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New outlook to work-life balance: Rejuvenation a necessity – Shruti Mishra (PhD Scholar)

In the world of chaos and unrest, it is essential to look within us for stability and comfort that will pull us away from burnout. The competition in today’s world is so intense that letting go of your guard, even for a moment, makes us feel like giving an opportunity to another person. You need to know where you are and where you are going, so it is important that you are able to enjoy what you doing rather than getting into the rat race. It’s because of this reason that Generations X, Millennials, and Generation Y are all in favor of personal growth and often find opportunities for self-renewal and self-development, and in the process find a career which best suits their unique self.

 

It is this search for self that has given rise to a boom of small business organizations or entrepreneurship in the last decade. While this might be true for some, youngsters in large organizations have found a different approach to take care of themselves. They are opting for sabbatical or paid leave to relax, to see the world, or better themselves in the search for self. It is a process of rejuvenation or self-relaxation that helps a person, before re-entering the rigmarole of working life. This process does not just enrich them, as a person, but helps them tackle the workload with new zeal, leading to benefitting the organizations. It is also because of this reason that many organizations are taking an active interest in sabbatical and the importance of encouraging employees to take them when needed.

 

Therefore, it is important we understand the word sabbatical in detail and what it means in today’s world.  When we look at the etymology of the word ‘Sabbatical’, we realize that the word has its origin in the Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ which means rest. According to Bible Sabbath is the seventh day of the week for relaxing. It was in the 1950s that the Mosaic law was passed, and Sabbatical year came into existence. It was the seventh year when the fields needed to be left untilled and debtors and slaves released. It was from here that the word evolved and started being used in academia. It was a word first attested in Harvard in 1880 and became a part of academia (Walter Crosby, 1962). In everyday use, the word sabbatical to mean ‘break or change from a normal routine’ was first used in 1903. The word now is actively being used to mean a break from active working life – it could be for academic purpose, gaining a new skill, or just relaxation. More and more people are understanding the importance of it and are taking the benefit of it.

 

Studies have shown that it not only has a positive effect on the overall health and well-being, it also helps to rejuvenate, creating a perfect work-life balance. (Davidson et al, 2010) (Jarrod M Haar et al 2014). This is why second innings or second begins are equally important. Having worked in marketing and having traveled the world because of it for 12 plus years, starting your education afresh is a new and invigorating challenge. A challenge that IILM like a true friend helped me overcome. An encouraging word and a guiding light are all you need in a journey like this, which made the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” so true

 

STUDENT ENGAGEMENT AT IILM

Student engagement is a multi-faceted construct. It is better understood as a constructive relationship shared among the students, staff and the institution per se. The construct student engagement refers to “how involved or interested students are in their learning and how connected they are to their classes, their institutions, and each other” (Axelson and Flick, 2010).

It simply means to keep the students’ interactions more meaningful throughout the facilitated learning environment. Recognizing the differences among the students, varying issues from over expectations to under expectations are the challenges faced by Institutions. Paying much-needed heed to a topic that requires attention, it is highly essential to adopt a formative approach, targeting the needs of students. To address the issues in hand ABC Model (Attitude, Behavioral and Cognitive) of engagement is adopted, to make sure that more holistic approach is embraced and the students’ overall wellbeing is retained and enhanced throughout their academic life. ABC model works with a notion that the technical knowledge and the non-technical knowledge together can help students to engage and get ready for the industry. Research (Kuh, 2001) NSSE (National survey of student engagement) has identified five benchmarks of an engaged campus:

(a) Student interactions with faculty,

(b) Academic challenge

(c) Supportive campus environment,

(d) Enriching educational experiences, and

(e) Active and collaborative learning.

Understanding its relevance, IILM has continually worked on strengthening student Engagement through Behavioural Engagement, Emotional Engagement and Cognitive Engagement.

The present times have thrown upon us the challenge to constructively keep our students engaged, who are physically at distance and only connected through virtual platforms, through technology. But we at IILM have ensured that the spirit of Learning through engagement never gets dampened. Through a series of well planned, outcome-oriented, student-driven activities, we have kept the student engagement live and kicking. Whether it is activities like Buddy Connect, team Video Making, storytelling or for that matter Art therapy workshop, students have always got to experience being on the campus despite being away from it. Activities such as the first brush with making Video CVs, the curtain-raiser to Entrepreneurship, Social Media hygiene, have given them learning along with the opportunity to work with their seniors and peers.

