28 Dec 2020 20:09 IST

MICA keeps the show running for students amid pandemic

Finances take a blow, but timely completion of admissions and new model of learning save nine for MICA

Communications and management institute, MICA, Ahmedabad, had just completed its admissions process on March 15, 2020 — barely days ahead of the nationwide lockdown amid Covid-19 outbreak. The merit-list was announced on March 25 —as per the schedule — and the offer letters to the selected students were also issued. There were no glitches in the admissions, the institution’s President and Director, Dr Shailendra Raj Mehta informs Businessline.

But the toughest challenge was yet to come. The academic activities had to be commenced and the course curriculum had to be concluded on time — just like the admissions. The test of management skills and the resolve to withstand the challenges was waiting for Dr Mehta's team of faculty and administration.

“Since we had completed admissions on time, for the first time, we introduced an online pre-orientation and orientation phase in the month of June-July for the incoming MBA batch. In this phase, MICA faculty conducted online courses on statistics, finance, economics, strategic communications, and global change and transformation, creating a level playing field for all students even before they enter term 1,” he said. The class delivery was changed entirely with each of the 75-minute class session being divided into two parts — 30 minutes of recorded asynchronous session and a 45-minute live discussion. The recorded content is shared with the students a day before the live discussion for self-paced learning. There were six sections for 216 students with each section having 36 students.

“We call it the 30/45 + 36/6 MICA Model of learning. All faculty members worked very hard during the lockdown months to align their entire teaching material to this new model,” Mehta said. While the institute was trying to ensure hassle-free academic sessions for students, its finances took a beating.

“We followed the AICTE mandate of freezing our fees. We also gave back a significant portion of our room and board charges to students who are not on campus. Like others, our executive education revenues have also been impacted,” added Mehta admitting cost pressures, which prompted the institute to freeze faculty and staff salaries besides making significant savings in travel budget too.

On fees front, considering the grave situation, the MICA management decided to ease the fee payment schedule and split the fee into four smaller instalments to make it easy for the candidates to pay. Meanwhile, the institute had started receiving requests from the students for on-campus stay. Considering the government's directives, the institute opened its doors to incoming students in a phased manner in October 2020. But only selected candidates having genuine reasons were allowed to stay on-campus.

The selection parameters included aspects such as living in a joint family, facing studying issues, and internet/electricity supply. “At present, nearly 90 students are on campus, but our classes continue online,” informed Mehta.

Before opening the campus to selected students, MICA ensured various measures that include sanitization facilities daily, a Covid-19 test upon arrival, a dedicated quarantine facility, single occupancy rooms, among others. The hostel capacity has been reduced to half from 60 to 30 now. Students can access the mess services but with strict compliance of social distancing norms and within given time slots. Along with four meals, students are also provided Kadha (ayurvedic preparation) twice a day to boost immunity.

There is no access to the auditorium, library, and canteen, nor are the students allowed to leave the campus. Even MICA staff continues work-from-home. Clearly, for a B-School, it takes more than just management of things to keep the show running in the middle of a pandemic.