Educational establishments and IT adoption are very well integrated and even much more after Covid-19 inception. Now as everything is slowly inching towards the normal pre-Covid days, the education world is leaning towards the same “back to the normal”, but speculations are quite baffling given the new Covid-19 variant’s entry into India. Future readiness is something that parents are considering while selecting the engineering college. DQ-CMR’s ranking of Engineering Colleges has been well acknowledged and much sought after for the profound insights it delivers straight from the grassroots level, addressing the pre-requisites of all stakeholders, after conducting the T-School study over the past sixteen years. Digitization is the current buzzword. This is the DQ-CMR digital index survey second edition that highlights the use of ICT in engineering colleges for technical education.
Industry 4.0 and Technological Change: Shifting Towards Normal Trend
In India, the massive vaccination drive is helping the education sector to look at normalization but with caution. Being ready for any unseen unheard future challenge is the new mantra for surviving. Digital readiness has become a must-have for any industry, and the education sector is no exception. This appears to have presented a slew of issues to students, faculty, and educational institutions. The main problem for the virtual system of education is ensuring fairness in administering online tests and accessing students’ acquired skillsets through virtual media. The New Education Policy 2020 has cleared the way for a major transformation of the education system, with a greater emphasis on skill development based on the concept of universal access to high-quality education. The incredible speed of technological change, as evidenced by breakthroughs in Industry 4.0 (which includes Internet of Things and smart sensors, Big Data, automation, robotics, and additive manufacturing, and is pervaded by Artificial Intelligence across all of these domains), places engineers and engineering expertise at the center of the action, than ever before. In the future decades of the twenty-first century, as new technological cycles emerge and bring forth new discoveries, the global circular economy will be altered, better equipped with IT revolutions for the welfare of society. Engineering abilities, developed and driven by students graduating from major engineering colleges in India, would be required to make these scientific breakthroughs and technological revolutions.
Engineering graduates nowadays are significantly more technologically sophisticated, with global access to research publications in every subject, thanks to a paradigm change. They are a new breed of people that are always up for a challenge and eager to contribute their innovative ideas in order to become more productive, efficient, empathetic, and adept problem solvers, thereby transforming the workplace culture and the way problems are addressed.
Research Methodology and Key Outcomes
Participation in the Digital Index Survey 2021 came from all levels of Engineering Colleges around the country. Some of the most famous NITs, IIITs, and other Tier III private and government institutes took part.
Private Engineering Colleges proactively participated in the exercise with more than 80% representing this category. Government institutes need to engage more actively as their strengths could also get highlighted through this annual exercise.
Southern-based Engineering Colleges took the lead in participating in the survey with 56% of the institutes coming from this region. This was followed by North, West, and East in that order.
Over 40 essential questions in a structured questionnaire format were shared with the Engineering Colleges for their inputs under the auspices of the Time Framework. The DQ-CMR team was able to create a thorough and unified digital picture of each institute by asking these questions. The Engineering Colleges were given enough time to share their completed nominations, either online or in person. According to the market research code of ethics, the contributions were inspected by the CMR EduTech Practice for completeness and accuracy of information supplied, as well as through a random check process, with >30% of the submissions cross-checked. CMR Analysts contacted key stakeholders for further discussion, allowing for a complete picture of the Engineering College.
The quantitative inputs from various Engineering Colleges were then analyzed, with absolute data being normalized to relative data in order to compare parameters among the participating universities.
Each of the aforementioned parameter segments received a final score, which was then multiplied by the pre-determined weights to arrive at each participating Engineering College’s overall score. The institutes were then ranked, with the top spot going to the one with the highest overall score. Rankings for Engineering Colleges were also established by category and region.
Apart from the ranking of institutes, aggregated analysis was done
• To have a better understanding of the state of digitization in Engineering Colleges.
• To provide a map of the issues that Engineering Colleges confront when it comes to ICT implementation.
• To determine the Engineering Colleges’ areas of focus for the coming year.
