Edited by Neha Cherian | Design by Harshavardhan
Advice and lectures on keeping your grades intact, studying well and getting good placements will never die down, even after getting accepted into an institute like IIT. College has been said to be the place where we can experiment and experience everything in life and the constant reminder that we are here to study often creates a lot of external pressure. Victory is when you learn to balance your academic life and your social life. Sustained efforts are required to maintain your academic performance, and the availability of a study space satisfying all your study needs is a prerequisite.
A study space is not just somewhere you sit to meet your credit requirements, but a potpourri of elements delicately balanced to serve your slim attention span. It includes a place, often matching your taste and preference, furniture, study materials, electronic devices, easy availability of snacks, water coolers, restrooms, good lighting, air conditioning and so on. The perfect study space does not exist. Besides being very subjective, between the unforgiving Chennai heat and the requirements of WiFi and charging ports, students have slim pickings.
Distractions are undoubtedly one of the worst productivity killers. Some students opt for partial privacy as watching others studying raises motivation and awareness of time passing. For some people, the temptation to socialize in spaces such as CRC or the DCF can present a major stumbling block to productive study sessions. Space and interior design must crucially focus on the aspect of availability of certain facilities as the utility of the study space tends to plunge and the engagement rate to decrease, depending on the resources provided. Long study sessions require water coolers and snacks at arm’s length. The availability of proper air conditioners and fans also figures under study needs.
The demands made on study spaces change as one moves up the higher education ladder. PhD students note that discussions with co-scholars and professors take place in comfortable spaces with tea and snacks . Workspaces must match their nature of research at the moment, oscillating between discussion rooms and productive writing environments. Apart from the common study spaces, Anjappar and Indian Coffee House were cited as favourable spots.
The central library is a four storeyed building, specifically built for IIT-M students for academic purposes. The first floor is a fairly well ventilated room, enormous in size with tables that can be shared by two people sitting face to face and side tables lining the room. Bright and commanding a view of the trees, the hall is a positive and refreshing place to be in except for the fact that there is a serious lack of charging ports. The second and third floors, similarly designed, contain row by row seating arrangements and shelves of books. The third floor, a preferred study spot for many students, is comfortable, air conditioned, spacious, well-lit and contains enough charging ports. It is also equipped with water coolers and nearby bathroom facility which makes it very crowded during off-days and online classes. The top floor, the cosy reading room is meant for group sessions and studying. The room is spacious but ill-designed, again making it a crowded and noisy spot.
The library has never been just a study space. Endowed with A/C and high-speed WiFi, it is not uncommon to find students napping, gaming, downloading movies or spending an agreeable hour with their romantic partners. Apart from the pressing need for more charging facilities, water coolers and well-regulated air conditioning that is just right, the library must stock up on titles in fiction and update its repertoire of volumes that are relevant to humanities students, PhD scholars and researches working in similar disciplinary backgrounds.
Sarayu, the freshie girls’ hostel is three floors high with a small common room on every floor. The rooms, built for one person are shared by two. This situation can be found in many hostels. Although a LAN connection is available, the service fluctuates making it unreliable. Those who want to spend time studying in the hostel have to make do with the bed, which is the perfect counterproductive setup, conducive for sleeping and bingewatching, but little else. The common rooms feature a few chairs and tables, besides the stray plugpoints. However, being open spaces in Sarayu, they are infested with monkeys ,making it impossible to sit for more than 10 minutes without having aggressive and intelligent IIT-macaques snatch gadgets.
Sharavati meets with a similar fate. However, the rooms are equipped with two tables and two chairs for 2-3 students and enough charging ports for the same, making work an ergonomically better activity. During the long summer months and their attendant power cuts, it is just about impossible to work in hostel rooms, especially when, in some of the older hostels, one must choose between the fan and charging one’s devices. The restrictions on girls’ entry into boys’ hostels in the evenings also make it unfavourable for group activities since most students work late into the night.
This snug nook in the campus is the perfect alternative study space. With the café bustling until 11pm, folks can spend their time in this air-conditioned space with a warm cup of (slightly overpriced) coffee and other chocolate delights on the side. However, it can only be an alternative to the usual study spaces as it is brimming with activity all day. CCD also lacks charging ports and the available ones tend to take turns working. It is, however also a fairly good place to have group discussions, and meetings, or do less focus-intensive activities. Other areas that provide a good space to sit with your friends and ponder about the meaning of life or brainstorm on event logistics for cultural clubs are HFC, Himalaya lawns, CRC, NAC’s gazebos, and Quark, making these areas incompatible for those who require pin-drop silence to work in.
The study space in the Electrical Sciences Block with its industrial fans, electrical wall decorations and black boards is an aesthetically pleasing and fairly comfortable area. Spacious rooms that house enough tables and chairs for groups and team activities, ESB is a well-ventilated and rather cool study spot to work in. Moreover, it is open 24/7 and welcomes students from various departments. The only con is the long walk to the amazing ESB water coolers. Students would also like the once open cafes and shops to be inaugurated again.
Study space requirements are subjective. The nature of work decides the need for different types of spaces, demanding the existence of several versatile study spots. By exploring some of insti’s recurrent study spaces, on can notice some common shortfalls such as small seating capacity, insufficient charging ports, and lack of common spaces for discussions due to inter-hostel movement restrictions. Other than the library, CCD, Hostel rooms, ESB, DCF, CRC, Madhava Hall, NAC’s gazebos, Watsa Stadium, and Himalaya Lawns are other spaces we can spot students working in. Rather than diverting funds for building new study spaces, re-designing the existing study spaces to match the utility of students will definitely be in everyone’s best interests.