Engineering curriculum must include more inter-disciplinary courses

To make the engineering graduates employable, Animesh Biswas, director – National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela stresses at having the curriculum designed as per the industry requirements in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Also, it is important to train the young engineers in personality development, soft and interpersonal skills, teamwork and leadership.

Indian technical institutes are working on changing the curriculum and learning pattern. What are the prominent requirements here?

The curriculum of our Institute gets updated at regular intervals keeping in view the latest developments in technology and industry requirements. The curriculum has been restructured towards outcome-based learning. The existing academic programs are restructured and new programmes are offered from time to time depending on the requirement of academia and industry. Fast pace programme has been introduced to help the students finish their credit requirement to make themselves free in the final semester to take up an internship in outside industries/research organisations/universities or be engaged in entrepreneurship.

How can we make our engineering graduates more employable?

We can achieve better employability of our graduates in two ways. Firstly, by tweaking the curriculum to include more interdisciplinary courses thereby catering to the needs of the industries in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) proposed by the government. At NIT Rourkela, a conscious effort is being made to offer an up-to-date curriculum rich in interdisciplinary aspects and to meet industry standards, which is carried out by inviting external experts from relevant industries, academia and include alumni feedback. Secondly, by introducing skill development and personality development where students learn soft skills, interpersonal skills, team skills, leadership etc which is being jointly conducted by Student Activity Center (SAC) via various clubs as well as our Training and Placement cell which is looking towards sending our students on industry and foreign internships. We have Foundation for Technology & Business Incubation (FTBI) which help entrepreneurs incubate ideas.

How can we boost the research in various engineering sectors?

This is possible only by establishing the Center of Excellence in advanced technologies giving scopes for multidisciplinary research. Course curricula need to be oriented towards product development work through a research project. FTBIs also encourages setting up of student startups, promotes design to market concepts where a prototype development goes into pilot production. Researchers should work towards the implementation of advanced technological developments into engineering sectors to boost up production quantity and quality. The role of engineering sectors is very critical as they have to provide sufficient research funding.

4. Most youngsters want to study Computer Science and IT, how can we retain the interest in other engineering streams such as Civil, Electrical and Mechanical?

The inclination is towards Computer Science, IT, Electronics & Communication engineering which is driven more by a perception of the students and their parents. As digitisation, automation, communication technology and computing are some of the main pillars driving the world, students of these disciplines are attracted towards better job prospects. We encourage students to diversify their knowledge from their core branch through major and minor option. For instance, electrical engineering students can choose a minor degree from Computer Science or any other stream. This improves the employability and mitigates the risk, in case there happens to be a recession in one of the branches. Courses in branches like Civil, Electrical and Mechanical are being restructured by increasing its application to AI, ML, IT, Electronics etc.

5. Will online learning continue to be relevant to the post-pandemic world. Will it diversify the learning process?

Yes, it will stay relevant in the next decade. The new normal has taught us to save travel time and other resources. However, in the long run, it would mitigate challenges. A reliable internet connection and readily available device for students to use are most vital in online learning. Student alertness during online teaching is one of the major challenges and the second being grading and assessment systems. Online learning gets monotonous and the future will rely more on the blended mode of learning. All online video lecturers can be stored in a virtual platform so that students can learn in their own convenient time and pace.

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