Here are the key findings from the 2021 Digital Index Survey:
Key Trends in the DQ’s TIME Framework
The broad characteristics of each Engineering College were mapped on the CMR’s TIME Framework based on the findings of the DQ-CMR Digital Index Survey. The TIME Framework sheds light on the situation of engineering college digitization.
Teaching & Learning
Everyone, including faculty and students, has learned many lessons through the Virtual System of Education. The plus element is that education continues even during a pandemic, but it comes with its own set of drawbacks. The new pedagogy allowed by IT adoption did not go down well with students at first, but students eventually realized it was necessary to adopt it because they had no other choice. Because of the online mode of teaching, there is no physical link between students and faculty as there is in a traditional classroom, but based on the current situation, the new teaching methodology enabled by technology has well prepared our future engineers to work globally even when stationed locally. They have been well-trained in using technology to deliver online presentations, work on Google forms, and be more patient and technologically knowledgeable professionals who can produce new technologically smart global engineers who can address society’s problems from afar.
Engineering colleges use a variety of technology in their teaching and learning. eBooks / eTextbooks & Online video / audio are used by 88% of Engineering Colleges. Nearly four out of five (79%) Engineering Colleges employ a Learning Management System (e.g. Moodle).
Engineering college professors employ a variety of digital materials and platforms in their classrooms. Presentations (e.g., PowerPoint, even from online sources) are utilized in the classroom on a regular basis in seven out of every eight Engineering Colleges. In almost half of the institutes, educational games simulations, and 2D/3D animation are employed primarily in the teaching process.
Two out of every three Engineering College faculty members use open educational resources (OER) on a regular basis. Faculty at the majority of colleges use the following OERs.
• National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) (93%)
• AICTE Online Courses (91%)
• Study Webs of Active-learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) (88%)
• Free and Open-Source Software in Education (FOSSEE) (84%)
• National Digital Library of India (NDL) (81%)
• Virtual labs (80%)
• The Spoken Tutorial (74%)
The top three software used by Engineering Colleges to enhance students learning is R / Python (93%), MATLAB (92%), and Machine Learning / AI (86%). Libraries in most institutes provide subscription-based e-resources. The top three library resources are e-Journals (94%), e-books (92%), and e-Newspapers (80%).
Today’s Engineering Colleges face strong tailwinds that are enabling structural shifts in both teaching and campus infrastructure when it comes to technology infrastructure. There is a strong trend among students seeking to access and collaborate on learning content anytime, anywhere on campus, and beyond, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets with cutting-edge features at accessible prices. In addition, there is a greater emphasis on using videos to bring outside subject matter experts into the classroom.
Engineering colleges have the ability to alter conventional pedagogical approaches and impart more individualized learning through mixed and virtual learning by leveraging the power of technology. Engineering colleges can provide students with access to technology-enabled learning environments where they can benefit from collaborative and informal learning practices in the case of blended learning. Virtual learning spaces, on the other hand, focus on combining digital and physical environments for ongoing learning.
While some of these educational approaches have been implemented by Engineering College administrators, many Engineering Colleges have yet to fully utilize the power of digital. The full potential of these instructional approaches is far from achieved without high-speed bandwidth and device infrastructure. Technology cannot be properly used in the classroom without a dependable network and speed, and learning disruptions become regular, potentially affecting future technology usage. Adequate bandwidth and scalable infrastructure are required for technology-based pedagogical techniques to be effective.
Engineering colleges primarily use leased lines to connect to the internet. In the South, six out of every seven institutes have a Wi-Fi-enabled campus (86%). Similarly, the Northern zone has the most e-Classroom amenities (computers, projection systems, lecture capture systems, and SMART boards), with 92% of institutes having them.
CAD/CAM is used at almost every institute. 3D printing is used in two out of every three institutes. Plagiarism detection tools, data visualization software, and citation/reference management software are also available in more than three out of every four institutions.
