A Positive psychology toolkit for your virtual semester

On a Tuesday afternoon class on July 15th, I watched my students stare at the whiteboard during an online class without “BLINKING”. While all of them had a vast opportunity to make connections with each other in a class of thirty, half of them were looking for connections on their cell phones, scrolling tirelessly through their feeds while the other half sat there distracted.

I realized it was time for feedback. There was undoubtedly something about my pedagogy that was not working, despite how hard I tried to make it work. After one big session of qualitative feedback and discussions, we concluded that the students were not bored because of the ‘teaching style’ or the ‘curriculum’ but because they were so tired of missing out on the “college experience.” To put it differently, a consistent lack of human touch from a young student’s life in a socially distant and virtual system had started becoming a serious concern, and not many of us were/are talking about it.

Therefore, here I am with some hand-picked tools from the pool of “Positive Psychology” to activate the offline experience in an online setting:

Tool 1: Unprecedented engagement through a Mind-Body connection

The attention span during an online session is way less than an offline session. Multiple distractions are at play, and it becomes a necessity to increase the levels of student engagement. While brainstorming and mentally stimulating activities can enhance this engagement, I recommend here also include certain tasks that enable movement and demand the brain and body to work together.  Simple techniques like an online scavenger hunt, stretching in the chair, looking for a suitable example around the house or having a sip of water can restore the mind-body connection, refresh the minds of the students and enhance their attention spans.

Tool 2: Emotional experience and emotional expression

One thing that made college interesting was the unpredictable range of emotions. One never knew that at what moment they will end up being excited, nervous, happy, sad, surprised, humoured or anything else. However, what really added meaning to those emotional experiences was your ability to express and share them with your mates. Some good ways to go about it is by interacting in a video mode, using self-reflection exercises, experience sharing and including elements of surprise during a class session.

Tool 3: Social Relationships

College years have always been fruitful in the development of social skills and social confidence. Hanging out with friends, socializing in college clubs, inter-college competitions, events or maybe something as simple as a group study could add a charm to the boring week. Well! The good news is that you can still do all of it in an online setup. Some ways would include running virtual clubs, singing a group song, a jam session, surprise birthdays, hosting a watch party or a virtual dinner with your classmates from the comfort of your homes. These small ways can help boost your social relationships while adding a more personal touch to them.

Tool 4: Savouring and Avoiding kill-joy thinking

The pandemic has been tough, and it has been challenging for all of us. At some point, it just becomes important for us to cultivate a sense of optimism and savour what we have till we have it. One essential key to this process is to stop devaluating or underestimating a positive virtual experience by only focusing on its imperfections. Instead, look at the bright side and savour your virtual semester.

Last but not least, Tool 5: Mindfulness

‘Mindfulness’ or ‘being present in the present has become part and parcel of life during COVID years. The same can be incorporated into the virtual classroom to help students relax and focus better. A number of techniques can be used in a virtual setting like breathing exercises, a pre-recorded guided meditation, imagery, or mindful photography. These simple methods can go a long way in enabling the student to be more rooted in the present.

That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed reading through these tools, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on using them to enhance learning and engagement. Let us know of more such tools in the comments below!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic left the poor even farther behind?

In light of the economic downturn our world has been facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be more than considered the biggest and worst economic calamity post the Great Depression. According to the IMF, the global economy was expected to grow 3 percent in January 2020, but instead, it is now estimated to fall 3 percent, which can be assumed to be way worse than during the period of the Great Recession in 2008-09. If the pandemics in the past are to be analyzed, they have more adversely affected the poor and downtrodden section in comparison to the upper class. Leading economists worldwide have stated the COVID-19 pandemic will create a further economic divide between the rich and poor, leading to unforeseen inequality. Furthermore, it has been observed that pandemics have augmented unemployment and inequality more for low-skilled workers or people with basic education than people with advanced degrees.

