Elective Or A Directive?

Elective Or A Directive?

Keeping up with the custom of the final registration of the spring semester being on the first day of new year, students of NIT Rourkela started pouring in the campus in a bundle of excitement and anxiousness. Between the hustle in front of the Academic and Registrar's offices and regular calls to Faculty Advisors for confirmation of registration timings, there was another aspect which kept most of the students queasy - allocation of electives and minors.

Currently, there are two curriculums in existence for the undergraduate engineering programs. The students who are in their pre-final and final years follow the curriculum that existed before the revamp in 2017. It allows the students of pre-final and final years to choose a 3-credit-elective subject from a list of predefined options offered by various departments of the Institute, other than that of their own department. However, the new curriculum, which came into effect for the batch of 2017 is now followed for the students in their second and first year; and would also be continued for the upcoming batches. The new curriculum includes minor degrees offered by various departments and elective options from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. The most general issue faced by the students was not being able to find a defined course structure for the offered elective options in the new curriculum, hence causing uncertainty in giving preferences during pre-registration. 
To know what the students felt on the subject, Monday Morning commenced its usual weekly poll and now brings you its analysis.

The Poll

To study the poll question conveniently, the student pulse was divided into three opinions :  

  • Students who were very satisfied with the OE allocated to them.

  • Students who were denied their preferred OE/minor.

  • Students who did not find any of the listed subjects to their liking and would have preferred a more extensive range of options.

Results

44% of the students were satisfied with their allocated open elective course or minor. 
According to the new curriculum, students with a CGPA of 7.5 or above can pursue minor degrees in other departments according to their relative CGPA and relative preference. Due to the dependence of CGPA on the allocated minor degree, it gives very little freedom to the students. Students starting from their second year can choose electives from the Humanities and Science Department which can be a three or two-credit course depending on the semester or subject. These courses aim to have a variety in supplementary skills and intend to give a holistic humane approach to the engineers of tomorrow. 

I am satisfied with my allocated HS subject; but to be honest, I can't say that I'm excited about it. Though I've been fortunate enough to get my preferred choice, I don't think I had much to choose from in the first place.

- Ashwin Sekhari, a sophomore had to say the above.

21% of the students voiced that they did not get their preferred OE/Minor. 
Though the statistics may provide a false illusion of only a small populace being unhappy, George Bernard Shaw's words strike the mind "The minority is sometimes right; the majority always wrong. "

One of the most aggravating outcomes of the allocation of HS electives to the sophomores in this semester was the discontinuation of a registered course after final registration. International Trade and Development, a course to be offered by the department and enrolling 115 students was dissolved on the first day of the course's class. The reason given was mismanagement on administration end which led to the display of 7 courses instead of only six courses that were to be delivered as an elective option. As a result, these 115 sophomore students were given another chance to pick one subject from the list. Even though most of the students got their selected subject after this fiasco, it caused quite a bit of disappointment in the students.

The options given under HS electives were mostly the specialisation of what we had in the third semester. Initially, I had opted for cognitive science, but I was allotted natural resources. Despite the small pool of options, it is highly possible that we can get stuck with a subject which doesn't appeal to us at all. In a way, this goes against the entire 'elective’ aspect of the course.

- a sophomore choosing to remain anonymous.

A similar fate was met by a fraction of 133 pre-final year and final year students who had been registered for the course of Psychometrics as their Open Elective. During the pre-registration of pre-final and final year students, the OE list offered two courses of Psychometrics, HS428, and HS1325; both to be taught by the same faculty. However, after the final registration, HS1325 was again dissolved and the students were given the option to choose from the other three Humanities and Social Science Electives – Cognitive Science, Psychometrics (HS428) and Optimisation Theory of Economics

While a few of us had given Psychometrics the first preference, many of my friends had given a much lower preference to it. One instance is I had given it as the first preference and one of my friends had given it as the 11th preference. However, when the final elective was allocated, both of us had ended up with Psychometrics. A total of about 256 students allocated to both the courses of Psychometrics combinedly. So, when asked the concerned professor about the huge strength, we were told that there was some issue with the allotment of HS OEs and all the students with HS1325 must choose between the other three HS OEs. The reason given was four-digit codes do not apply to third and fourth-year students. So, he manually distributed the strength of HS1325 to the other three options. So, the strength of 133 students was redistributed with Psychometrics having about 170+ students and the rest in the other two courses. The final elective was confirmed only last Thursday. 

- Manasa Pisipati, a pre-final year student

An opinion shared by 35% of the students is that none of the subjects on the list was suitable and that the administration's reputation could have benefitted with better/more options. 
When the choices were first made available to the students, a majority (dare we say all) of them had to search on the all-knowing internet for background on these subjects. In the humble opinion of the students who are taking the subjects, learning something that would be used in their respective fields or something that can better the skill-set they already possess, would have been appreciated. The previous statement is in no way criticism of the pre-existing subject(s) available (and by extension, the administration) to the students by the authors, but just the unfiltered opinion of 35% of the students. It is unknown why the institute insists on including the Electives under Open Elective when the students have a little control or choice over what they get. Hopefully, this problem will cease to exist over time, but for now, 35% will have to suffer the slings and arrows.

When I first saw the elective list this semester, I was clueless. I just saw subjects which I would have never preferred if it was open to my choice. By no means, I wish to degrade the subjects offered to us, but I don't see how two-semester worth of non-engineering related expertise is going to help me in my placement or career if I wish to continue in this domain. A crash course in programming languages, an introductory session for the booking technologies, or even an advanced course on English and Communication would have been a much better option and catered to a wider base of students’ requirements. 

- Priyatosh Sahoo, a sophomore

It points to a sorry picture when only south of half the NITR population is confident about the subjects assigned to them, and the majority of the other half worries and doesn't deem them to be useful. There can be various reasons for providing a small pool of options. Limitation in faculty strength might be a plausible excuse. But providing a decent course structure before pre-registration of all the electives should have been treated as a bare minimum. The students of NITR, and by extension team Monday Morning, hope that this was a temporary glitch in an otherwise smooth beginning to the semester and for the sake of all involved is resolved with haste. 

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