Bridging Industry-Academia Gap With Experiential Learning & Professional Training
The data used reveals the viewpoints of an industry as well as students that they are not job-ready and lack employability skills. Let’s delve into the reasons and explore possible solutions to meet the industry expectations of our engineers.
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Gone are the days when teaching in engineering colleges was done through the chalk and board and by way of using models, overhead projectors and other conventional methods. Technology has taken its place with the latest presentation formats, 3-D models, etc. Live projects, movies, and case studies have also become the norm of the day. What is it that still keeps the Indian engineering students, not on equal standing with the Western counterparts? Our students gain accolades and acclaim for their innovative works and projects almost every year. Some of the prestigious engineering institutes of the country have several international linkages mostly in the form of student and faculty exchange. However, the number of such institutes is negligible when compared to the innumerable engineering colleges in the country. Data reveals the viewpoints of an industry as well as students that they are not job-ready and lack employability skills. Let’s delve into the reasons and explore possible solutions to meet the industry expectations of our engineers.
Most of the engineering colleges today also follow the same old pattern of teaching, where the textbook is considered the key to all queries and everything the students do should have some reference to the text. Having a comprehensive textbook with the fundamentals is good, but can become ideal if the applications of the concepts laid therein are taught to the students. Experiential learning is the way forward. Let the students base their understanding on the theories and facilitate them to give vent to their creativity fuelled by their curiosity and see the magic! Give them problem-based situations, divide them into teams, allot a time frame and share the broad expectations with enough room for innovative outcomes. Make them sensible human beings rather than driving them into becoming robots by mugging up the text. Change is coming but is not visible to alter the scenario in India. Every engineering college should make active learning their charter.
With the increase in the number of engineering colleges, has come the wave of hiring fresh engineering post-graduates as faculty therein. Although they might have been exposed to the same syllabus, they surely need to be polished before they assume the role on the other side of the table. Fresh post-graduates with an industry exposure of even three years will make a difference because they will, by then be equipped with the experience in ground reality as in the application of what they learned during their engineering. It is advisable to hire faculty with a PhD in engineering enriched with not only teaching skills but also backed up by research publications in listed journals. After all, the research experience they will carry will go a long way in guiding and motivating their students towards the same. Guest faculty from reputed engineering colleges from within the country like Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology and others as well as from international colleges should be invited not only for delivering lectures and for conducting a session or two, but also to have collaborative teaching in the regular courses offered by the host institute’s faculty. This promises a dual purpose: the advantage for students by getting sensitized to international standards and styles of learning; and exposure for faculty by gaining from their counterparts teaching in high-ranked world institutes and colleges. The gain of the faculty is two-fold: joint teaching gives them an opportunity to observe and learn the teaching styles, and networking brings forth collaborative research which further strengthens their expertise. Isn’t it a win-win situation?
Along with state-of-the-art facilities, experienced and expert faculty with innovative teaching styles and pedagogy aiming at active learning, it is also imperative to equip the engineering students with professional skills, vital for the job market. A mini-course on technical communication and a few workshops imparting soft skills are not enough. Professional training should be intertwined in the very curriculum, and need not be graded given the importance it has in today’s competitive world in which the students are well aware of. Experiential learning in teams will give them ample opportunities to learn and demonstrate leadership skills, team spirit, along with managing time. Focused training should be conducted in delivering presentations culminating in individual feedback and personal plan of improvement with a follow up at regular intervals by way of having students present their projects. Presentation of their own effort facilitates in getting over their stage consciousness along with augmenting their confidence.
Apart from the above-mentioned, it is also required of engineering institutes in India to conduct student conferences both national and international, to enhance students’ knowledge and to boost their self-reliance. These conferences give an opportunity to students to mingle and network with their global counterparts thereby enhancing their exposure and knowledge to be globally and culturally fit for an industry as well as for their planned overseas higher education. Such conferences should be student-driven: planned, organized and executed by them to have a holistic development. Let them commit mistakes, learn from those, and move ahead managing the exigencies. That’s how you can make them industry ready. That’s what the industry expects them to be – experts in their fields, reliable at times of need/crisis, and professional enough to become the face of the organization they join by demonstrating zeal in whatever they do.
This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Apr-May 2018'
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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