Migrant and daily wage labourers have suffered severely due to the pandemic after a nationwide lockdown was announced in March 2020. The ultra-rich population of India has successfully managed to keep themselves away from harm’s way, but the low-income families have been facing the brunt of the crisis as they are forced to deal with the pandemic with limited or no resources. According to research conducted in January 2020, India’s richest 1 percent were accounted to have held more than four times the wealth held by 953 million people who made up the bottom 70 percent of the nation’s population. Therefore, upcoming government policies to uplift the nation’s economy needs to particularly focus on preventing a long-term dent in the livelihoods of the poor and disadvantaged section of the society. A stronger public healthcare system is one of the most important demands in the current situation, but unemployment benefits, boosting public work programs to present job opportunities, providing financing opportunities to sustain employment, and progressive tax measures can provide a cushioning effect for the poorer segment of our society which has been reeling under effects of the pandemic. Thus, our policymakers must take up this opportunity to introduce the changes as mentioned above to the teeth to protect their most vulnerable from any such further calamities.

Experiential Learning Through Summer Internships

Summer Internships are an admirable way to start building a sturdy foundation for a successful career path. IILM University provides students with numerous such opportunities to work with NGOs and Corporates in order to enhance their experiential learning experience. Students get a chance to have an incredible experience by working directly with the companies.

Below mentioned is one of such experiences felt by our undergraduate student named Harshit Sultania, BBA 2019 Batch, when he got an opportunity to work with an NGO called Seva Bharti Foundation to fulfill his role as a responsible citizen. We all think of doing something good for society and hope for that little opportunity that would create a little difference in someone’s life.

That opportunity was given to the students by IILM University through an internship initiative to work with the Seva Bharti Foundation. This program gave students a chance to help the unprivileged group of students. The program was for six weeks and every week they used to spend at least two hours with our buddy via telephonic or video calls.

In Harshit’s words – “I was very much excited about the concept of helping and guiding students. Because obviously! it’s the student who knows best about the student. They know what and how to talk and what exactly to work on. All of us were allocated one student each from Seva Bharti Foundation with whom we talked about their career and other concerns as their buddy mentors.

I was lucky to get the opportunity to be the student coordinator for the program where my job was to ensure the smooth coordination between the students and their buddies. And similarly, a few other students were also made student coordinators and each coordinator got ten students to supervise and help in the smooth functioning of the program. With much enthusiasm, I started with week one by getting connected with my students. I explained every detail about the whole program to everyone individually. Initially, it was difficult to motivate the underprivileged students to continue the program, but with little more effort, I started getting the result.

As from week two, things finally started to move in the right direction and students started talking about their career goals, living conditions, and other areas of interest. I tried my best to mentor and guide them in the right direction making them aware of the kind of additional online courses they can do to enhance their learning. I managed to listen to their concerns patiently and help them in whatever way I could.

Students also were coordinating well with their buddies and started to share their awesome experiences with us. And at the end of every week, I had to send a weekly report covering all the aspects discussed. Time flies really quickly just like those six weeks. But yes, I have to accept that I learned a lot from the student coordinator job. I learned how to talk to people and motivate them to come forward with their concerns in a professional way. I learned how to solve issues in a proficient manner and most importantly I learned how to manage things in an efficient way”.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my thankfulness to the IILM University, without them this whole journey would not have existed in the first place. It helped me in knowing more about the lives of underprivileged students and gave me a platform to help them in whatever little way I was able to manage. I am pleased to share that it certainly added value to my learnings and my journey with Seva Bharti Foundation concluded with a happy ending” – Harshit Sultania.


Dr. Rachna Madaan

An Ideal Law School

The question that most frequently crosses our mind while selecting a college to pursue our higher education in law is what we need and what they offer? An ideal Law college should be a paradise land offering a mock of the entire life ahead of every budding lawyer. It is paramount to understand that a lawyer is not only the one who practices the law. Instead, a lawyer is expected to preach its values and propagate them in society. This brings us to the foremost value every budding lawyer searches for in a law school, the quality of being able to be good. Law school should focus on the speaking abilities of every law student, even of the ones sitting in the corner of the class. To polish this skill, law school should regularly engage their students in moot court competitions, panel discussions, debates, and classroom interactions. The use of these practices makes the students confident to face the world with much ease.

