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New Tools Are Complementing Online Teaching

To understand the ways in which IITs are continuing to remain functional in these unprecedented times, BW Businessworld’s Upasana engaged in a conversation with Ravindra Gettu, Dean of Industrial Consultancy And Sponsored Research (IC&SR), IIT Madras.

IITs have consistently served as institutions of world-class calibre in an otherwise mediocre higher educational system. They have been an ‘instrument for transformation’, and played an important role in innovation and development of new technology. To understand the ways in which IITs are continuing to remain functional in these unprecedented times, BW Businessworld’s Upasana engaged in a conversation with Ravindra Gettu, Dean of Industrial Consultancy And Sponsored Research (IC&SR), IIT Madras. Excerpts:

How do you think the education industry has been transformed in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak? 

Education has changed a lot due to the Covid-19 and is needed to be continued till the COVID-19 blows off. Mainly all of us in the education sector have gone online and try­ing to teach as well as we can through online courses and even have interaction with students online. In my case, I already have experience with NAPTEL (National Pro­gramme for Technology Enhance Learning) government of India and SWAYAM programmes. I have done video recording for the same. So, our regular courses went on­line also have all the lectures recorded.

But now we are struggling with how to conduct exams and quizzes online. So, yes things have changed but I am find­ing the positive side, as students can watch the recorded lectures as per their convenience. And because of this situ­ation, we are learning online tools, which can be a comple­ment to online teaching as many of us are going to teach online for long.

How do you look at the future of civil engineering post-COVID-19?

People, who have taken civil engineering as their career, should not worry as not just involve construction but also sanitation and hygiene. Certainly, people will need houses and transportation but due to the COVID-19 people will need a place that will be free from contamination. So, there would be a new requirement of civil engineers in terms of ventilation, safety and sanitation. Now we are making contactless door opener and even air condi­tioning needs enough renovation of fresh air. So, things will challenge civil engineers more, but as a career, they need to worry about their profession. We will see a lot of changes in construction projects, until we had the scare of Coronavirus, as there has to be social distancing done so there might be more automation and robotics may come in a bigger way, and we will have to make sure labour- in­tensive tasks must be done more carefully.

What are your long-term objectives when it comes to civil engineering and how is IIT Madras heading towards that vision? 

If we think of our country, first housing is a big require­ment. We need millions of housing units in our country. In infrastructure, our government has a lot of plans and wants to double highway network in the coming few years. So, there are a lot of requirements and this is indicated by matrix of cement production in the country, which is in order of 300 million tonne, and is expected to reach 1,000 million tonne by 2050. So, there is going to be a lot of construction, use of cement and concretes, which means we construct the requirement to construct more. Civil engineering is a traditional field; it doesn’t change much but when it changes it gives a lot of benefits to society. 

IIT Madras has 60 faculty member and all of them are active in research in the field of providing drinking water to people, which is important for our country and for all developing country. So, we have a group, which is looking at providing safe and clean drinking water to people. In construction, we are looking at new material, which will have a lower carbon footprint, and that will be easier on raw materials and fossil fuels. We are looking at various areas and hopefully, we will be able to make a major impact for our country in the construction sector as such.

Robotics will be involved in a bigger way, and we are already talking about Artificial Intelligence in transportation. So, there will be a lot of new technologies and methodolo­gies

Any piece of advice you would want to give to aspiring civil engineers? 

As you would know in NIRF ranking, IIT Madras has topped again as the best institution in the country, and for the fifth consecutive year, we are the top engineering institution in the country. So we would be glad to have all civil engineering aspirants come to IIT Madras to take civil engineering. My advice is that if you like civil engi­neering and you are a person, who likes to help society and wants to make their idea going to practise to help people, environment, and if you are somebody who wants to make a big thing like the tallest building in the world, the tallest bridge in the world or a water supply network for a whole city, then certainly civil engineering is a profession that you should take up. 

And as I said before that there are a lot of requirements, and the civil engineering profession will never go out of need and things are going to change. As I mentioned before, robotics will be involved and we are already talking about artificial intelligence in transportation. So, there will be a lot of new technologies and methodologies coming in.



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