Clubs are a vital part of the extracurricular and co-curricular system at NITK. Upon returning to our homes, there was a massive change in circumstance, which affected the functioning of clubs. The planning behind the activities, events and projects of clubs had to undergo a major renovation to be useful in the virtual mode. Pulse spoke to convenors, captains and members of the various clubs in NITK to get their views on the functioning of clubs ever since we switched to the online mode. There were many issues highlighted and exciting observations made.
Lack of Interaction
The main issue that all club members recognized was the decrease in interaction amongst the members. In the offline setting, it was easier to meet up and plan events, projects and other activities. This increased the bonding between members, which was not possible to a large extent in the virtual mode. The lack of interaction also resulted in hesitation to volunteer for conducting events. The convenors recognized that an important task currently is to maintain interactions between members. Managing clashing schedules was another tedious task. However, even with this issue of interactions, there was a silver lining. Firstly, there was a flexibility in the timing and arrangement of the meetings. Secondly, The pandemic also brought about a feeling of solidarity: “We are all in this together”. Clubs became a platform to express woes and laugh at the weird state of affairs the world was plunged into. Finally, large scale events which reached out to bigger audiences were also easier to conduct online.
Adapting projects and events to the virtual mode
The clubs have adapted their projects and events to the virtual mode quite admirably. Many members were of the opinion that clubs were fast to modify their activities so that they could keep the club members and outside audience engaged. For example, the BAJA convenor Souri SVS stated how they focussed on getting everyone involved in the design and assembly of the vehicle on virtual software. The BAJA organization also had social media events to keep everyone engaged. As another example, E-Cell was able to launch 10 new initiatives in the past year, which they could expand internationally, a feat that would have been hard to do offline. Members noted that the functioning of events was tough initially, but now it’s a well-oiled machine. Interestingly, most events have taken place without huge delays, and they have taken place quite seamlessly.
Restructuring events to engage the audience
In the beginning, the response to events was far better than their offline counterparts. The multitude of webinars held in the initial days were all attended in large numbers. Some events conducted in college also received attendance of over 1000. The commitment required to open a webinar on a laptop was far lesser than going to a seminar hall. This could well be one of the main reasons for increased participation. There has been a decrease in participation since then because of many clubs adopting live sessions, and webinars to capture their audience. With the 5 technical clubs in college, there was a certain amount of redundancy to these events, and that might have led to a gradual decrease in participation. The number of events planned by clubs has gone up considerably due to the ease of planning and management. Many club members note that to ensure that they are recognized, maximal use of the online mode had to be made. Moreover, the arrival of freshers saw even more events and higher participation, as most events are designed for the first years. However, the difference in timetables has caused many scheduling issues. Clubs are now finding the optimal time, where the members are free to conduct events, and the freshers are free to participate. The increase in guest speakers and lectures have clearly shown that clubs have understood that webinars keep their audiences engaged the most. Clubs will have to keep in mind that they need to serve the college audience with what the students would need. By serving their needs, clubs will be well remembered.
Key takeaways from the virtual setting
When asked about the advantages that an online setting would provide to the clubs and their future, various interesting observations were made. Having international speakers talk at club events was virtually impossible in college. Also, a key takeaway for the media teams was how to virtually advertise their events. The use of online media would be a great learning for media teams. Also, the hassle of booking rooms, scheduling hours, seeking permissions disappeared. The IRIS Calendar Event Management System was adopted with open arms, as it made event management seamless and efficient. Project management has completely changed in the online mode. Various tracking methods, with short notice meets, have become the norm in clubs. Online meets might well turn out to be a convenient tool even when we get back to college.
Interacting with freshers has been a new challenge ever since their arrival. Several members noted that freshers would require more guidance as they are isolated from other batchmates and seniors. While the participation in activities conducted for them have been fairly decent, the same level of conversations has not taken place. There is undoubtedly a rift between the newcomers to the club and the college and the previous batches who have interacted in college. Club trips and dinners used to ease communication and bonding between members. Clubs are still trying to find out a way to engage and ease communication between members.
Hurdles in funding
Another stifling issue for many clubs was funding. Since there were no official student council elections this year, the annual budget meeting was never held. As a result, there has been no funding for projects and activities. The racing teams have always struggled with college politics and finding their place among technical clubs for funding. More so this year, they rely entirely on their sponsors for funding. While sponsors have helped many clubs, most of the clubs have steered their projects to the computational domain. The racing teams have also held crowdfunding campaigns to raise money. It was a grand success; the money raised will certainly help them build better cars in the future.
It is a general view that clubs have become a lesser priority after returning from college. Internet issues, isolation and other issues have played their part to this effect. Additionally, the first and second years are overburdened by their assignments and projects. Many of us are in a mental rut due to the current situation. Nevertheless, the members have adapted to the changing circumstances and given their best. The convenors note that the juniors in the club have stepped up in these trying times. They are sure that once they pass on the torch, the juniors will take charge and guide the club to a better future.