Various online conferencing options are used by Engineering Colleges. Voice or video conferencing is used in almost all Engineering Colleges. Six out of every seven colleges employ online collaboration tools.
Engineering Colleges’ attitudes toward ICT and their willingness to spend are discussed in this section. To be recognized as one of the leading T-School providers in the region and globally, management must provide an ICT-enabled global environment for faculty and students in order to overcome their inhibitions and produce positive results in terms of research publications, innovations, creativity, and other areas. Every institute has addressed this issue in one way or another, and their vision and purpose statements reflect this.
Almost every college believes that adopting ICT makes teaching easier for its teachers. As 99% of colleges believe, using ICT in the classroom makes teaching more effective. It improves teaching with updated material, ICT-supported teaching makers learning more effective for students and it enhances the quality of teaching.
The average IT budget of all the Engineering Colleges that participated in the survey is 2.42 Cr. This has increased by 34% from last year. If we calculate per-student basis, it comes out to be around Rs 9600. This is 50% more than the last year. Zone wise Southern Engineering Colleges spend a maximum i.e. 11000 per student.
The most important factor in assuring Engineering College readiness is the IT environment.
Colleges have decided to employ cloud-based technology rather than to invest much in purchasing them, ensuring a pay-per-use approach. Cloud computing is used by maximum colleges. Colleges in the South have the highest adoption rate, while those in the East have the lowest.
IoT/IIoT, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, and Blockchain has all proven to be beneficial to Engineering Colleges. AI has been used in some form or another by about half of the colleges.
Social media usage
When it comes to IT deployment in Technological Institutes, the use of social media is not a new concept. It has always existed, but in the current situation, it has taken center stage and is widely employed. Faculty and authorities use and advocate social media for a variety of reasons, including promoting the institute and providing high-quality education. Students can even access various versions of the same issue, which is why social media is so popular among students. Furthermore, all tutorials from reputable institutes are available online, and both faculty and students take advantage of them in a variety of ways.
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the top three social networking sites used. Students’ creativity is encouraged as a result of their use of social media in Technical Institutes, and this has opened doors to a variety of options for the students.
Social media is used by mostly (93%) colleges for broadcasting updates and alerts. Nine in every ten colleges use social media platforms to stream live lectures. Six out of every seven colleges used it for digital marketing.
The usage of ICT in Engineering Colleges is governed by policies.
Around seven out of every ten colleges have an ICT policy for teaching and learning. Colleges also have procedures in place to deal with plagiarism and the usage of open educational resources. The use of open source is likewise governed by college protocol.
Challenges faced for IT deployment
The number one challenge faced in IT deployment is resistance to change among staff. Last year it was a high cost of deployment (63%).
•Resistance to change among staff
Two in every three organizations face resistance to change as a challenge. When employees are expected to change, resistance to change is a normal reaction. Change is unsettling, and it necessitates new ways of thinking and acting. People have a hard time imagining what life would be like on the other side of a shift. As a result, people choose to cling to the familiar rather than appreciate the unfamiliar.
•High cost of deployment
Less than half of the Engineering Colleges face the high cost of deployment as a challenge. Engineering Colleges have rapidly adopted a virtual style of operation through the use of an online classroom platform, but the high cost of implementation is hurting the system. The authorities are aware of the fact that existing infrastructure and other operational costs are obsolete in the current situation, and they must incur significant costs for IT deployment on a larger scale in order to ensure a smooth transition from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom without compromising the quality of education to be delivered.
•Collaborating with remote students
Two out of every five Engineering Colleges face challenges in collaborating with faraway students, which was previously unimportant in traditional education. Remote students face difficulties due to internet access issues, which makes it difficult for institutes to interact.
•Customized solution not available
One in every three Engineering Colleges still faces this challenge though it has decreased from 42% last year. COVID 19 had pushed Engineering Colleges to move online in a hurry in order to stay afloat in the pandemic crisis, but no tailored solution was readily available, therefore everyone has been trying. The entire system of virtual education is still based on a hit-or-miss premise, with whatever is proposed being allowed to reign or be replaced if it is favorably received by the stakeholders.
