Moodle

Moodle is an open-source learning management system. Several Universities appear to have their own variants of Moodle, versions build off of the codebase that Moodle offers. Cambridge is no different. We’ve got our own Moodle, a virtual learning environment that allows us to enrol in courses and see all the material for our courses on a single database, in conjunction with Panopto.

I first heard of Moodle when I secured a place at UCL after Grade 12. UCL had us log-in to Moodle to communicate with the University, to inform them about impending arrival dates and everything. At the time, the technology didn’t particularly strike me. I only had access to the inbox side of things, and I was amused at how much the word sounded like Noodle, which for the most part just left me feeling hungry.

Late last evening, we received an e-mail indicating to us that Moodle was now open for us to log-in to, to enrol for our courses as students who wish to participate in the evaluation of the course, or auditors. I was too committed to a Pictionary night when I got the notification, so like most others who joined in for the game, I put off navigating Moodle for today. So I arose this morning knowing I’d discover something new.

Being in self-isolation naturally means that the feeling of being in Cambridge hits you slower. Moodle sped that up about two weeks. You log-in and see a smattering of repetitions and reiterations that you’re at Cambridge, and you can see details about all the courses on offer and the ones you’re studying, which for me – really grounded my brain in about the amount of academic work this degree is going to be. I’m certain all postgraduate degrees are the same way: a lot of rigorous, critical thinking, but boy did it hit me earlier than I anticipated it would. For a moment I was worried that perhaps I rode my luck a little too much during my undergraduate course but seeing reading lists and listening to Professors offer reassurances that prior knowledge is not assumed was rather helpful. In the least it will mean I can tackle the readings to gain foundational knowledge on which my term can build.

It made things very real, and for most of the rest of my day, I navigated Moodle to look at all of the material it stores and the range of ways it enables faculty to interact with us.

In the evening though, I had a puzzling thought. I wondered whether an attempt to create a Moodle would be ridiculed back in India. I look back at less-visually appealing attempts my own University administration made and all the various intranets we had, and I cannot recall being as awed by it. I’m fairly certain that unless forced to, we would not have used it at all. So why am I so thrilled when a University abroad creates an intranet portal that stores information?

My conclusion is this. I never properly utilized the intranet during my undergrad. If I had actually explored it’s full potential, I would perhaps have been equally taken aback. I know the library system at University shocked me when I realized everything was catalogued on our intranet and I could figure out if a book was available without walking till the library.

I missed that opportunity earlier, so tomorrow I shall wake up and navigate through more of Moodle and understand how it continues to survive open-source.

Dear Cambridge

Dear Cambridge,

At the time of writing, I have described your weather to everybody as British Test Match weather. When I was younger, I used to spend days watching India’s tours of England. I’d watch the day’s play and then watch the highlights. I’d pretty much be glued to the television till my grandmother came home and insisted I do something else. That passion continued through as I grew older. Since I started following the sport, there is not one season of English test cricket I have missed till date. Every match, I hear commentators say the same thing late in the day. Lots of cloud cover, the sun shining through in the batsman’s eyes. Ball swinging, difficult session. That’s precisely how you look today, and how you have looked for each of the five days I have now spent here.

Cambridge, you will be the fourth place I call home. Thus far I have resided in Dubai, Bengaluru, and Gandhinagar, falling in love with each for different reasons. I’m curious to fall in love with you, to find out why I fall in love with you. I’m curious to understand your character – what you enjoy, and what frustrates you. I’m eager to find out your story, your stories, each and every one of them. The folklore that birthed you, the myths that continue to help you survive, and the reality that draws people like me to you from far and wide.

You represent a closed loop in my life, Cambridge. It feels surreal being here despite the fact that I am sitting in self-isolation, because for years, I have seen your logo on my certificates as I completed my IGCSE’s and A Levels. I have seen your logo across International schools in the cities I’ve visited. I have repeatedly watched CamVlogs, and Jake Wright’s Vlogs on YouTube, and have heard stories from seniors about breathing your air and experiencing your grandeur.

I cannot wait to earn your trust and be your companion.

I hope you feel the same way.

Love,

Tejas

Four Boxes

Leaving University, particularly a residential University hits in different stages, I think. These have hit differently owing to the pandemic this year. Ordinarily, I believe, there’s the realization that you are going to relocate and move back home. That’s followed by an enjoyment of every last moment at University and hostel. Subsequently, there’s the packing up and the collection of provisional documentation. Finally, there’s the relocation and move.

I started my final semester knowing the first two – and experiencing the first two to the fullest. As I moved home (and packed up as much as I could), and classes went online, I tried to make the most of it. Truth be told, I hardly attended the online lectures, so my enjoyment about my days as an undergraduate student were spent wondering if my dissertation submissions would be cancelled and what the examination policy would be – and not much else. The last day of classes made me feel relief and a lot of emotions about the journey I had been on, whIMG-20200805-WA0004.jpegich I’ve documented here. Receiving my provisional degree marked the culmination of that journey.

None, however, have made me feel the emotions that seeing these four carton boxes made me experience.

