hWhat are the challenges that your college is facing amid pandemic? How are you dealing with them?
It’s a global pandemic. Hence, the challenges are common for all the institutions, industries and organisations. At Easwari Engineering College, we started converting our traditional classrooms into smart classrooms five years ago. While the internet was made available in every classroom, our teachers began using ICT tools to teach students. This experience was very handy during the pandemic when classes were moved to online mode. That’s why our institution has not faced much difficulty in holding online classes for students.
But, the problem is that students are spread across various parts of the State. There are places where students find it very difficult to attend online classes because of bad internet connectivity. We addressed this problem by taking various measures. For such students, while the video of the lectures is broadcast repeatedly, we are also sending study materials to students through various other modes. But the assessment of the students’ performance in terminal examinations or end semester examinations continues to remain a challenge. It is a challenge not only for our institution but for all the higher education institutions. While students are required to answer descriptive questions in their examinations in a normal time, we had to change this pattern due to the pandemic and conduct online proctored examinations with multiple-choice questions. Amid the prevailing situation, it was not feasible to ask the students to write descriptive answers and upload them for assessment. Monitoring was the issue. There is a lot of technology being developed now to conduct proctored examinations. Most of the online assessment platforms are artificial intelligence-based system. It is evolving.
Engineering courses are technical requiring laboratory work. How are classes being conducted in your college to ensure that online mode of education doesn’t affect the quality of education and students complete their courses acquiring requisite practical skills in their respective domains?
As you said it rightly, engineering courses are more practical oriented than theoretical. To ensure that our students acquire practical skills, we have introduced the e-Lab facility with a central server. Students can do simulation experiments even while sitting at their home. They can do as many exercises as they wish. We started this facility two years ago. But, the entire gamut of experiments cannot be covered due to some limitations of the e-Lab. To address this problem, our faculty members have prepared several voiceover video clips for such experiments. These visual presentations do not give the real touch and feel of the experiments but they have been very helpful for the students to learn and understand the method and concepts. This is a blessing in disguise as our faculty members are now equipped to develop high-quality virtual video demonstrations for various laboratory experiments. Besides, we are also using the Virtual Labs initiative by MHRD. Our students are doing simulation experiments at this facility and learning basic and advanced concepts through remote experimentation. We are working to further develop our e-Lab facility.
The government has now left it to the discretion of the universities to decide on re-opening of campuses. When are you planning to reopen your institution?
If we are asked to reopen our campus in the next few days, we are fully prepared for it. We have a hospital here in Easwari Engineering College campus. Our team of doctors are ready with all the protocols required under the COVID-19 safety guidelines to reopen the campus, right from monitoring the visitors’ temperature at the gate, sanitisation, fumigation to the deployment of foot-pedal operated sanitising stations in the campus. We are fully equipped to provide a safe campus for students. For us, re-opening our campus is not a problem. But, our college is affiliated to Anna University which has decided to continue online classes till April. So, the physical classes may happen only after April.
How do you think campuses should be reopened?
Parents and students now want a safe campus. In the next academic year, they will look for the institutions which are safe amid the prevailing situation. Higher education institutions must have necessary medical facilities in place before resuming physical classes in their campus. I hope that the government will insist on medical facility inside every campus and issue directive as it is in the best interest of students, teachers and other staff.
Many students and teachers assert that online classes have made them comfortable with the digital model of the teaching-learning process. In the past few years, policymakers have felt a strong need for the introduction of a flipped classroom model in higher education institutions to improve the quality of education. What is your view on this? Is your college considering introducing a hybrid model of education in the coming days?
As I said earlier, we converted our traditional classrooms into smart classrooms five years ago and have been working since then to further improve the facilities with the integration of modern ICT tools in the teaching-learning process. We are focusing on blended curriculum. Our students can pursue NPTEL online courses in Swayam platform and claim equivalent credits in regular curriculum by dropping few courses. This facility is introduced for the benefit of our students. We are also planning to roll out many online courses. Being an autonomous institution, we have the liberty to introduce our own courses.
High-quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship are the new buzz words. What steps have been taken in your engineering college to promote them among your students?
Apart from providing high-quality education to our students, we also encourage them to aspire to become an employer instead of a job seeker. Our students get very good placements as the institution is known for the quality education it provides. We also promote innovation, research, entrepreneurship and start-up culture. For this, we have created an incubation facility in our campus. Our highly experienced faculty members mentor students at various stages, right from the ideation, prototyping, project development to setting up of a company. For ideation, every year we conduct a project roadshow in which students bag big prize money. With that seed money, students develop a prototype, then convert them into a product and finally establish their own company. If you look at the universities abroad, many big companies originate from their campuses. We are emulating that in our college as well. Our target is to see that atleast 15% of our students start their own company during four years of study. Funding is not a problem if the product is good. There are lot of angel investors available apart from government funding. We are roping in such people.
Future workplace is rapidly changing. A recent World Economic Forum report noted that more than 42% of all jobs will change significantly by 2022. What steps are being taken to make students of your college future-ready?
In the next five years, most of the current job roles are going to disappear and new job roles will be created. Digitisation is in full throttle in industries. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity are gaining lots of momentum. Unless our graduates are equipped in emerging areas, they will not be in a position to be employed. Understanding this, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) last year allowed colleges to introduce few programmes in such emerging areas. Thus, we introduced Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science and another two BE programmes in Robotics and Automation and Biomedical Engineering. Soon, we are planning to roll out programmes in cybersecurity and Internet of Things. Our curriculum for all engineering programmes is updated to prepare students for the future. Our programmes are at par with the international standards.
Outlook Business initiative is a brand promotion feature