The second virtue a law college should offer is the opportunity to let the young minds speak, write and publish. An ideal law school is the one that pushes all its students to contribute towards the law journals of the college and also help them build up their research skills to enable them to publish their works in other journals. The next essential trait a law student looks for in a law college is its ability to offer internships and placement opportunities. Law school should also focus on co-curricular activities apart from the regular law classes, which will ensure the student’s overall growth. For the overall growth of students, the students should be able to stay in touch with their teachers even beyond the classroom and college years. The professors and mentors should establish healthy relations with the students or a system that offers continuous mentoring of the students by following some unique mentor-mentee system. In addition to this, any law school that follows the Socratic method of teaching will raise the more analytical and intellectual lawyers. That involves complete participation of the student in the learning process, whereby he gets the freedom to ask questions and the confidence to raise his voice.

So an ideal law school should follow a student-centric approach, keeping in mind that a law student is not made a lawyer only by reading the books, instead what he experiences throughout the law school. A student becomes a lawyer with all the experiences he/she shares with his/her fellow students and mentors at the law school.

The Free Speech Crisis

The Indian government in the last two years have continually made international headlines for its strong curbs on the freedom of speech jeopardizing the very essence of Indian democracy. Whether it has been strong arming the Twitter into removing tweets critical of the Prime Ministers Covid response or arrest of twenty two year old activist for mobilizing support for the farmers protests or the multiple arrests and FIRs against journalists for reporting the plight of daily labourers during the 2020 lockdown and also on the massive deaths during the second wave of Covid or charging student protesters protesting against the CAA under the UAPA, this systematic crackdown on freedom of speech and expression in the name of national security has been the order of recent times. Censorship on one’s speech is freedom lost forever and such blatant attacks on free speech and social media censorship is an anathema to the free and democratic society that the Indian Constitution guarantees its citizens.

The regular use of the draconian UAPA and the NSA to crush dissent in any form has become a dangerous trend setter and the existing legal system is the only respite that one can turn to for the protection of their fundamental right. Though we must continue to fight for freedom of speech and expression, at the same time we have to be careful not to advocate them at the cost of stifling the voices of minorities, as is seen in developed democracies where free speech is equated with absolute speech as it has become a tool to normalize hate speech.

The question however remains is whether the world’s largest democracy will realize soon enough the seriousness of the impositions and curbs that are being laid on its citizens freedom of expression through unnecessary crackdown on journalists and students, through Internet shutdowns and through social media restrictions and put an end to this authoritative stand by making safeguarding of human rights and freedom it’s top most priority.

The Challenges faced by Finance Industry

The Finance Industry features a huge role to play when it involves making business purposeful. This sector currently faces multiple challenges, but the two most prominent ones are information asymmetry and financial illiteracy. The cutthroat competition within the industry has led to several institutions flouting norms. Wells Fargo may be a case in point wherein the culture and unsustainable targets led to employees committing fraud and the senior management turning a blind eye, therefore, enabling the act. Another even more potent example is that the concealment by HSBC in Mexico and Colombia for Drug Cartels. In both these cases, the institutions were excused by just paying fines, which was nothing more than seven days of profits for them. These institutions know that they are too big and influential to be jailed because they are too big to fail and thus can escape perhaps with the foremost notorious and irresponsible behaviours.

Definitely, the planet is ill-equipped to handle another Lehman Brothers, but that does not mean that the planet should need to see thousands of people being killed by the drug cartels that these institutions use to move their money. To prevent these and bring justice to already what has been done wrong, these firms should be held accountable, and therefore the CEO should be held liable for the actions of the institution.

