Advice to Engineering Colleges from a ‘pseudo-real’ Engineer

In: Education

By Bakshi Gulam

5 May 2014

I’m writing this post in continuation with my previous post. In my previous post I had mentioned most of the Engineering Colleges/Univs in India (at least in Tamilnadu) are just “Monkey Factories”. I know most of them are running colleges as a “money tree” and they just don’t care about quality of the education. This advice is for some (if any) who really cares about the quality of education they provide and really want to improve it.

Quality of Degree

The first thing to consider is “Quality of your degree”. Industry(and other organizations) should have a good opinion on your UNIV/college’s degree – If your UNIV/college awards someone with an Engineering Degree, he/she should be a “real” Engineer. If you award Engineering Degree to Engineers+Monkeys+Human-Beings-without-Brains, it’ll dilute the quality of your Engineering Degree. At one point of time, if they found out 90+ monkeys out of 100 degrees awarded nobody will consider your UNIV/college’s degree as a degree.

To achieve this, you need to separate Management from Academia. The Academia should have the guts to say “How much money you get from them doesn’t matter. We’ll award them degrees purely based on our evaluation criteria”.

Evaluation Criteria

Writing stories for 3 hours is the worst thing a Engineering student can ever do. Don’t just rely on End Sem Exams. Split the evaluation into various components. For heaven’s sake, eliminate that stupid “internal marks” mechanism. You are at your own liberty to assign weight-age to each evaluation component. Give more practical assignments (Engineering is all about “doing” something). But kindly don’t ask students to replicate the work of a photocopier – the most stupidest form of giving assignments. Let all the assignments be practical (as much as possible ­ because the best way of learning is by doing). Your objective should be making sure every student learn the selected concepts. I know you won’t eliminate the traditional story writing part. Because you are so obsessed with it. Right? If so, set a question paper in such a way that even if they were given text books and allowed to browse Internet (yes they can bring their phones inside exam hall; what’s wrong in that?), they will not be able to answer the questions unless they have understood it. And this will set the quality of the degree apart from other institutions and also eliminates all local authors as a by-product. Instead of repeatedly advising not to follow local authors, set a question paper where students feel mugging up from local authors won’t help them. This is better nah? Think differently!! Wake up!!!

Syllabi

There is a HUGE GAP between industry and Academia. If you want to stand apart, this is another opportunity for you. Bridge the gap between industry and your curriculum by updating and aligning your curriculum close to industry expectations. Wait! Don’t immediately form a team with all faculty there. Bring some “Practicing Professionals” from industry; consult with them; draw the syllabus; get it reviewed by them again; finalize it. And don’t forget to update it every year.

Lab Facilities

I don’t ask you to spend too much money in making your labs “start-of-the-art”. Spend money wisely. Instead of buying huge microcontroller kits for 25k+, buy compact kits that comes for around 1500 bucks and give one to each student. Instead of buying a desktop for 25k or 30k, buy a laptop for just 15k and allow students to use it effectively.

Teaching Standards

Think in what way faculties can help students understand things. As far as my exposure is concerned, a faculty can do 2 things to make student understand the stuff.
1) Teaching
2) Facilitating

1) To teach, the faulty should really have command over the subject (someone who have done some research and have patents) and an art called ‘teaching’ with some enthusiasm to teach. Industry Experience is preferred. Because that will tell them what is important and
what is not. And why students should learn it. Unfortunately this is quite difficult and costlier solution. But you can try to recruit such people in the future. Even if you don’t do this, you may have to do it at some point in the future if you really want to be an “internationally renowned university/college”.

2) Facilitating is comparatively easier. Because faculties need not teach. All they have to do is to give students the necessary resources from which they can learn themselves. At least do this for now. There are hell lot of useful resources out there. IIT & NIT are publishing
their own videos. Foreign universities are pioneer in this area. CourseEra, Udacity, Edx are also there… Get to know all these and try to put these into action. Hope those will be better than the boring stupid lectures of your own.

Make sure your faculties are at least facilitating students if they couldn’t teach.

Admissions

During admission you implement some really good filtering techniques (kindly don’t ask anything form their 12th syllabus; assume all would have become monkeys by the time they complete their 12th; because that’s what schools are also doing) to test their common sense, problem solving technique, etc. and make it clear to them that they won’t get degree just because they’ve been admitted and you have such strict evaluation components that they need to pass through.

Classrooms are not jails!

Don’t treat students as labors. Let them be free, let them think. Motivate them. Reduce the min. attendance percentage to 50% or less. Give them more choices. Let them walk-in & walk-out of the class ANYTIME without asking any excuses. Allow them to bring mobile phones/tablets/whatsoever inside the class and let them browse the web in parallel for more info on the subject while the lecture is going on.

There is an excellent litmus test in this kind of environment. You know what? If you can’t find the classes full, there is something wrong with you people. There can be many things that have gone wrong. 1) The faculty doesn’t have command over the subject and hence
students felt attending his/her classes is waste of time. 2) The faculty is really knowledgeable but couldn’t bring students in sync with him/her which eventually let students thinking “attending classes is waste of time”. And there could be many other reasons that you have to figure out.

On the other hand if you can find the classrooms fully occupied by students even after giving that much freedom, it really tells that students have found out there is something in the lectures which they can’t get it anywhere else (from text books & even from the web).
This is real yardstick to measure the quality of teaching at any UNIV/college.

If you implement above mentioned suggestions, you can see students discussing ideas instead of people and events; You can see students bunking classes and playing with some stuff in the lab; You can see students working late in the evenings on labs. And at that time, you can assume your quality of education has been made better…

1 Response to Advice to Engineering Colleges from a ‘pseudo-real’ Engineer

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kk

April 6th, 2015 at 12:30 am

dude it is very easy to give advice, while it takes a lot to make changes, most of the teachers are there because it is considered as secondary option to high paying jobs not because they like to teach. until that changes, i don’t think anything is going to change.

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This is Bakshi Gulam. I’m a programmer, a blogger and an open-source lover interested in anything related to computer systems. Click here to read my bio.

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