Open Online Courses Help Engineering Students in Self-Study, Prepare Better

Published: 08th September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th September 2014 04:15 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: Nikhil K N has a busy week ahead. This electronics and communication student of R V College of Engineering (RVCE) has been given topics on which he has to prepare on his own and he wants to make the best use of open source materials.

 Autonomous colleges may have found the right tool to put an end to rote learning. A new ‘self-study’ component has been introduced in the Bachelor of Engineering syllabus that requires students to fend for themselves on topics related to their courses.

“I have to prepare on topics such as hybrid power systems and 3D printing for metals. What our teachers teach is not enough, so we have to depend on online courses, where there is always a little extra,” Nikhil said.

The self-study has been added to the theory and practicals’ aspects of the syllabus and carries designated number of credits. Experts feel this would allow colleges and students to make the most out of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

B M S College of Engineering, Basavanagudi, for instance, has drawn up an ambitious plan of allowing students who have completed MOOCs to sit directly for the examinations. “But it must be a course that is a part of and relevant to our syllabus. Our plan is that such students need not sit through classes for the courses they have already completed through open-source platforms,” Principal K Mallikharjuna Babu said.

The college has asked its students to include at least two MOOCs in their bibliography.

RVCE has set aside 24 credits for the self-learning aspect for the first six semesters. “It is all about experiential learning that will help students get ready for the industry. We don’t restrict our students from referring to MOOCs, but they will have to show that they have linked what they have learnt to our broad curricular framework,” Principal B S Satyanarayana said. He added that “self-study would end spoon-feeding.”

Autonomous engineering colleges, sources said, had been lobbying with the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) since 2010 to permit them to introduce self-study as a part of the undergraduate syllabus. “VTU gave its permission for self-study only last year,” Prof Satyanarayana said.

MOOCs are courses conducted online for hundreds of thousands of students worldwide without restriction. According to a research article by the Centre for the Advanced Study of India, Indian students, especially from Mumbai and Bangalore, comprise the second largest group taking MOOCs offered by Coursera — a company founded by Stanford University professors — after students from the United States.

A recent vision paper of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) stated of MOOCs in the Indian higher education context: “With MOOCs, we have a mechanism to reach high quality education and a globally collaborative learning experience, to any section of society.”

“Most engineering students just depend on ready-made guides and this is killing the creative abilities,” S Y Kulkarni, Principal, M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, observed.

“The self-study concept will encourage them to refer to quality journals and other resources. For example, if one has to prepare on the topic of surface technology, there are wonderful resources put out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” he explained.

While this concept is an experiment in autonomous colleges, VTU is mulling on whether it could be introduced in all engineering colleges.

“There is a proposal to introduce this concept in the second and third year of engineering courses. But we will have to discuss its pros and cons,” Puttaraju, Chairman, VTU Board of Studies for Civil Engineering, said. He added that there would be clarity on this matter by the end of September.

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