Monday, October 9, 2017

Life, if a student in the USA

A few days ago I was speaking to my friend whom I shall call Intel.

Intel and I were schoolmates from class 1 at Campion School way back in 1970. We have been friends for the last 47 years. After doing his engineering Intel went to the USA for his Masters and he has lived there from 1985. He got married and had kids. Now his elder daughter has just started college.

Intel spoke about how different college was in 2017 as compared to when he was in college in 1985. I was shocked at how much things have changed and how really different things are in the US.

When Intel went to College text books were a huge expense. He remembers paying up to USD 200 for certain text books. Now, all that has changed. There are no more physical text books. You simply download them. However, there is a catch. You need to pay a lot of money, of course not in the region of USD 200, but a substantial sum to get the download access codes. So, while the fact that there are no more physical text books has changed, as now they are online, charging for access codes is where change has come about. This is the new business model by which the authors and publishers make their money. Look at it differently. No shortchanging on royalty by printing say 1000 books and declaring that you have printed only 800, thereby skimming the royalty on 200 books.

Another aspect that struck me as brilliant is the sale of remote controls. How this works is like this. The College will sell you a remote control, a very simple one, with 5 keys on it A B C D & E. This remote is linked to the student. When the professor asks a question in class, he will give 5 options. You as the student have to press on the remote what you think is the answer. This answer is automatically fed into the computer and you get your class marks/assessment call it what you like. I was stunned at this ingenuity. How utterly clever and seamless. No cheating no headache of paper and corrections and all that jazz. Excellent. Of course, I write this in the background of our Bombay University and its inability to even finish correction of exam papers.

The third thing Intel told me made such perfect sense. We all know that the omniscient Amazon often sells products cheaper than anywhere else. Students in college need several things, simple things like printer cartridges, computer cables, paper and so on. The college has a store but this is relatively expensive. For a student to have a car and drive to a city store is often either not possible as they don’t have a car or there are classes to attend or it is simply uneconomical to drive. So Amazon to the rescue. Amazon has installed banks of lockers in the college. By lockers I mean real lockers like bank lockers. You order products from Amazon, indicate what time you want it delivered and where, the Amazon software will identify a vacant locker from the bank and the ordered goods will be placed in the locker. You are given an access code. You as the student simply go to the locker and punch in the code and pick up your order. Gob smacking simplicity!   

Can you even imagine this in India?

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