Tuesday, December 09, 2014

IITs and IIMs to offer online courses

Premier institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are planning to go the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) way, in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi planning an ambitious launch of the Swayam Bharat programme.

While IIT-Bombay and IIM-Bangalore have already announced the launch of MOOCs with overseas partners, IIM-Calcutta could be next in line, with the institute submitting a proposal to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). IIT-Kanpur is developing its own platform for MOOCs called MOOKIT, which might soon start competing with popular international MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera.

"MOOCs and  online delivery is clearly the future," says IIM-C Director Saibal Chattopadhyay. IIT-B is currently trying out two courses, the basic computer programming course for undergraduates and a thermodynamics course, in the MOOCs mode. "More are planned. There have been multiple meetings with MHRD and IIT Bombay expects to be a very active partner in the government's initiative," says Narayan Rangaraj, Dean — Academic Programmes.

Apart from working on MOOKIT that will help delivering the MOOCs, IIT-Kanpur is also engaged in developing MOOCs around verticals like agriculture and computer science, says TV Prabhakar, professor at the institute. IIT-Kanpur has just wrapped up its MOOC on MOOCs programme where over 2,300 students participated and is currently offering two more MOOC programmes. It is also running a 'MOOC on Mobiles'. The interest in MOOCs among premier institutions is being attributed to a heightened interest in online education by the new government.

"It is a clear mandate from the government as in the last Budget, Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) was allocated to online education for MOOCs and virtual classrooms," says Rohin Kapoor, Senior Manager (Education Practice) at Deloitte. MOOCs might also help achieve the target of training 500 million people by 2022, he adds.

IIM-Bangalore is planning to launch courses on the edX platform in 2015. The institute is also planning to engage around 15 per cent of its faculty to deliver MOOCs over the next two years, according to its director, Sushil Vachani. IIM-Indore and IIT-Gandhinagar have been running broadband distance learning programmes and are now keen on running some courses on the MOOC platform. "We are looking forward to the creation of a MOOCs platform by MHRD, and plan to use it," says IIM-Indore's Director Rishikesha Krishnan. IIT-Patna is planning to start flipped classrooms wherein a student can study material on MOOCs and then attend a live class anywhere in the country.

"Only to some extent do MOOCs bridge the skills gap, since it's a one-way communication. However, it can be successful in a flipped model as it will enhance learning and build a platform for collaborative discussions," says Ajai Chowdhry, founder of HCL, who also teaches at IIT-Patna. Like IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Kharagpur too is working on solutions around MOOCs. It is developing automatic programmes to grade assignments in MOOC programmes. "We are also working on 'learning analytics', which will help us track the students' pattern of learning. Both these programmes should make MOOCs more interactive," says Plaban Kumar Bhowmick, assistant professor at IIT-Kharagpur's Centre for Educational Technology.

Working on MOOCs, NPTEL, which is closely working with IIT-Madras, launched its first course on programming algorithms and data structures this year and will be launching eight new courses in January including humanities. "We've also introduced the element of proctored examinations wherein students who get 50 per cent in their online examinations are eligible to sit for an exam at our centres all over the country," says Prathap Haridoss, NPTEL coordinator and professor at IIT-Madras. NPTEL provides an online certification at the end of the exam, where IIT representatives act as invigilators.

IIT-Guwahati (IIT-G) has proposed two courses for the Swayam Bharat Platform (managed by IIT-B). IIT-G is also partnering with IIT-M for NPTEL MOOCs. It has participated in the two courses already conducted by IIT-M under NPTEL.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), December 9, 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

IITs face 37% faculty shortage: Study

Here's some unpalatable truth for a nation dreaming to set up a string of new-age technology institutes: over 37% of the faculty posts in the existing 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are vacant. 

According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) in September 2014, only IIT-Gandhinagar has 99% of the sanctioned faculty members working. TOI accessed the data about faculty in the country's premier institutes.

The 16 IITs in the country have 4,308 faculty members against the sanctioned strength of 6,944. IIT-Kharagpur, long considered an ace, reports a 46% shortage. The overall student-faculty ratio stands at 16:1. 

As part of its election promise, the BJP had planned to establish IITs, IIITs (Indian Institutes of Information Technology) and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) across the country. In November, the NDA government announced setting up of IITs in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Chhattisgarh and Jammu. Before moving ahead with the plan, the government needs to tackle the faculty shortage immediately.

Going by the faculty matrix in the existing IITs, the Union government will need 100 faculty members per 1,000 students in the new institutes. Assuming each of the five new institutes gets about 200 students, then the government has to hire 100 faculty members.

On November 21, a group of academicians led by Bharat Ratna Prof C N R Rao met at IISc, Bengaluru, to discuss the science education roadmap. At the meeting, many experts pointed out that the inability of premier institutes to attract quality teachers was impeding the efforts to enhance the quality of education. 

