UPES reinvents its pedagogy for uninterrupted teaching and learning
- Dr Sunil Rai, Vice Chancellor of UPES, a leading, multi-disciplinary university, shares how UPES is leaving no stone unturned in providing the best possible and much needed academic and non-academic support to its students.
How has been your experience of pivoting the education delivery model from on-campus to online and how have your students embraced it?
First of all, I would like to give credit to our students for showing tremendous resilience and agility and adapting to the change with such maturity. Yes, we provided them with the best of infrastructure, resources & technology platforms so that their learning proceeds uninterrupted. But they embracing it whole-heartedly is what makes our online pedagogy successful.
We have been using online learning management systems like Blackboard Collaborate and digitized a major part of the curriculum many years before the pandemic. Therefore, shifting to 100% online mode wasn’t that difficult. The faculty members were trained in virtual delivery of classes, so we were able to maintain effectiveness since day 1 of the lockdown. To avoid delays in the academic cycle we decided to conduct semester exams online and brought in proctored examination platforms like CodeTantra.
Not only we have Fulbright Nehru Scholars in our academic team, but we have also brought the best academic minds from across the world to co-teach at UPES. The enthusiasm that the students showed in attending masterclasses and webinars we arranged for them with eminent experts such as Dr K.Sivan, Chairman of ISRO, Anima Patil Sabale from NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, Anubha Bhonsle, former executive editor of CNN-News 18 and an award-winning journalist, Super 30’s Anand Kumar, Prof. Nina Sabnani from IIT Bombay’s Industrial Design Centre and Shiv Shivakumar, Group Executive President at Aditya Birla Group shows that they are hungry to learn, irrespective of the circumstances.
Have you been able to replicate practical classes or lab experiences remotely?
Yes, it is a crucial aspect and we have made sure that the students get access to the lab resources as much as possible. For our engineering students, faculty members have recorded more than 200 experiment videos and explanatory videos, and these are available to the students through our online teaching platform Blackboard. They have also designed several simulations to depict real cases and explain complex concepts in fields like aerospace engineering etc. Additionally, students have been provided access to virtual labs available on AICTE portal.
Similarly, for School of Design students we organize virtual workshops on a regular basis and material required for these workshops is sent to them beforehand. Availability of the material makes the virtual workshops highly productive and engaging. Through our academic collaboration with Adobe and WACOM, all design students have tablets and relevant design softwares to practice.
We continue to look for more ways to deliver experience and engagement led virtual classes.
What are the new practices you have introduced at UPES to support the students?
From a new academic framework to a new school that focuses on holistic, intrinsic development, we have been working relentlessly because our students matter to us the most. Few initiatives that I would like to share are:
ABLE- New Curriculum Framework for 21st Century Learners: The new curriculum framework at UPES, ABLE (Academic Blueprint for Learning Excellence), is holistic in its overall structure and yet focuses on the individual need of the student to discover, experience, and explore new avenues. Under this framework, the learning is segmented into core subject studies along with minors/exploratory subjects, signature courses and life skills learning which are offered under the newly instituted School for Life.
School for Life: As the name suggests, School for Life is focused on enabling students to be life-long learners and equip them with skills and competencies required to thrive in the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world. It has been institutionalized to serve as a foundation for our seven specialization focused schools. We are glad to take a lead in bringing life skills at the core our pedagogy and a full-fledged, separate school is a result of that.
Social internships: Community based social internship is an integral part of our new learning framework as empathy, leadership and teamwork are the essence of social and professional living. These mandatory social internships will lead to collaborative work experiences and community service.
Mentor-mentee system: We have formalized it and are using an online platform to manage the mentoring relationships, provide resources and track results. We are assigning a mentor for every 25 students who will be personally responsible for their personal and professional growth.
What about the placements? How have you ensured that the pandemic does not severely affect career prospects of the students?
In 2020, the university registered an overall placement of 93%, with 100% placements at School of Computer Science- fifth year in a row. Our students have been placed across Indian and global corporations, start-ups, and unicorns from different industries. The list of top recruiters who hired from UPES includes Accenture, Adani Power, Aditya Birla, Amazon, American Express, Bosch, Capgemini Technology Services, Delhivery, Ziegler Aerospace, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motor India, Royal Enfield, Indigo Airlines, HSBC, HDFC Ltd, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, Wildcraft, PhonePe, Tata Projects Ltd, Nestle, ITC Ltd, Dell Technologies, Hitachi Consulting, IBM, Reliance Jio Infocomm, and more.
More than 2400 internships, mostly virtual, were arranged for the students to get real-time experience and put their knowledge and skills to use. Specific training interventions targeting cross-functional expertise were planned to enhance their employability quotient. The university also provided them access to online learning platforms like Coursera and encouraged them to pursue certification courses to gain additional expertise in their core and allied fields.
The 2021 placement session is on-going, but we have already placed 1900 students, most of them having more than one offer in hand. We are providing placement assistance to every student irrespective of his/her academic grades, competency and number of attempts made to get hired. We are extending placement assistance even to the alumni for up to 5 years.
In the current situation, they need more than just academic support. What are some of your key initiatives to help them?
If the students are mentally and emotionally strong, there are higher chances of them doing well academically. Under our initiative ‘UPES Cares’, we are providing them and their family members access to medical practitioners and mental health counsellors to deal with the ill-effects of the pandemic in a healthy way. As part of ‘UPES Cares’, we have launched a new health initiative ‘Sanjeevani’ through which they can avail all services of Practo at no cost.
Since a lot of families have suffered financially, we have decided to provide scholarships to the children of COVID frontline workers, teachers and to those students who have unfortunately lost their primary earning member due to COVID-19. Both, existing students and the new students enrolling this year can apply for these scholarships.
In addition to this, we are providing 20% scholarship to all female students enrolling with us this year. We introduced this scholarship program last year to promote higher education amongst girls and more than 1300 female students, including from Tier 2 & 3 cities, benefitted from it. We didn’t want to stop at that and therefore, have again introduced this female exclusive scholarship program in the current year.
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