As the work-from-home becomes the new normal, the adoption of digital has become an imperative for most sectors. The field of education has not remained untouched in this trend.
This has apparently created myriads of challenges for the students, faculties and educational institutes. ensuring fairness in conducting online exams and assessing the acquired skillset of the students through virtual medium throws the biggest challenge to the virtual system of education.
The new national education Policy (neP) has paved the way for transforming the education sector in a big way, emphasising skillset development based on the concept of accessibility to quality education for all.
The incredible speed of technological change, as evident from the breakthroughs in Industry 4.0 – comprising, internet of things, smart sensors, big data, automation, robotics, and additive manufacturing, and permeated by artificial intelligence across all these domains – among others, puts engineers and engineering expertise right at the centre of action, more than ever before.
As new technological cycles emerge and bring forth new innovations in the coming decades, the global circular economy will emerge as transformed, better equipped with IT revolutions for the betterment of the society.
Making these scientific discoveries and technological transformations will be possible only by engineering skills, developed and driven by the students graduating from these engineering colleges in India.
The Research Methodology:
The Dataquest-CMR Digital Index Survey 2020 survey was conducted in two phases, including Initial desk research and groundwork, as well as primary research.
Phase 1: Initial desk research and groundwork phase
In the initial preparatory groundwork phase of the survey, the edutech practice at CMR scanned its rich knowledge base and updated it via an exhaustive desk research.
The objective of the initial groundwork phase was to identify and list all the tech schools in India.
Government- run higher educational institutions and private institutes of learning were listed separately. Those colleges were considered for the survey who were established before 2016, and offered a be, b.Tech or similar graduate-level technical courses.
At the end of the desk research phase, an invitation was extended to all shortlisted institutions on behalf of Dataquest and CMR to participate in the nationwide survey.
Phase 2: Primary research
The engineering colleges shortlisted in Phase 1 were approached by at CMR. both online and face-to-face interviews were scheduled with the institutions.
The information collected was covered under the CMR’s proprietary TIME (teaching, infrastructure, motivation and environment) framework. based on the framework, the different parameters were assigned the following weights – environment (40), infrastructure (30), teaching and learning methodology (20), and motivation of institute for IT (10).
It is important to note that the lowest weight to motivation does not reflect the parameter’s low relevance; it has been given the lowest weight due to the difficulty in capturing it objectively.
The TIME Framework
The CMR TIME framework comprised a set of 40 questions that was shared with the engineering colleges. These questions enabled the Dataquest-CMR team to build a comprehensive and cohesive digital picture of each institute.
Adequate time was allocated for the engineering colleges to share their filled-in nominations, either online or via physical mode. The submissions were checked by the CMR team for completeness and veracity of information shared, and scrutinised through a random check process, with >30% of the submissions cross-checked, as per the market research code of ethics.
Analysts also reached out to key stakeholders for further deliberations, enabling a holistic snapshot of the engineering college.
The quantitative inputs received and verified from various engineering colleges were then analysed wherein the absolute data was normalised to relative data in order to compare the parameters across the participating institutions.
For each of the above parameter segments, a final score was calculated which was then factored with the pre- defined weights to arrive at the overall score of each participating engineering college. The institutes were then ranked with the highest score across all parameters ranking at the top. The rankings were also made by category and region.
Apart from ranking of institutes, aggregated analysis was also done to understand the state of digitisation in the engineering colleges and to map the challenges faced by the engineering colleges in ICT deployment.
Analysis was also done to identify the areas of focus of engineering colleges in the coming year. here are the key findings from the Dataquest-CMR Digital Index Survey 2020.
With the paradigm shift, the engineering graduates of today are far more tech-savvy with global access to the research publications in every domain. This new generation is ever ready to face challenges and bring in their creative ideas to become more productive, efficient, compassionate and avid problem solvers, thereby reforming the work culture and the way a problem can be addressed.
It is in this context that Dataquest conceptualised the study on digital index that the magazine plans to conduct every year to evaluate digital readiness of engineering colleges that has become essential for imparting holistic higher education in the hyper-connected Digital India.
How we prepared the Index?
The Dataquest-CMR Digital Index Survey 2020 witnessed participation from across the various tiers of engineering colleges in the country. It had participation from some of the prestigious nITs, IIITs and other tier-III government and private institutes.
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. In fact, the Top 100 ranking has been prepared strictly based on the nominations received for participation.
Engineering colleges based in south India took lead in participating in the survey with 52% of the institutes coming from this region. This was followed by the north, west and east in that order.
The Focus Area:
• Infrastructure updates and upgrades: In the current pandemic situation, when there is a transformational shift towards adoption of virtual medium and operation from remote location, the major thrust would be on infrastructure updates. With the IT infrastructure adoption, it calls for continuous updation of the relevant software.Seven in every eight engineering colleges would focus on infrastructure updates and upgrades.
• Training and re-skilling faculty and students: The reskilling and training of the drivers of the education system is a major thrust area. Five in every sixengineering colleges wouldfocus on enabling faculties and familiarising them with IT adoption measures for their smooth transition to the virtual platform, keeping in mind that there is no lapse in imparting knowledge to the students.once the faculties are well versed with the virtual classroom, they can guide their students effectively.
