Addressing Predicaments, Augmenting Academics
Over the past decade, India has won the international reputation of producing quality engineers in astonishingly large numbers. For instance, in 2005 India produced 200,000 engineering graduates (B. Tech. and B. Eng.), about three times as many as the United States and twice as many as all of Europe. However, even more astounding is the fact that by 2015 this number would go up to over 1 million students who, every year, aim at cracking JEE mains to win an engineering seat in the country. And if these figures provide little consent, it would be easy to be led into believing that opting for engineering would be a wise career move in India. The fact, however, remains that 80% out of the 1 million engineering graduates passing out every year run the risk of not getting a job at all, points out Economic Times.
Clearly, something is going wrong. So, to chalk out a plan to shoot up the level of graduates NIT Rourkela produces every year, academic reforms are undergoing a drastic change. Our Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas invited a panel of experts to revise and improve the existing academic reforms. Team MM caught up with the academic committee, which visited the campus on 4th and 5th February to discuss the same. The committee comprised of :
Prof. K.L. Chopra, Former Director, IIT Kharagpur
Prof. S.K. Bhattacharya, Deputy Director, IIT Kharagpur
Prof. A.N. Samanta, National Co-ordinator, GIAN project
Prof. V.R. Pedireddy, Department of Chemistry, IIT Bhubaneswar
Prof. Shyam Prasad Das, Department of Electrical, IIT Kanpur
Prof. A. Chatterjee, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kanpur
Prof. Debashish Choudhury, Department of Physics, IIT Kanpur
Prof. Anup Ray, Former professor at the Centre for Education Technology, IIT Kharagpur
Prof. R.K. Sharma, Department of Mathematics, IIT Delhi.
In an interaction with Team MM they informed us about the various suggestions that they have made to the concerned authorities in the institute. Furnished below are the details:
The meeting, which was conducted saw the overall structuring of our curriculum, which for the first year students will be common to all and for the other batches, the actual structure will have to be worked out and formulated by the respective departments following the guidelines formulated by the committee. The primary focus of the meeting was to reduce the number credits a student has to clear in order to get an engineering degree. The committee was of the opinion that the existing 210 credits to get a degree is really primitive and not suitable for an engineering graduate in today’s world. The courses of the field a student is willing to specialize in, i.e. the core courses should be cut down from an existing 60% to 40% and around 40% of the credits will be allocated to interdisciplinary courses so as to make the overall study multi-disciplinary, all the while restricting the number of credits to 150. The respective departments will decide the curriculum of those core subjects.
The committee was of the opinion that throughout the world, the methods of teaching-learning process have changed and coming to our country, this process is way behind. Adding to which, we still follow conventional methods of teaching and unlike 15-20 years ago, the students who come to an institute like NIT Rourkela ought to learn rather than being taught.
Teaching cannot be all information based because there is no point in knowing about subjects if one cannot put that learning into a real life problem. The committee unanimously decided that the theoretical portions have to be cut down if a student is expected to know in detail of the requirements for that subject in real life.
Credits: The Questionable Affair
For an undergraduate, studying 210 credits in the span of four years is no less than having a catch 22 situation. So, the first step suggested for the revamping of academia was the reduction in the number of credits. Prime focus was given to reduction of student-teacher contact hours so as to provide them with a wider scope for learning in a smart manner. A template for the first year curriculum has been prepared which would stand common for all branches and for the subsequent years, the respective departments have been suggested to come up with a finalized structure. With the reduction of contact hours, students will be given the freedom to take up some extra courses so as to help them in cultivating their area of interest.
Going Digital: Altering the Notes Culture
Sitting in a lecture and jotting down notes continuously not only makes the class monotonous, but also hampers a proper teacher-student interaction. Team MM came up with a suggestion of making Moodle a standard medium for obtaining class notes, so that students can concentrate more on the classes rather than copy down everything, and even suggested for encouragement of MOOCS in the campus. On getting in touch with Prof B. Majhi, Dean Academics he quoted:
It depends upon the Professor. We have given training to all of our professors regarding the use of Moodle, and currently we are in the process of making it mandatory for all professors to upload the notes on Moodle. Coming to MOOCS, we have some professors like Prof. Suchismita Chinara of CSE department who takes blended MOOCS classes. It again depends upon the professor whether he or she is interested in it.
