2020 saw one of the worst events in world history. A virus pandemic on a global scale that affected the worlds’ order. Suddenly everything came to a sudden halt and everyone gathered themselves in their homes, to be safe and secured only to find themselves stuck in there for several days and even months. Offices and Businesses were closed, almost all major companies stopped working and asked their workers to stay home.
All educational institutions too closed their doors and asked the students to return home. Lecture halls were empty and all hostels witnessed scores of students leaving the premises to get to safer places. Everything happened in a quick moment with no time for reaction.
Certainly, students faced one of the worst losses as colleges and schools they had admitted to stopped functioning. A few weeks of lockdown resulted in no output of education for students. To cope up with this lost time, many schools started taking online lectures and virtual classes with students attending these lectures sitting at home in front of their laptops or mobiles.
Slowly as we go about this pandemic, this medium of education is being adapted on a large scale. Shifting the mode of teaching to online virtual classes is inevitable. Architecture schools and colleges are no different in such a scenario. But architectural education being a bit different from the textbook culture of other streams, it becomes interesting as well as difficult to fathom as to how this approach will turn for the architectural graduates.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into this issue by contemplating some of the changes and adaptations that may happen in the architectural education post-pandemic.
1. Nata exams
Over the years, Nata exams were being conducted in a manner where students had to in-person be present in an examination centre to give the exam, be it online/offline or both. Since social distancing norms have come into effect, it has become impossible to conduct any test for students by gathering them at one place.
This may force the stakeholder to come up with a solution that enables students to give this test in a safe and secured environment. Conducting the entire exams online is one of the points that can be considered and continued in the future if it proves to be a success.
A massive change that can be speculated is that many architectural colleges from tier 1 cities will see a dip in students applying to them from inter and intrastate towns and from the inner belts of the country.
Such students would prefer to admit to colleges closer to their hometowns and locality and this may create an imbalance of student admissions in the academic circles. Well, this may be a temporary obstacle that may be observed for a year or two, eventually, admissions would be expected to normalize out.
3. First-year students
This batch of first years is one of the worst affected during this pandemic. After passing two of the most difficult obstacles of NATA exams and admissions into colleges, this lot of students will be affected considering the education and syllabus is considered.
Architectural education of first-year students was majorly theoretical and experimental in nature with a focus on exploring design ideas through physical modeling and making hands on design prototypes. Other technical subjects during these initial years are also taught theoretically and by hand drafted sheets.
Since pandemic and lockdowns coming into effect, the majority of classes have been shifted to online lectures and the traditional modes of teaching to these young students will completely change. A new method needs to be adopted to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised for the fresh batch.
4. Second-year students
Second-year students too shall face the same problems faced by their juniors as most of the colleges require students to explore their design and imagination through hand-drafted sheets and physical models. Other subjects too are practiced without the involvement of technology and laptops. Also, not many students are equipped with laptops in their initial years of education.
To drastically change the way architecture education continues and shift everything online, all the factors need to be considered and a favourable and flexible solution should come out for students. Though this may be temporary, this solution if successful can be considered for the future as well where technology plays a big part in education.
5. Third-year students
Many students have settled in and now have a clear idea of how the academic semester works and how to deal with the nitty-gritty of college life. The third-year is considered one of the difficult years and students will find it even difficult during such hard times.
Lectures and academic activities shifting online will take a toll on the education quality and the fun will definitely be missed. Though almost all the subjects are technical and detailed which should be easily shifted to an online mode of teaching, some important elements like case studies and site/market visits for research will be put on hold.
6. Fourth-year students
Though all the problems mentioned above are applicable to this lot as well, fourth-year students may be a bit prepared and well placed for this situation. Since almost all students have a laptop and all the subjects that need to be taught can be done through virtual classes, this batch will not be affected much.
Though it is an important year and many would be dealing with projects on a large scale and some schools may have final thesis projects, much of the work can be managed via the new classroom.
The most unlucky batch to undergo professional practice during this pandemic. Many students faced a huge obstacle securing an internship since most of the firms have lost their work and not many firms are interested in hiring an extra employee.
The future batches need to consider and take a lesson from this and be prepared well in advance so as to secure an internship firm of their choice.
8. Thesis / Final Semester
Most of the colleges have their final thesis projects in the tenth semester. The final year will have a hard time dealing with this important and final semester of their academic life since social distancing norms and many rules and regulations will affect their grandeur thesis project they had once thought of.
A lot of restrictions will come into play for these students as the world adapts to a new living, working, and thinking locally mindset. This will definitely be reflected in the final thesis projects these students choose to propose. All in all, students may get to design what they want, but with a few restrictions and new design parameters.
9. Teachers/ Professors and other support staff
Not only students, teachers, and support staff are also going to have to change and embrace the new modes of teaching and working. The new mode of lecture presentation will be virtual classrooms, classwork submission and assessment through e-mails and juries and discussions through video conferencing, a new skill for the not so tech-savvy group.
10. The overall picture
Change is inevitable. This is one true fact about this pandemic and architectural education will and should go through changes to adapt to the new normal. What changes can be expected is a bit difficult to speculate a lot of things need to be considered from all perspectives.
Definitely, technology will play a new and an enhanced role in supporting this change. Whether these changes turn out to be good or bad only time will tell.