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Expert assistance: Execs are helping design courses in AI, robotics, even GST

The idea is to ready students for jobs that are just emerging, say college principals.

education Updated: Nov 07, 2018 16:48 IST
Krutika Behrawala
Krutika Behrawala
Hindustan Times
Higher education,Colleges,Special courses
(iStock)

Professionals who design game graphics, manufacturers of computer hardware and chartered accountants, among other experts, are turning course designers. They’re collaborating with institutes and colleges across India to develop new-age courses on robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), even understanding GST.

This month, RA Podar college in Matunga is readying a 32-hour certificate course on understanding the Goods and Services Tax. The course material has been developed by practising chartered accountants who are part of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, a statutory body that regulates the profession in India. “With the implementation of GST, there’s a growing demand for professionals who can consult on the same. The idea was to equip students with these skills so they can get such jobs. The certificates will be awarded in the college’s name,” says college principal Shobana Vasudevan.

The main reason for roping in industry experts is to create courses with relevant study material that improve a student’s professional abilities. Nirma University in Ahmedabad, for instance, has tied up with Nvidia — an American technology company that designs graphic processing units for gaming and AI computing — to design a course on AI and deep learning. “Since AI is now being used to develop smart systems across sectors, we are working on designing a curriculum that caters to a broader base of students. Non-engineering students and those enrolled in digital humanities courses can also take this course,” says Priyanka Sharma, an MTech professor at the university’s Institute of Technology.

This course has been developed under Rusa (the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan) to help Maharashtra’s colleges offer placement-oriented modules. Curricula for courses on data analytics, cyber security and robotics are also being designed by experts from institutes such as IIT-Bombay and Nasscom’s Data Security Council of India.

“Currently, the implementation plan for the course on AI is in the process of being formalised, so that by the year 2019-20, it can be used by colleges in Maharashtra. A team of experts will also design a faculty development programme to train professors to give the course,” says Sharma of Nirma university.

Training faculty is crucial, says Kavi Arya, a professor in computer science at IIT-Bombay. He has been invited by RUSA to develop a robotics course for Maharashtra’s engineering colleges. It draws its basic framework from the Introduction to Robotics module at IIT-Bombay. “In the IIT system, faculty is free to propose a course to the Senate upon whose approval we just deploy it. With state universities, we need to first make sure that teachers across the board will be able to teach it. Faculty development programmes are very important when dealing with such a wide range and large number of teachers; teaching resources and reference texts will also need to be made available.”

In certain cases, course designers also help set up the infrastructure in colleges. For instance, the robotics course requires a laboratory with an open-source robot. “We set up standard robotics teaching labs in colleges. A college has to spend Rs 2 lakh on equipment and volunteer four teachers to be trained — from different disciplines,” says Arya of IIT-B.

Such courses will definitely be easier to launch in autonomous colleges, says Vasudevan of Podar. “The autonomous status gives colleges a greater degree of leverage because they can start these courses with less red tape and fewer approvals. At the same time, it is each college’s responsibility to verify that the course is required, cost-effective and doable by teachers and students.”

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 16:48 IST