Leading Together: Class Committee
Another important issue which was raised before the committee was the current feedback system under which feedback is given at the end of the semester, which does not benefit the current batch of students in any manner. To curb this issue, they suggested having a class committee. The class committee would be representing the whole class of students belonging to a particular course. Their job will be to convey the message to their HoD about any problem whatsoever related to a class. They will also review the relevance, and the quality of a particular course from time to time, thus improving the current feedback system. If the HOD is in question, the Dean would be approached and consequently the Director remains the highest authority possible with which they can interact.
Internal Sliding: A Blessing Long Due
There was no discussion on internal sliding, initially but when the committee was informed about the rule in our institute, it immediately took up the matter with the Dean Academics. The internal sliding was scrapped from 2010 stating the reason that seats in branches like Metallurgy, Ceramic, Mining and Biomedical Engineering were getting vacant, as students were preferring departments like CSE, Mechanical, etc. as seats in those branches were getting vacant due to reasons like students leaving institute to pursue medical sciences or vacant reserved seats to better colleges. The committee suggested on putting a cap on the maximum number of students who have the option of internal sliding irrespective of the vacancy in any other branch. Also, a rule system like the one in IIT Kanpur was suggested where the criterion says:
One can move from one branch to the other only if
- The department the student is moving to doesn’t exceed its total strength by 10%
- The department the student is moving from doesn’t have students less than 90%.
Regardless of this, if a student has a very high CGPA, he might be allowed to move to any department, whatsoever.
Minor Degrees: Rewards for your Efforts
Currently, our institute does not offer any Minor Degrees to its students. However, under the revamped system, there will be a provision for students to pursue a minor degree of their choice. Various departments will offer subjects, the fulfillment of which will form the requisite for obtaining a Minor Degree from that department. This will be done by modifying the existing Open Elective format. Thus, students with a high CGPA, suggesting that they are capable of handling their major subjects well will have a chance to pursue a minor degree in another department of their choice, by getting a minimum number of credits in the form of course equivalents for it.
Final Year Project: A Technocrat's Calling
The committee strongly supports the idea of a final year project but in exceptional cases if a particular student faces certain circumstances in which he/she is unable to do it then that person may take additional courses to compensate for the same. The committee has also suggested doing team projects with students from other departments or under the supervision of a guide from another department. Since the final year project also helps in learning teamwork, which becomes necessary once the student graduates and gets a job in a particular company, there is no question of discontinuing it.
The committee has given a strong consent that the final year project be made a very integral part of the B. Tech. curriculum, even for those who wish to divert into a different field, later, since they opted for a career in engineering and thus have to go through with the same if they wish to obtain a degree.
Research Practice, which is conducted in the third year of the B.Tech course, is also going to be revamped so as to provide more perspective and better learning to the budding engineers.
Attendance: Enough or Not
On being asked about the current attendance rules and if any changes have been proposed for them, the committee replied that it has been left to the institute authorities to collaborate with the faculties and decide what can be done with the current set of rules. However, high attendance is what one aspires, the committee said.
The Post-Graduate students were upset about the fact that they had to face double punishment i.e. when they are absent for a day, their stipend is deducted for 2 days and they have to work for 3 extra days. Speaking to Prof. B.Majhi, he clarified that the proposal has been taken up in senate to give 15 days’ as casual leaves and over the four years, 15 days medical leave without any salary cuts. If there are any further absents, the salary will be cut for those particular days only and not on any other days.
In addition, the thesis paper that was being uploaded in NITRIS, there has been a proposal of doing it the old school way, i.e. by PowerPoint presentations in front of a panel.
The cry for revamp in curriculum has been heard and proposals, which are in the pipeline have been put forward for a better-looking tomorrow. With the current stir in the academic atmosphere, one can expect a balanced decision to come out from the senate meeting. With talks of reduction in fests and club culture doing the rounds, one should not be surprised if they see a drastic change in how things have been panning out off-late.