Hyderabad University vice-chancellor Prof Ramakrishna Ramaswamy said: "We're failing to replace teachers who are retiring or resigning even in places like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), IITs or some other top institutes." 

Echoing the view, Prof Rao said: "The problem has to be viewed holistically. It needs immediate attention." IIIT-Bangalore Director Prof S Sadagopan said: "Having a good faculty is crucial. Given the opportunities in other sectors and abroad, finding a good faculty is difficult."

The situation in IIITs is equally bad with a student-faculty ratio of 29:1. IIITs in Allahabad, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Kancheepuram have a sanctioned strength of 282, but only 166 faculty members are working — a shortage of nearly 42%. An IIIT is proposed to be set up in Hubballi.

The 30 NITs across the country, too, are facing a shortage of 28%. The sanctioned strength is 6,467, but only 4,667 faculty members are working.

Source: The Times of India, December 6, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

India's Labour Ministry plans Vocational University

The Union Ministry of Labour plans to open a first-of-its-kind national vocational university that will subsume all Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), seeking to improve standards and bring uniformity among the schools that supply workers to the manufacturing sector. All 11,500 ITIs and hundreds of similar training schools overseen by the labour ministry will come under the proposed National Workers Vocational University, Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said after a meeting of the ministry in New Delhi on Thursday. 

“It will be an umbrella body,” said the minister, adding that the renewed thrust on skill education in the country had necessitated the need for such an initiative. The university may come up in the next six months in Telengana, home state of the labour minister. The initiative is a part of the government’s effort to boost manufacturing’s share in the economic output of India, and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make In India campaign aimed at attracting greater foreign investment flows and creating jobs. Manufacturing’s share of gross domestic product has stagnated at around 15% for many years now.

Officials in the ministry said ITIs and Advanced Training Institutes (ATIs), run by both private and government entities, follow some basic rules set by the Directorate General of Employment and Training (DGE&T), but efforts to monitor them and improve quality standards have been lacking. The dwindling standard of ITIs and lack of collaboration between such schools and industry have created the need for an overarching body to oversee them. “Once a university is in place, programme implementation, upgradation and monitoring of such training schools will get streamlined. This university, once in place, can also be a facilitator for providing required apprentices to industries,” a labour ministry official said on condition of anonymity. 

Lack of trained workers is seen as one of the main obstacles in improving the competitive edge of India’s manufacturing sector. “To boost manufacturing and aid PM’s Make In India mission, skill is very important. Less than 8% of our workers are skill-trained, and through new initiatives we are trying to improve this. Eventually, it will lead to better employment generation,” Dattatreya said. The initiative also means the labour ministry will continue to manage the ITIs, which had been facing the prospect of being taken over by the new skill and entrepreneurship ministry. 

“Skill is a huge sector and we don’t have any issue with the skill ministry. But we believe that ITIs should stay with labour ministry as is the case for decades,” the labour ministry official said. Opening a vocational university may be a good starting point to reform ITIs, said T. Muralidharan, Executive Chairman of the TMI Group, a human resource and skill-training company. “But supply-side reform is less important than demand-side reform,” he said. “It means authorities have to keep in mind that supply of trained manpower has to be in sync with industry demand, else it will only lead to further unemployment.” In India, the graduate unemployment rate in the 15-29 age group is 33%, according to official data. 

Germany will hand-hold the labour ministry in its effort to open the vocational university, ministry officials said after a meeting with German ambassador Michael Steiner. The labour ministry said in a statement that other than the university, the ambassador and the minister discussed common areas of interest including the need for joint development of the curriculum for honing some core engineering skills and courses for apprentices.

Source: Mint, December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Times BRICS Rankings: Two Indian universities make it to top 40

There is great news for India's universities. For the first time, two new Indian entrants have jumped straight into the top 40 of second annual Times Higher Education (THE) BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings. Also, 11 other Indian universities have made it to the top 100 rankings. Around 18 countries are featured in 2015 rankings released today.

Around 15 universities - from Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey - have entered the tables for the first time. China has cemented its dominance among the emerging economies, retaining the top two places and increasing its representation among the top-100 institutions to 27, up from 23 last year.

India has increased its representation with 11 of the top-100 places, up from 10 last year and it has a new national leader - Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 25th place and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) in 37th place.

Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, said "India is starting to show its potential in these rankings, increasing its overall representation in this new top-100 list to 11, from 10 last year. Only China and Taiwan have more top-100 institutions than India, which remains ahead of Russia and Brazil among the giant developing economies. But this improved showing is partly due to the fact that more Indian institutions have recognised the benefits of being part of the rankings process, and more are sharing their data with Times Higher Education".

"Several Indian institutions have actually lost ground compared with last year. So there is clearly no room for any complacency. The good news is that by engaging with the global rankings and sharing performance data to benchmark themselves against the tough global standards set by Times Higher Education, India's leading institutions have shown a hunger for further development and for sharing best practice. If this is backed by a government-led commitment to support India's top universities to compete on the global stage, with sufficient funding and reforms, there would be plenty of room for optimism."