You see, these four carton boxes contain everything I held at University within my room. Everything I had accumulated, everything I had shared.

Suddenly, before my eyes, was five years contained within four large boxes. All the experiences and all the memories presented and held in their most tangible form. Here.

And that was it.

Suddenly, all that would linger of me on campus was my name and the memory of me – not my belongings, not my presence. It felt like the last ties that connected me to the place I called home for so long had been severed. Not ripped off quick like a bandaid, which is how the flight home felt, but unwrapped slowly, like crepe bandage, leaving behind its own impressions on my body.

Before going any further, I have to thank a close friend for coordinating and liaising all of this with the packers & movers, and my roommate, for agreeing to everything so quick. It made the entire process feel so seamless. My favourite memory of this entire thing is being able to see our room one last time over a 1.5 hour long WhatsApp video call, where we saw everything get put into boxes and packed up – just as we wanted it to be. No confusion about stuff, no fluff. Thank you both for making that possible. Seeing that with my roommate was surreal because he had already lived in the room for a month before I moved in and almost turned the room on its head with my suggestions. Each year was an experiment in trying to get to the perfect orientation, and I’m so pleased we succeeded.

After leaving the boxes overnight, I opened them up the next day one-by-one. First, I was stunned by the amount I had hoarded. All my committee t-shirts and tags laid bare in front of me, but then there were the xerox textbooks and the moot compendia, all the stuff I wished to leave behind at University for somebody to make use of. There was the stationery, the memorabilia from competitions, and the gifts & postcards – birthday greetings from over the years. There was the care package I received in my second year, and one remnant sanitary napkin, from the hoard I had amassed from my friends in the girls hostel to help me with my pilonidal sinus in my first year.

There was my kettle, my trusty companion. An extra bottle of Vim. Some toiletries.

Everything I used on a daily basis.

Then, and this is what hit me most. There was the stuff I had “borrowed” from home before I left. Vividly, as I unwrapped the cardboard packaging, I remembered the day I had decided to pack an alarm clock. The day I discovered an excellent stationery manager for the desk lying around unused and told my mum I’d be taking it. There was also the stuff I had bought for home during my travels away: the miniature Delftware, some magnets.

That was all of it.

Suddenly home felt it had more stuff that represented my growth in the last five years, and less stuff that spoke of the more distant past. My room changed overnight, with law books entering the library and some choice pieces getting pinned on my softboard – reminding me of what had actually gone by.

The board examination stationery kit, which was the part of my room that made me feel like the house stood still in time, lay strewn somewhere on the side, now a part of a modern look that made home feel like the hostel, when I had tried hard to make the hostel feel like home.

All I needed to hear was unnecessary screaming as the electricity tripped, some loud music, some choice words, a whirring fan, and my roommate’s voice.

I’d be back in Ahmedabad again.

Until then however, this is another goodbye.

Afternoon Lectures

Extra lectures should be prohibited. A few caveats before I make this argument.

  1. Unless they significantly add to knowledge or, in the alternative, the absence of the extra lecture diminishes the value an individual gets out of a particular course, lectures ought to be conducted within the scheduled class hours.
  2. Extraneous circumstances which may require extra lectures – such as the cancellation of classes. These too, however, should be slotted within the regular time-table.

Naturally, these thoughts stem out of the fact that I had a set of extra guest lectures this afternoon from 2pm – 4pm. I paid attention for some time and then, I must confess, I switched off and began to read a book. This is traditional/typical University behaviour. My reason for switching off was primarily because the afternoon is when I usually switch off and take time to do things that I consider leisurely, and there was no way I was giving that up for the lecture that happened today.

I think afternoon lectures are just unproductive for all parties.

I recognize there is no argument here. This is just a display of frustration in some keystrokes.

Also, it’s March, so the attendance calculations have begun every morning. Sigh. I will miss these days.

Exams Are Postponed

I slept really late last night, apropos my terrible sleep cycle (am I using apropos correctly?). The aim was to wake up this morning and begin studying – a task that would have fixed the sleep cycle. I need to be wide awake between 3 and 4:30pm, which is the time I’ll be writing exams, and I desperately wanted to do that today, to get into the habit of things. Except, I woke up and saw an e-mail on my phone that said exams had been postponed by a day and promptly went back to sleep. In fact, most of what I can remember from the day is sleeping. The other part is watching YouTube videos and reading. I’ve got 4 hours left in the day, in which I aim to start studying. We shall see how productive that ambition is in some time.

I can’t recall when my exams were postponed last. I remember there being some discussion around the postponement of exams owing to a senior national leader’s passing a year or so ago. The atmosphere on campus was this crazy blend of celebrating the fact that we may be getting a day off; when instead we should have been in a state of national mourning or such.

Before that, I don’t think exams at school were ever postponed. I’m the kind of person that stresses out about exams so I would have absolutely detested them getting postponed or advanced when they were given a designated date. Today, however, knowing that this is the last set of mid-semesters I will likely write, I’m absolutely okay with the postponement. It doesn’t affect me too much.

I would imagine the juniors at our University are less than pleased.