raditional Higher Education Models have proved to be unsuccessful leading to closure of many of the engineering institutes across the country. Engineering, which was once a prestigious stream of study and was meant only for the elite, has seen a sea of change where every 3rd person whom you meet is an engineer in the country.
The blame game started when the admissions went down drastically. While the government blamed the colleges highlighting the lack of quality teaching learning. Colleges blamed the government on allowing too many colleges to open. But the reality is that, there was and there is, a huge demand for quality engineers in the society. Then what is the problem?
Having a huge demand and huge supply, the supply is not meeting the demand. So, whose mistake is it? Being the head of an Engineering Institute and a practitioner of strategic approaches for the last two years which has paid a very good dividend, I think I am the right person to answer this. The biggest issue is that of the way the institutes are structured and the way they operate. I feel the students are the same across the country and they are ready to take up good things offered to them with proper motivation and guidance. When it comes to the vision of an institute or the execution of it, the institutes follow a traditional approach wherein, they let the initiatives flow from top to bottom. With a vision or mission set at the institute level, the institute often recruits the faculty without assessing how the teacher is going to contribute towards achieving it.
Also, very few institutes have sensitized their students on the vision towards which they are taking them. As a result of it, except the management, no other stakeholder is aware of the vision or mission of the institute and proceeds ahead towards a blind goal.
If you ask any Engineering institute what are the benefits of joining your institute, the most common answer would be “you will get placed in a better company”.
What if the student doesn’t know which kind of job he or she is planning for their future? Does any institute create interest in Engineering for the students and let them decide what they have to do? If so, it is the right institute that can produce engineers who can handle the future challenges.
The same is the case with teachers also, it has become a practice for the institutes to insist on the teachers to do specific works assigned from time to time rather than letting them to explore the research options available in front of them. If the teachers do not foresee the challenges and opportunities, and do research on emerging technologies that can be used to address those issues, how come they can motivate and guide the students in that direction? Some of these issues can be resolved by adopting the Agile Framework in Higher Education towards addressing dynamic challenges. When industries have realized agility is the only way out, it’s time for the institutes to adopt it as well. But is there any Higher Education institution that works on Agile Framework? If so, how it is achieved. The answer to the above questions is yes, being a strong believer and practitioner of Agile framework under my leadership and has witnessed the outcome of it, here are the few principles that an Agile Higher Education Institute should follow inoder to enhance the learner engagement,
Customer Satisfaction is the Key – Placement should not be the only purpose for which the learners have to be prepared as in that case the satisfaction can be realized only after 3 or 4 years. Continuous exposure to things that are interesting for the learners and instigating them towards active learning is the best way to satisfy the learners throughout the process. Ex. Engage them in real engineering activities like skill development, handson sessions, competitive engineering, etc. can be conducted to make the learner realize their potential.
Be ready to Embrace change at any moment – Not every learner needs the same. Understand and change the strategy of teaching/learning, make sure that every learner gets motivated and engaged in the process. Identify their specific interests and have a provision for that.
Collaborate with all the stakeholders of the system on a frequent basis to ensure that the process is purely feedback driven. Industry members play a vital role as they are a part of past, present and future use cases of technology.
Sensitise the stakeholders on the outcome to be achieved and support them by providing the necessary support in terms of the resources (labs, library materials, connect with experts, etc.).
Meet your sprint team (strategists) most often and enable the Department level teams to meet frequently for discussion and debate. Let the resolutions be brought from bottom up rather than top down. Departments should know what they need and brainstorm on it to arrive at a conclusion. The top management must ensure that the derivations are aligned towards the vision/mission of the institute.
The ultimate measure of success is not the placements, it is the confidence we instil in the minds of the students that they are engineers and they have the necessary potential to handle any engineering challenges and solve them through technology.
Sustainable development is the key. Do not stop if you have succeeded once. Don’t think that the institute runs on its own without visionary people on board. Make the process repeatable for the years to come and use the feedback loop to refine the process.
Keep enough focus on the technical excellence and strategy design as the dynamicity of the industries and market demands may outdate the process adapted by you. However, if the outcome is to produce an Engineer, the process would be dynamic as Engineering itself is all about handling dynamicity.
Simplicity in execution by making the teachers and students aware of the process plays an important role as they are the key players who can get it implemented. Scope and outcome of each initiative, if clarified in advance to them would result in effective implementation of the strategy.
Self-assess the implementation of the initiatives be it regular teaching/learning process, conduction of labs or entrepreneurship activities, projects, etc. at regular intervals and taking proper feedback on the same would greatly help in refining the process and ensure optimization of the same.
All the 10 points mentioned above are the key indicators that the institute is following Agile Process Framework and progressing towards Education 4.0 where the learning is centered around the learner. The institute and the faculty acts as a facilitator to ensure that the necessary learning outcomes are attained by the learner through continuous assessment. The Industry acts as a well wisher and observer to identify best talent coming out of this process and would be able to get the right candidates for their requirement. All together it creates a win-win situation for all the primary stakeholders of the Educational System i.e. Students, Teachers and the Industry. Being a practitioner of Agile principles in the past two years towards a goal of Education 4.0, I strongly advise the institutes to be flexible and give more autonomy to the teachers to get the best out of their students.
(Dr Raghuveer is the Principal of Indore Institute of Science and Technology, Indore. He holds a PhD in Learning Technologies and has been an adviser to leading institutes for the effective implementation of Flipped Classroom through LCMS.)