It must be noted here that Panjab University, which topped the India charts last year at No 13 overall, has slipped in the top 100 list to 39th place this year. Most of the other institutes - with the exception of IIT Madras - have also moved down the list as compared to last year.

The Rankings have been given after accessing all aspects of the modern university's core missions (teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook).

China retains the top two positions (Peking University followed by Tsinghua University) in the rankings. Fudan University follows Peking and Tsinghua, taking ninth place, while University of Science and Technology of China loses its top-10 position, moving into joint 11th place.

Russia has seen a dramatic improvement in its standing - increasing its representatives in the top 100 from just two last year to seven this year, and seeing its number one university, Moscow State University, moving from 10th to 5th.

Some 22 countries classified as emerging economies by FTSE have been analysed for ranking purposes. The methodology of the 2015 BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings is slightly different from the methodology used last time to better reflect the characteristics and development needs of a university in the emerging economies. The weightage to "research influence", judged by publication citations, has been reduced from 30% in the world rankings, to 20%. The weightage for "industry income -innovation" has been increased from 2.5% to 10%, while for "international outlook", it has been increased from 7.5% to 10%.

Sources: The Economic Times & The Times of India, December 4, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nursing degrees from four Indian bodies valid in Singapore

Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees from four nursing institutions in India, a development that comes after nearly a decade of intense negotiations between the two countries and promises to widen overseas employment opportunities for Indian nurses.

India is close to signing a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) for nurses with Singapore under the comprehensive free trade pact signed in 2005, even as talks continue with other FTA partners such as Japan and Korea, officials said.

Nursing degrees awarded by Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Manipal College of Nursing, Christian Medical College (Vellore) and College of Nursing, Trivandrum will be recognised by the Southeast Asian nation, one of the officials said.

"Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees four of our institutes. Just a few more approvals are required for the MRA to be finally inked. This will open avenues for our nurses to go and practise in Singapore at competitive packages," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The MRA for nursing with Singapore had met a roadblock after the Indian Nursing Council (INC) insisted that every nurse trained at any of the country's recognised institutions should be eligible to practise in Singapore. "The idea is to start with some and then scale them up," said the official.

The MRA is aimed at enabling professionals in India and Singapore to offer services in each other's territory as the pact will give recognition to their degrees in both the countries. It will open up a safer avenue for Indian nurses, who also end up in countries like Iraq facing severe security threats. In July, 46 Indian nurses were rescued by the government.

India and Singapore had signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) in 2005, cutting customs duties on goods, but progress is still awaited on movement of professionals. The government is also negotiating MRAs for other professions including chartered accountancy, architecture, medicine and dentistry with Singapore.

India is making efforts to expand the scope of its services exports, beyond information technology. Services sector is a primary driver of the Indian economy, clocking exports of $151 billion in 2013-14 compared to $312 billion worth of merchandise shipments.

Although India has similar comprehensive pacts with Japan and South Korea, there has been no progress on the services front with these countries. "It is a challenge, it require reforms before it can happen. Services trade is a slow process," the official added.

Experts hailed the progress in agreement on nursing. "If the government has reached till here, it is a big positive step in the right direction. Let us be clear that singing an MRA is not easy and requires synergy of standards and matching of qualification, which requires a lot of goodwill," said Arpita Mukherjee, professor, ICRIER. "It will be very good for the nurses and it may also lead to easier access of Indian nurses to other Western nations with which Singapore has an MRA, like the United States," she said.

Source: The Economic Times, December 3, 2014

Monday, December 01, 2014

Indian MOOC for a global platform

US-based educational technology company Coursera, which offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) from various universities, has partnered with an Indian B-school, making it its first partner institution in India and 115th worldwide. 

Under the partnership agreement, Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) is going to offer online content globally on the Coursera platform. The B-school's first course in this initiative is going to be on `A Life of Happiness and ulfilment.' 

"ISB will work in a similar way as other universities," said Richard Levin, CEO, Coursera, during a visit to Delhi. "It gets to choose what content it wishes to put on the platform. Its professors and resources are used to produce the course and we distribute that."

The company boasts of the largest number of users of e-courses in the world, including 800,000 enrolees in India accounting for 8% of its total enrolment.Overall, their favourite courses are in computer science and business. 

Indian learners are young, mostly teenagers and those in their 20s, unlike their international counterparts whose median age is 30+. Most of them look for courses with job-oriented skills.

About 5-6% of Coursera learners eventually complete a course. Of these, 20-30% go on to earn a certification 10 courses are now available on-demand as opposed to those which are offered as per a schedule. Also, four, six or eight courses related to each other on offer.

Source: The Times of India, December 1, 2014

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