PART 2: The Major "Minor" Fiasco
(This article deals in detail with the pros and cons involved with the implementation of minor degree.)
It was July 2018, our sophomore Engineering student Momo was back into the campus after a long summer break. People were also filling into the campus for the beginning of the new autumn semester. The institute was abuzz around two academic reforms which were going to be implemented for the first time since this session: the Branch Change and the Minor Degree. Momo had excellent CGPA and understandably had his eyes set on a Minor Degree. It was an excellent opportunity for him, an opportunity to graduate with two degrees in two disciplines. A circular came to him via webmail asking interested sophomores with a CG > 7.5 to pursue a minor degree and fill the preferences in the NITRIS portal. Upon filling his preference, Momo was allotted his preferred minor and the session began. The problem began later in the month of August when Momo thought of deregistering from minor degrees by submitting an application to the Dean Academics. It was not even mid semesters and our academically excellent Momo had opted out.
This is not just the story of our ‘Engineer Momo’; it is the story of around 49 odd second-year students out there who have deregistered from Minor Course. We bring to you this feedback-cum-analysis on the Implementation of the Minor Degree Courses.
STATS AND FEEDBACK:
WHEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM?
Owing to the statistics and feedback that the above infographic has presented it can be easily concluded that the present system for Minor Degree has too many loopholes to term them as a great initiative towards providing interdisciplinary education. On collecting feedback from people who have opted out of minor degrees we arrive at following conclusions as reasons to what has led to the above statistics:
PREFERED MINOR: It so happened that people were allotted minor according to their preferences based on their CGPA. They were not given the option of whether to accept the allotted minor or not. The people who did not get their top preferences later opted out of it. If given an opportunity to accept or reject the allocation followed by another round of allocation (just like it happens in JoSAA counselling), this seat which now lies vacant because of a person opting out might have been allocated to a person who was deeply interested with the subject but could not make the cut because of comparatively low CGPA.
ACADEMIC OVERLOAD: People were unaware of the extra academic load that pursuing another degree program could have. They were given an opportunity and they tried embracing it under the pretext of their high grades. But they were too quick to realise the effort they need to put in and hence started opting out when it was not even mid semesters. No circular or orientation program was initiated by the administration to make them aware of this very point. If done, it might have happened that not just ‘deserving’ but also truly passionate person would have got that seat and he/she might have continued.
UNSATISFACTORY TEACHING: It might be a very common complaint of the people at NIT Rourkela but the thing which makes it a major issue when it comes to the minor is ‘Choice’. In minor, the people had the choice of opting out when they found substandard teaching in their subjects. This caused them even more effort to cope up with the pace of the course in addition to their major. They felt that if they could divert this effort towards their core subjects it might turn out to be much more fruitful. All in all, people were disappointed, their expectations weren’t met and since they had a choice, they choose to leave minor.
UNSETTLED COURSE STRUCTURE: The administration might object but the structure of minor is still a debatable topic even for the people at the top levels of academic hierarchy. Let alone the specifics of subjects, it is even not clear how many subjects need to be cleared in order to get a minor degree. The number of credits, number of theory and number of lab courses are also not fixed. The administration should have at least formulated an exact structure and circulated it in order to avoid this confusion. Some people even opted out sighting reasons that they might have one theory and a laboratory course in one particular semester.
- A SEPARATE MINOR DEGREE CERTIFICATE? A major topic of discussion amongst Minor aspirants is “Will we get a separate certificate or a separate grade card?”. This wasn’t clear because NITRIS did not show it separately, but it was placed in between other subjects of their department. Later, it happened that their grades in minor were added to their CGPA after the third semester. Students who had survived a semester now started deregistering in order to safeguard their original CGPA. Hence the tale of outflow of students in minor did not stop even after the passage of a semester and is still continuing.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS:
The administration clearly mentions that they are going forward with the minor degrees and this would be available to the students currently in their 1st year. We appreciate that they do not restrict students from learning about things only in the discipline they get admitted to but can choose the course of their interest too. The following points if implemented would go a long way filling the gaps in the implementation of minor courses.
(The points marked with + are suggestions from our readers and points marked with * are the clarifications received from Assistant Dean (Academics) Prof Alok Satapathy)
(+) The allocating procedure should include some mock seat allocations. This would give them an idea of their position and then they can fill in preference only if they can get the minor, they are truly interested in.
(+) An orientation program should be organised to help make students realise the gravity of minor courses.
(*) A webmail would be issued asking the present first years to fill in preferences only if they are truly interested in a subject and are aware of the academic pressure that pursuing an extra degree might put on them.
(+) Experienced professors with good feedback might help to improve the situation due to teaching methodology and help retain students in minors.
(+) A proper course structure specifying the number of subjects, subject names, number of credits, laboratory/theory should be chalked out for each department and should be specific to minors (and not just some list of electives).
(*) According to him the courses to be offered would depend from time to time on the availability of professors in the department and hence a proper structure is not present. However, he mentioned that a total of 6 courses (theory + lab) need to complete which will be around 18 credits in order to secure a minor degree.
(*) Students would receive two degrees and two separate grade cards. Presently the technical support is not available to produce two grade sheets and hence it is clubbed into the same grade sheet.
It is understandable that this was the first time when Minor Course was introduced. Each noble initiative has its own pros and cons. Therefore, we hope the stakeholders at the helm of the administrative hierarchy would collect its own feedback and work to close the loopholes in order to make sure that the adversaries do not count more than the benefits. Team MM appreciates the initiative.
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