As we steel ourselves against a post-Covid-19 economy, the long term of the finance industry looks drastically different. Additionally, to the changes within the way banking would be conducted, which is about to become highly digitized, monetary institutions’ role is also going to change. The whole world is looking ahead at an enormous recession. These institutions would need to be the first source of liquidity to the firms, which might stimulate demand within the economy

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/five-ways-that-esg-creates-value
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Edmans, A. (2011). Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices. Journal of Financial Economics.
Edmans, A. (2015). The social responsibility of business. TEDx London Business School. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5KZhm19EO0.
Gartenberg, C. (2018). Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance. Organization Science, Forthcoming.
Edmans, A. (2019). How great companies deliver both purpose and profit. London Business School. Available at https://www.london.edu/think/how-great-companies-deliver-both-purpose-and-profit.
Edmans, A. (2020). Does Pieconomics Work?: from ‘Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit (pp. 77-96).
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/five-ways-that-esg-creates-value
https://www.fintechmagazine.com/fintech/deloitte-how-financial-services-responding-covid-19
Robert J. Rhee (2017). A Legal Theory of Shareholder Primacy

LUXURY REDEFINED – Making Sustainability Fashionable

Luxury has always been synonymous with the terms expensive, status, power and exclusivity. While the luxury consumer of the past was the extremely wealthy and still represents an important segment, they are no longer the only audience in town. There are younger consumers, especially millennials that are making up an increasingly large share of the luxury market.

Would this segment of consumers be interested in sustainable or ethical fashion?

Sustainability is a concept with many definitions and its application in fashion involves diverse outlooks, covering environmental impact of materials, social justice and issues concerning labor rights. A topic that is so widely covered in conferences & creative interventions around the world and yet remains a mystery to most.

It is mostly since there is a lack of knowledge of sustainable fashion and the destruction caused by the fashion world to the environment. The perception of products and their accessibility, availability and pricing also play a big role in a sort of ignorance towards sustainability.

The consumer’s mindset in a developing country like India is most interesting and different age groups and social strata of society reveal the complexities of contemporary consumption behavior.

While the discovery is slow, it is steady. This movement is gaining momentum with celebrities endorsing the cause of responsible consumer behaviour via digital media and popular brands promoting it via ad campaigns.

Even though the majority of society does not really understand or worry about the repercussions of their actions, there is a growing number that would be happier to choose products wisely. Knowledge is key to the growth of the sustainability movement to empower consumers and future designers in society. 

The more endorsements and popularity that this wave of ethical fashion gains the more people would want to adopt it and luxury would have a whole new meaning – sustainable and responsible. The design courses at IILM are geared towards inculcating these very ideas in our students.

 

 

“When the going gets tough, the tough keep teaching online”.

By a total surprise, we got into lockdown, no ten-day notice, no world is coming to an end, a simple stay home stay safe alert. And from there on, came a supposedly temporary arrangement of teaching classes from zoom so that we could get over this unknown virus soon. Must admit it was so tuff, like going online for all classes, something totally unimaginable by teachers and students alike.

As all new things have a flavour of surprise, we all took the plunge and felt something different about teaching and learning from our homes. Suddenly, there was no private life, as we could bring our students to the dressy part of our house and teachers could log into their students’ private corners of the house.

Obviously, when this new normal looked like it will stay and all baking and cooking did not look fun anymore, we started getting edgy about zoom classes, scattering about attendance and participation of students in “classes”.  As Covid 19 cases started to rise, so did the pressure to continue dedicated classes and assessments, something no one had any experience with or knew how to make it look close to fair assessments.

Open book exam got a new name, in the form of online assessments and suddenly CGPA’s started blooming all over. Students who initially seemed enthusiastic to keep their cameras on slowly slipped into the mode of keeping their cameras off and when asked complained of network issues.  The world of learning and teaching was solely surviving on the speed of network connectivity as work from home and study from home became our reality.

Two years and no respite, we look to online teaching and learning to escape from growing anxiety lurking outside on streets in the name of social distancing. What was a class once filled with happy faces, dressed up in their favourites, trending the trends and catching up or bunking classes turned into no escape from online classes?