While developing the framework for the student Engagement in the present times the approaches that are being adopted are –

  1. Enhance students’ self-belief — Students engage when they act as their own learning agents working to achieve goals that are meaningful to them. This means that what students believe about themselves as learners is very important. They must believe they can learn, including that they can overcome and learn from failure. Giving students some control over learning processes helps develop this confidence and commitment to learning. All our activities have been completely student-driven. Right from setting goals to drafting the timelines, the onus has been on the students, individually and as a team.
  2. Enable students to work autonomously, enjoy learning relationships with others, and feel they are competent to achieve their own objectives — “When institutions provide opportunities for students to learn both autonomously and with others, and to develop their sense of competence, students are more likely to be motivated, to engage and succeed.” Not unrelated to the first recommendation, the focus is to be on cultivating intrinsic drive, which fosters the self-determination that leads to engagement. We have deliberately put students from different schools and different programs and kept the teams heterogeneous.
  3. Recognize that teaching and teachers are central to engagement — Much research places teachers at the heart of engagement. For example, one study found that “if the teacher is perceived to be approachable, well prepared, and sensitive to student needs, students are committed to working harder, get more out of the session, and are more willing to express their opinion.” No matter how self-driven and motivated the students are, they always have the assurance that they have faculty support always there, just a call away. For all they need is just some reassurance and some confidence building.
  4. Create learning that is active, collaborative, and fosters learning relationships — “Findings acknowledge that active learning in groups, peer relationships, and social skills are important in engaging learners. The bond that develops among students, while executing the team activities and complementing one another, is the most engaging aspect of the entire program.
  5. Create educational experiences for students that are challenging and enriching and that extend their academic abilities — Easy learning activities and assignments are not as effective at engaging students as activities and assignments that challenge them. When students are reflecting, questioning, conjecturing, evaluating, and making connections between ideas, they are engaged. “Teachers need to create rich educational experiences that challenge students’ ideas and stretch them as far as they can go.” With each engagement activity, student learning levels are raised, to become more challenging and thereby, calling for a higher level of effort and involvement.
  6. Ensure that institutional cultures are welcoming to students from diverse backgrounds — to become engaged, we believe students must feel they are accepted and affirmed. They must feel they belong to an institution. Heterogeneity in teams equips them to learn and appreciate diversity and at the same time gel into the institutional culture.
  7. Adaptive to changing student expectations — in the current scenario of the changing face of learning and expectations, as an institution, we have done a lot of discussion and deliberation on how to promote student engagement.
  8. Enable students to become active citizens — We understand that the need of the hour is a democratic-critical conception of engagement that goes beyond strategies, techniques, behaviours, a conception in which engagement is participatory, dialogic and leads not only to academic achievement but to success as an active citizen. The subjects that were picked by students to make videos in teams were reflective of their sensitivity towards the society, environment and the world we live in.
  9. Enable students to develop their social and cultural capital — this kind of capital derives from a sense of belonging, from active relationships with others, and from knowing how things work around the institution. It essentially focuses upon the need to be successful not only in the classroom but beyond it as well.

The idea is to keep it simple and bring the engaged learning forward. The way we engage today lays the foundation of the society that we plan for the future because the students today need to be socially responsible citizens of tomorrow. A positive engagement sets the framework of a society that takes pride in itself and its ability to take all challenges, seen and unforeseen in the true spirit and zeal.

Please write to me at tripti.toor@iilm.edu for more information on student engagement at IILM.

Social Media -Creating Infodemic of a Pandemic?

In a lockdown or a curfew like situation, what do people commonly rely on, for updates? If the first thought in your mind is News Channels, , you’re deeply mistaken. With hours of idleness in hand, all the major part of the population does is procrastinate. And what better way to procrastinate than Social Media? A study shows a massive 87% increase in social media usage amid the present lockdown.

With every other person from the community having a significant amount of “followers”, and having unguided access so as to post whatsoever they wish to, this Social Media that seems harmless mode of communication and fun to many, may act as the biggest curse to mankind. One may ponder so as to why? In the times of a pandemic, fear, leading to widespread panic, can worsen the situation multiple folds. And “What causes unwanted fear, one may ask?

False Information.