Another key issue that Engineering Colleges confront is data security, which is a major concern since every detail of the Institute is published online. This has been identified as a source of concern by one in every three institutes, as anyone can engage in fraudulent behavior, resulting in a tarnished image.
Other than the above five major challenges “Running cost is too high- 31%” is also a concern raised by various colleges. With an IT-based teaching method, the operating costs are also too high. Adoption of IT Technology requires regular software upgrades, a fast internet connection, or Wi-Fi connections. Internet connectivity with high bandwidth necessitates a larger initial investment as well as ongoing maintenance costs.
Focus area in Financial Year
•Infrastructure Updates and Upgrades
Infrastructure updates and upgrades continue to be the number one focus of Engineering Colleges. The key concentration would be on Infrastructure Updates in the current pandemic condition when there is a transformative change towards the adoption of virtual medium and operation from a remote location. The use of IT infrastructure necessitates the ongoing updating of key software. Infrastructure Updates and Upgrades would be the focus of four out of every five Engineering Colleges.
•Training and re-skilling faculty and students
A primary emphasis area is the re-skilling and training of the educational system’s drivers. Three out of every four Engineering Colleges will focus on empowering faculty and familiarising them with IT adoption procedures in order to provide a smooth transition to the virtual platform while ensuring that students are not left behind. Faculty who are well-versed in the virtual classroom can effectively guide their pupils.
Most educational institutions have shifted towards in-house app creation and management in order to work in a personalized environment. More than two out of every three Engineering Colleges would place a premium on indigenously built app development software and management. It provides convenient access to data management for both students and teachers. Students can also use these apps with ease.
Leverage Digital Technologies for next level of Digital Transformation
Access to anything and everything will be available on a digital platform in the future years. Virtual presence is required to succeed in the industry. As a result, 70 percent of Engineering Colleges will focus on using digital technology to create a dynamic social media presence and be forerunners in the next phase of Digital Transformation.
•Experiment with emerging technologies
With so many possibilities for using technology to provide quality education to students on the internet, educational institutions are also experimenting with emerging technologies such as Cloud, AI, Blockchain, and others to improve their efficiency and education quality. More than two out of every three Engineering Colleges would put a strong emphasis on experimenting with new technologies.
Three out of every five Engineering Colleges would prioritize security to prevent important information from being leaked to competitors. Security concerns are an important grey area that no academic institution can ignore, and as a result, they are one of the most critical issues to handle this fiscal year, when all academic activities have moved online.
Engineers of the future will be increasingly expected to take a holistic approach to issue solving, leading big teams to define and solve problems while also cultivating a proactive innovation culture. Today’s engineering education will have to promote a vibrant culture that supports ‘out of the box thinking, prioritizes creativity and innovation abilities, and essentially a learning atmosphere where varied ideas are encouraged if we are to prepare for this inevitable and exciting future. Engineering colleges must focus engineering education alongside technological research as a foundation layer for encouraging innovation. Engineering concerns in the future will be multi-dimensional and sophisticated enough to necessitate new skills and mindsets that go beyond today’s standard education.
Online education has been the main driver of growth in higher education enrolments in foreign countries over the last decade, even before the Covid-19 pandemic forced essentially every college course to be delivered remotely. But now even in India demand for online education grew among students, faculty inclination towards digital learning largely remained stuck. Indeed, when the pandemic hit, colleges and universities employed digital tools and pedagogical methods they had never used before. The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a fundamental shift in almost everything that new normal has extended to higher education as well.
Digitally fit is absolutely necessary for this digital cum new normal stage. It would be fascinating to see how the technical colleges are geared up to integrate the online and offline systems to the best of their use and reap the multiple benefits therefrom. With Covid-19, the technical colleges went through great transformation challenges adopting digital and now going back to old ways may again bring up a new set of challenges for the technical institutes.
Mohanty is Head, User Research Practice, CMR