But I ask, is everything lost? Has online teaching been that bad? Well, this can be answered in many ways. Redundant old ways of teaching and rote learning found a jolt and everyone who is a part of the education system irrespective of nation and economy had to change. This change was something new and challenged a lot of beliefs of what is an academic success is and how learning can be seen besides exams.

Online learning has made it easier for students to freely access their classes, see recorded videos and go through the content to clarify doubts and grasp the subject. Resources once only available in college libraries have found comfortable outreach and sharing amongst students.

What continues to be a large concern is unstable networks, a poor economy affecting students and teachers, no protocols of ethics of online teaching and learning.

Would like to conclude by saying, pandemic took us by surprise, leaving us unsettled and then came our endeavour to be busy with classes to keep distractions at bay. Turning a new leaf in education both for educators and student’s perspective is showing fruitful results in our resolution to learn.

BHARAT- A Vibrant Democratic Republic

We are celebrating the 72nd Republic day on 26 January 2021, the day on which India became an independent republic with a democratic system of governance. On this day when the Constitution of India, came into effect in year 1950 after being adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, we are compelled to express our gratitude to the framers of the Indian Constitution. Undoubtedly, they were men of great foresight and wisdom as they have drafted this unique document which has withstood the test of time. Over the last seven decades it has seen many ups and downs and emerged successful as the largest democracy of the world.

Every country wants to be known as a ‘Democracy’, for example even a totalitarian State like China prefers calling itself a Democracy but in the real sense only few nations qualify for democracy and India is one of them. A true democracy must allow free and fair competition. Our Constitution provides for impartial elections, sine qua non for a democratic setup. A free and vibrant Media is a hallmark for democracy. Except for a brief period of EMERGENCY in India during 1975 which was a temporary aberration, our constitution fortunately has survived all the onslaughts to only emerge stronger than before.

The Indian Constitution establishes the primacy of the legislature, executive and the judiciary in their respective domain with checks and balances. The Legislature is there to point out the mistakes and abuse of power by the Executive and put effective checks. On the pattern of American Constitution; the Superior Courts have the power of Judicial Review of executive actions. The drafters could comprehend the dangers of curtailing the liberties of the citizens by the executive if its powers were not controlled by the Judiciary. Hence, our founding fathers saw the role of Supreme Court of India very significant whenever the legislature or executive exceeded their powers.

In 1970’s the nation saw the pillars of the federal structure quiver when the Government deliberately made certain amendments in the Document which were subsequently turned down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. In the famous Keshavananda Bharati case, the apex court pronounced that though the legislation has every power to amend the constitution, but the government in no circumstances can change the Basic Structure of the Indian constitution. The then government strongly reacted to the landmark judgement and superseded the three most senior judges to appoint the dissenting judge as the Chief Justice of India. This paved the way to the concept of ‘committed judiciary in India’ and also confrontations between executive and judiciary. This indeed posted a great threat to the Basic Structure and the smooth functioning of the Democracy.

Though the Constitution makers had a vision of keeping the federal yet unitary nature of India while crafting this document but the center and state relations have not been cordial from the onset. The Constitution of India under Article 356 provided for the suspension of State Assembly by imposing Presidents Rule which was to be exercised by the Center only in special situations of a breakdown in the Constitutional machinery of any state. Unfortunately, this provision was abused and misused by the Center yet again during the then government in exercise of their power. Many a times various state governments were dismissed until the Supreme Court finally put some restrictions on the exercise of the said provision in the famous case of S. R. Bomai vs. Union of India.

The aspiring new India chasing the dreams of her craftsmen will have to make constant efforts to strengthen the existing pillars on which the nation stands tall and does not let it wither away with the systematic subversion by the governments elected with populous majority. Let ‘We’ the people of India come and join its representatives to work at all levels in order to redefine ‘Democratic Republic, India’. The challenges are manifold but the young India will channelize all its energy into Nation Building with small initiatives, be it digital India, startup India or Atmanirbhar Bharat.

We stand United with a mission to live up to the vision of what constitutes Bharat, a union of state.