•Experiment with emerging technologies: With the internet flooded with so many options for use of the technology in imparting quality education to the students, the educational institutes are also experimenting with emerging technologies such as cloud, AI andblockchain to improve their efficiency and quality of education. More than four in every five engineering colleges would focus on experimenting with emerging technologies.
• Application modernisation: To work in a customised environment, most of the educational institutes have moved to in-house app development and management.
Four in every five engineering colleges would emphasiseindigenously built app development software and its management. It gives an easy access to the data management, whether that of student or teacher. These apps can be easily used by the students too.
• Leverage digital technologies for next level of digital transformation: In the coming years,access to anything and everything will be available in digital platform. To thrive in the industry, virtual presence is a must. So, 77% engineering colleges would focus on leveraging digital technologies to have a dynamic presence in the social media and be the forerunners in the next level of digital transformation.
• Security compliance: Three in every five engineering colleges would focus on security so that the vital data is not leaked to the competitors. Security concern is one important grey area which cannot be overlooked by any academic institution and hence it features as one of the main factors to be addressed in this financial year when all the academic activities have moved online.
Challenges faced in IT deployment
• High cost of deployment: Educational institutes have readily moved on to the virtual mode of operation through the online classroom platform but the high cost of its deployment is crippling the system as can be seen from our survey.
Two in every threeinstitutes have cited the high costof IT deployment as a challenge. The authorities are upfront with the challenge that the existing infrastructure and other operational cost is redundant in present scenario and they have to incur huge costs for IT deployment in a bigger way so that there can be smooth transition from actual classroom to virtual classroom without compromising on the quality of education.
• Collaborating with remote students: One in every two engineering colleges facesa challengein collaborating with remote students which otherwise was not of much concern in the earlier, conventional mode of education. Remote students are facing challenges related to poor internet connectivity that becomes quite bothersome for institutes to collaborate.
• Data security concern: Another major challenge faced by engineering colleges is the data security when every detail of the institute is fed online. As many as 45% institutes have termed this as an area of concern as any tampering or fraud can harm their reputation.
• Lack of customised solutions: The pandemic and the lockdown forced educational institutes to go online in no time, but no customised solution is readily available for them and everyone is experimenting.
The whole system of virtual education is running on trial-and-error basis. If anything proposed is well accepted by the stakeholders, it is continued, otherwise it gets replaced. Three in every seven colleges have stated that a customised solution is not available.
• High running cost: The running cost is also too high with IT-dependent mode of teaching. Regular updates of software, good internet speed and Wi-Fi connectivity are prerequisites for adoption of IT.
Internet connectivity with high bandwidth calls for higher costs on the whole, apart from maintenance costs. one in every three engineering colleges has stated the running cost in IT to be too high as a challenge.
Based on the Dataquest-CMR Digital Index Survey findings, the broad characteristics of each engineering college were mapped on the CMR’s TIMe Framework. The TIME Framework highlighted the state of digitisation of engineering colleges.
Teaching and Learning:
In the few months, the virtual system of education has taught many lessons to everyone including the faculty and students. Its positive aspect is that education has continued despite the lockdown and mobility restriction. but it has its share of drawbacks too.
The new pedagogy enabled by IT adoption had not gone well with students in the initial stage but in due course they have understood it’s imperative to adopt it as they are left with no other option.
In the online mode of teaching, the physical proximity of students and the faculty is missing. but the new teaching methodology has prepared our future engineers well to work globally even when stationed locally.
They are groomed well with technology to deliver online presentation, work on Google forms, be more patient and technologically learned professionals. This can bring forth new technologically savvy global engineers, addressing problems of the society from the far end.
Engineering colleges integrate various technologies in teaching and learning process. More than 90% engineering colleges use ebooks/eTextbooks. nearly four in every five (78%) engineering colleges use some learning management system (e.g., Moodle) and most of those have the feature of lecture Capture.
The faculty of engineering colleges use various digital resources and platforms in their teaching. In seven out of every eight engineering colleges, presentations (e.g., PowerPoint, including from online sources) is used in the classroom on a regular basis. Digital films and video (e.g., from YouTube) or simulations and 2D/3D animation are used mostly in the teaching process in around half of the institutes.
The faculty in two in every three engineering colleges use open educational resources (oeR) regularly. Following oeRs are used by faculty of majority of colleges:
• National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning(nPTel) (74%)
•StudyWebsofActive-learningforYoungAspiringMinds (SWAYAM) (68%)
• AICTE Online Courses (62%)
• Virtual labs (58%)
• The Spoken Tutorial (54%)
• National Digital Library of India (NDL) (52%)
• Free and Open Source Software in Education (FOSSEE) (52%)
Top three software used by engineering colleges to enhance students’ learning are MATLAB (95%), R/Python (92%) and machine learning/AI (88%). libraries in most of the institutes provide subscription-based e-resources. Top three library resources are e-Journals, e-books and e-newspapers (77%).