False Information is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately (sometimes even without realising the consequences) misinform or deceive readers and thus creating panic.

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

One of the major observable effects of widespread panic is Panic Buying. People start buying large quantities of a particular commodity or product due to sudden fears of a forthcoming shortage.­­­

Another effect is people sorting to untrue, exaggerated and dubious medical claims and hoaxes which they see on Social Media. People don’t check facts behind these claims and hence start believing all the wrong information. A lot many times these are backed by the strong beliefs and faiths that the communities have been carrying for ages, some right -some wrong.

According to an article by The Guardian, UK Anti-Fake News Unit deals with up to 10 false Coronavirus articles a day. One can only imagine the scale of such articles and the harm they cause.

Despite of the above points Social Media has proven to be a double edged sword. It’s both – a blessing and a curse.

A blessing in the form of a platform for Global Communication. Pandemics require co-ordinated global response strategies. People across the globe are able to communicate with each other. The people in the affected areas are able to help out those who are not yet a part of these areas; doing so by preventing them from making the same mistakes they did. When a cure isn’t known, these precautions are the only ray of hope in these dark times.

Social Media also a huge role in spreading information such as the people getting to know the requirement of Social Distancing and implementing it.

People are starting to understand the need to implement quarantine measures and curfew in the cities.

And how can we forget its main advantage for all the procrastinators out there? ENTERTAINMENT. How could we ever survive isolation without social media?

Not only this, Social Media has proved to be a platform where a good initiative can be organised and scaled up. People have and are continuing to co-ordinate donations in order to help the needy in these dark times.

To sum it up, we the people need to be more responsible when we decide to share or when we receive information to scrutinise it well and check its validation. We need the check if there are any facts backing the claim of such posts and thoroughly research if it is actually true? We need to do this so as to prevent worsening of the situation that we are already in.

What is called for is the right balance of free speech and responsible conduct till the time we do not have well drafted policies and mechanisms that address the digital creation and spread of misinformation about disease outbreaks. Let’s decide not to create an infodemic of the Pandemic that we are all struggling to come out of, as winners.

 

 

The Theory of a Lockdown

One may be right to question the power of law as an interdisciplinary and normative tool that can lead a social change thereby redeeming lives in the process. It may be pertinent to revisit the Sophist challenge to justice in Plato’s ‘The Republic’, where the dialogue unravels why men behave justly? Is it because of the notions of divine retribution or do men behave justly because it is good for them to do so or is it because the mighty wish to subjugate the feeble? In light of this, the importance of a just Ruler (the State) in the present times is necessary, the lack of which would result in an impending disaster.

 

These are the most uncertain times most generations have witnessed; several economies in the world are at a standstill and the most basic human right, i.e. the right to freedom of movement, has been snatched from citizens. What does this story tell us? Are the citizens of most (even the most developed) nations not aware of the imminent danger that the novel corona virus, the Covid-19 poses to lives, economies and the future of the world as we know it. We saw the Italians singing in their balconies, we saw China’s graph flatten but what we conveniently skipped was the number of coffins piled up in Italy’s funeral grounds and the strict lockdowns imposed in the Hubei province in China.  

 

Why was it necessary for the State to intervene with fundamental rights of people in most countries in the world, including India? It was not because the State envisaged subjugating the feeble nor was it the might of imposing “divine retributions”, in the present scenario, the only viable reason seems that the subjects of the State simply are unaware of the right thing to do. The lockdown is not out of choice of governance or to redeem an advantageous ulterior motive (as challenged by many), the direct causation only indicated towards the absurdity of its subjects. The state has to use enforcements and the tools of reprimand to ensure the safety of its public, including the safety of the reprimanded. One is forced to look at the videos of Italian Mayors, requesting, or rather threatening the public to stay inside lest face the wrath of enforcement agencies and the flock of students celebrating spring break in Florida, USA. Closer to home, the gathering of thousands of migrant workers near Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border signifies the requirement of State intervention in the face of lack of protocols and awareness.

 

In the times to come, the imposition of these lockdowns will have tremendous undesirable and/or desirable effects on the growth and development of healthcare, small and medium sized businesses, financial economies, capital markets and more importantly the way we lead our lives. At the very least, the lesson each one of us can derive out of this is to never let the State be left with no other choice but to curtail our very basic rights, only to right a wrong exacerbated by our own incongruities.