstationed students who are still residing in the hostel. Biometric attendance system is suspended for now and a set of quarantine residencies have been made ready to house any affected person/s.
Private varsities like Shiv Nadar University and Ashoka University have, however, moved all courses to online mode even as it encouraged its students who were not in campus to stay away until March 31 and beyond if necessary.
"During this time, we will move all courses online. This may happen through Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or other means. Any assessment planned for this period will either be postponed or adapted to online mode. Instructors will send students course-specific instructions remotely. While it is a challenge to do this in the middle of the Semester and at a short notice, but given the extraordinary situation, everybody at Shiv Nadar University will put in their best effort to ensure the learning outcomes are not compromised," the university stated in its advisory.
Similarly, Ashoka University has shifted its classes and curriculum online to minimise disruption. "The attendance at online classes have been very good. Some classes have had almost 200 students signed in. All other services including special needs support from the Office of Learning Support and wellness support from the Centre for Well-Being have also shifted online," the university stated.
Education technology (edtech) providers have also stepped in to assist students and varsities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
For instance, Coursera has stepped forward to provide impacted Indian universities with free access to its course catalog through 'Coursera for Campus'.
According to Jeff Maggioncalda, Chief Executive Officer, Coursera, universities can sign up to provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3800 courses and 400 specialisations from Coursera's university and industry partners. "These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020, after which we plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments. Students who enroll on or before July 31 will continue to have access until Sept. 30, 2020."
Meanwhile, with state governments like Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir announcing that schools and colleges to remain shut till March 31 or beyond, Internshala has announced free access to its e-learning platform, Internshala Trainings.
"Students can learn a number of skills in programming, data science, business, design, creative writing etc. on Internshala Trainings through its short duration online training programs. Any student enrolled in a regular classroom program (schools, bachelors, diploma, masters, or higher) in a government recognized school, college or university (public or private) in Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh region. Students enrolled in a distance learning institution or program or graduates (anyone who has completed studies) are not eligible," the startup stated.