When it comes to the technology infrastructure, today’s engineering colleges are facing strong tailwinds that are enabling foundational shifts in terms of both, pedagogy as well as campus infrastructure.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets with leading specs at affordable price points, there is a strong shift amongst students seeking to access and collaborate on learning content anytime, anywhere on campus and beyond.
Alongside, there is a stronger focus on bringing external subject matter experts into the classroom through videos by harnessing power of technology, engineering colleges have the potential to transform existing pedagogical approaches, and impart more personalised learning through blended and virtual learning.
In the case of blended learning, engineering colleges can provide access to students to technology-enabled learning spaces, wherein they benefit from collaborative and informal learning approaches. on the other hand, virtual learning spaces focus on blending digital and physical environments for continuous learning.
While engineering college leaders have adopted some of these pedagogical approaches, many are yet to fully leverage the power of digital. Without having access to high- speed bandwidth and device infrastructure, the full potential of these pedagogical approaches is far from realised.
In the absence of reliable network speed,technology cannot be effectively leveraged in the classroom, and learning disruptions become common, potentially impacting future technology usage.
For technology-based pedagogical approaches to be effective, adequate bandwidth along with suitable scalable infrastructure is essential.
Engineering colleges access the internet mostly through leased line. Five in every six institutes have wi-fi enabled campus being highest in the south(86%). Similarly, five in every six institutes have e-Classroom facilities (e.g., computers, projection systems, lecture capture systems, SMART boards) being highest in the northern zone (92%).
Almost all the institutes have CAD / CAM. Two in every three institutes have 3D printing. Moreover, more than three in every four colleges have plagiarism detection software, data visualisation software and citation/ reference management software.
Engineering colleges use various web conferencing solutions. Almost all use voice or video conferencing. online collaboration tools are used by six in every seven colleges.
Motivation deals with the attitude of engineering colleges towards ICT and their willingness to spend. To feature as one of the leading T-Schools in the region as well as globally, motivation forms the underlying factor for driving the management to provide an ICT-enabled global environment to the faculty as well as students.
This helps them surpass their inhibitions and bring positive outcomes in terms of research publications, innovations, creativity and much more. every institute has taken care of this factor in some or other way and the same has been reflected in their vision and mission statement.
Almost all the colleges feel that their teachers find it easier to teach by using ICT. Teaching makes learning more effective if done through ICT as perceived by 90% of colleges. however, 22% colleges feel that students pay less attention when ICT is used in teaching.
One in every five college feel that students make hardly any effort to learn their lessons. The average IT budget of all engineering colleges that participated in the survey is Rs 1.8 crore. That comes to around Rs 6,400 per student. This amount is the highest in case of colleges in the north (Rs 8,100) and the lowest in colleges in the east (Rs 4,200).
The IT environment plays the biggest role in ensuring the readiness of engineering colleges.
Rather than investing heavily for acquiring technologies, colleges have preferred to use those in cloud which ensures pay-per-use model. More than four in every five colleges use cloud. Adoption is the highest in case of colleges in the south (90%) and the lowest in the east (74%).
Engineering colleges have also understood the benefit of AI, AR/vR, IoT/IIoT and blockchain. nearly half of the colleges have used AI in some form or the other.
Social Media Usage:
Social media usage is not a new concept while dealing with IT deployment in technology institutes. It was always there but in the current situation it has become forefront and widely used.
Whether for promotion of the institute or for imparting quality education, the social media is highly used and recommended by the faculties and authorities. Students even get access to multiple versions of the same topic and thus social media is quite popular among the student community.
Moreover, all the tutorials from the reputed institutes are available online and both the faculties and students use the content immensely to get benefits in multifold ways.
Top three social media sites used are Facebook, linkedin and Twitter. Social media usage in Technology institutes gives wings to students to explore various aspects and hence their creativity is nurtured. This has opened gates to various opportunities for the students. Two in every three colleges use social media for digital marketing of institutes. A similar proportion of colleges use social media to stream live lectures. It is also used for declaring results and communicating with students.
Policies Adopted: Engineering colleges have policies in place for the use of ICT. Around four in every five colleges have a policy for ICT use in teaching and learning. Moreover, colleges have policies for dealing with plagiarism and for use of open educational resources. usage of open source is also guided by a protocol of colleges.
Tomorrow’s engineers will be increasingly called upon to adopt comprehensive approaches to problem-solving, leading large teams to define and solve problems, and in the process, build a proactive innovation culture.
For us to prepare for this inevitable and exciting future, today’s engineering education will have to foster a thriving culture that encourages out-of-box thinking, emphasises creativity and innovation skills, and essentially a learning environment where divergent ideations are encouraged.
As a foundation layer of fostering innovation, engineering colleges must emphasise engineering education alongside technical research. In the decades to come, the engineering challenges will be multidimensional and complex enough, and would require new skills and mindsets, going beyond the conventional pedagogy of today.
- By Satya Sunder Mohanty. (Mohanty is head, User Research Practice, CMR)