Really is it True- Do we all Think Alike?

I was reading in the morning paper about how a game of Ludo saved our lives during the lockdown. The collective power of distracting ourselves from the pandemic glued people the world over to gaming. Obsession and now so much time on hand, made some people go back to board games, especially Ludo- the traditional four players’ game. Families hurdled up together for some fun time, given when they were free from their work from home schedule to enjoy each other’s company. Some took to phones and started playing ludo with friends and family near and far to play ludo on the app. It was all good fun and in essence, has taught many of us the virtues of living life. Pandemic was not only an eye-opener for so many of us who were living life in the fast lane but was also an insightful year to reflect and relax in life- we only get it once.

Ludo as explained by Wikipedia is a strategy board game for two to four players, in which the players race their four tokens from start to finish according to the rolls of a single die. Two, three, or four can play, without partnerships.

This game brings out the best in us- to win and go home and be happy or the worst- to keep killing other players’ tokens so that you can overtake them and win. A lot of animosities also stems up from those who are not interested in being killed and sent back to wait for a roll of dice to make a six and be released all over again in the game. This game is not for the weak-hearted, as only the most meticulous, careful, and fully aware player will make it first to home without a scratch.

Like others, I always begin the game hoping for my dice to show six so that my tokens will freely roam around the square of the board, only to occasionally meet threats from other players, who would be determined not to let my token take a peaceful walk by home, unscratched.

So, while I am rejoicing for my tokens and at the same time worried that other players may not harm me, I wonder, do we all play fair? Do we all think alike? Is it true that like-minded people think alike?

Thinking is a mental process of experiencing present events and making critical judgments from past experiences. Thinking is used almost every second of our living and most of the time engage in thoughtfulness without even thinking. It is like a habit you flow into without you realizing you are doing it (nail-biting for example).

We all display similar yet unique styles of thinking even though we can be characterized into personality types, yet something in our nature makes us individually unique. To explain how we think, I will bring in Sternberg’s ideology of thinking styles.

Sternberg (1988,1997) proposed his own theory of thinking styles, a theory he named the “theory of mental self-government”. He used the metaphor of mental self-government to portray how the human mind works. His theory postulated 13 different mental styles to manage our daily activities. To make it simpler, I would like to explain different mental styles with examples of players on a Ludo game and their strategies to win.

A legislative player will use his own method, not follow others, and look for winning moments but creatively.

An executive player will follow only a structured method and hopefully will not cheat.

A judicial player will evaluate other players’ moves and constantly comment in the game at them.

A monarchic player will spend all his energy on one token to safety than putting all his tokens in the game.

A hierarchic player will put all his tokens out in the game and make the most calculative moves to save his tokens.

An oligarchic player will be in a hurry to win and will move without looking in the game.

An anarchic player will go all out to win, unlike an executive, unlikely to see risk assessment of other players moves.

A global player may look like a loser in the beginning but will keep looking at the bigger picture than a quick win.

A local player will keep thinking, time-consuming player of the game, and take small steps.

An internal player is someone only playing for himself even if it is a group game, no partnership, no mercy to others.

External player unlike internal player is playing with everyone, will let others go at times than cutting their chance and putting them back in the box. He likes partnership.

A liberal player will keep changing his own strategies to surprise other players with unpredictable moves in the game.

Conservative player will be the predictable player of the game, everyone will know his moves even before he moves his tokens.

We like the players in Ludo have different thinking styles which we display in different scenarios when thinking critically and working through problem-solving. To make effective decisions, most of us jump from one thinking style to another, maybe from personal to professional concerns of decision making.

There is no one reason to explain this variation, but yes, some generalizations can be as to how skilled we are, varied past experiences, the seriousness of problem-solving, time at hand, and of course our temperament influences the way we think and from that thinking behave.

To conclude, thinking influences all facets of our life even when we are mindlessly doing something, say as simple as a board game. Interestingly, even if everyone knows how to play ludo, they will always play it differently than the last time; just like our thinking styles alike- yet different.