As students return to campus, IITs focus on closing the communication gap

Several measures have been taken by IITs to ensure that students continue to interact through various online initiatives

Remember when some of the founders of popular start-ups were viewed with skepticism because of their inability to converse in English. Communication has been a struggle especially for students joining institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and National Institute of Technology (NIT). Add to that the two-year pause brought by the pandemic which has put a halt to socializing on campus. “The institution renews its academic system every ten years. However, from the new batch of 2022, IIT has introduced a new type of class, where they talk about the English language cell, which basically includes classes on speaking and writing skills. There will be a compulsory course that every freshman will have to take,” Kartikeya Dhakad, president of the student senate, IIT Kanpur, told FE Online.

Additionally, IIT Kanpur runs the Shivani Center, which focuses on integrating Hindi and other Indian language (OIL) students into the socio-academic milieu. Still under development, the center was rolled out on August 19, 2021. Similarly, IIT Kharagpur, has an official soft skills development company named Communique which conducts English mentoring programs through multiple sessions to encourage students to express themselves.

The language barrier is only one side of the coin, as the majority of students belong to the interior or small towns of the country, socio-economic issues also play a crucial role. Moreover, it has been observed that students in educational institutions, especially in the later years, often face mental health issues as they struggle to find the right job. For these reasons, IIT claims to have started having student counseling wings which are supposed to help students deal with the problem of depression. In most institutions, advice is now co-delivered both offline during the campaign and online. “The online mode of teaching has given rise to several issues related to the mental health of students. We have seven counselors and also opened online counseling through YourDost, to provide on-call and offline counseling,” said Tapanendu Kundu, Profession and Dean of Student Affairs, IIT Bombay.

As offline classes have moved online due to the ongoing pandemic, physical interaction with fellow campus scholars has become a challenge. As a result, IITs claimed to have developed various mechanisms to bridge the gap. According to Devaki Nandana, Vice President, Technology Students’ Gymkhana (TSG), IIT Kharagpur, it has its own online “Buddy Interaction” groups where students receive constant guidance and communication from their seniors with the aim of creating an ecosystem consistent for them. While IIT Kanpur claims to have created a “Baapu system”, where a group of six second-year students guide newcomers and constantly promote communication between them. “By 2024, we aim to create a wing, which will include four such student groups,” Dhakad added.

And now that campuses are reopening after a two-year hiatus, institutes such as IITs believe the challenge will lie in rebuilding students’ social communication skills over a period of time. For now, the sheer joy of returning to campuses is what seems to be motivating everyone at universities.

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