Vinayak Garg :

Electing Electives

fateJuly 2009 | A very important part of the curriculum in engineering institutes consists of elective courses. A range of courses are offered to a student, out of which he may choose the courses that he wishes to pursue depending on his interest and career ambition. Now the question that arises is the fact whether the student is actually able to get his choice in the current systems, or does it just reduces to a game of fate?

In IIT Delhi, elective courses form almost 40% of the total credit requirement for award of degree. It is these courses that enable students to create a distinctive profile and prepare themselves for the field which they choose to excel in. As per the system, the student just expresses his desire to attend a certain course as an elective, and what follows is a mysterious process which outputs whether the student has been allotted the course or not. For electives relating to humanities, a student is to fill a preference list and that is used as input for an even more mysterious process.

Though not officially declared, it is rumored that the courses are allotted as per the grade points (marks) of the student. Electives for humanity stream are said to be allotted on a mixed basis of grade points and the year of study. What results is the insecurity and loss of control of students on which courses they get to do and when. Even if I would really really want to do a course on psychology or internal combustion engines, there is no way to ensure that I do get that course. It is here that helplessness and the feeling loss of control over their career path gets seeded.

An alternative to this system is a system where students may bid for their elective courses. The system is followed in majority of MBA institutes in US, and also in top B-schools of India like IIMs. Under this system, each student is given a fixed amount of bid points for each bidding period. He may use these points to bid for the courses that he wants to take as electives. This system has far more benefits than just enabling subject of choice for students.

Firstly, it makes students responsible for their career path and they may choose the area in which they would like to take courses. It is important not only to enable informed choices, but also to create a system that respects choices.

bidding electivesSecondly, the bidding system develops students as individuals and fosters ability to take decisions. It is much easier to accept whatever comes your way than to actually demand for a particular subject. By assuring that any subject that they desire strong enough would be given, it holds them accountable for their choices.

Thirdly, quantum of bid points used by students for a particular subject acts like a feedback for the professor teaching the subject. It is a constant feedback for the teacher and would act as an encouragement. Nothing can matter more to a teacher than recognition from his students about his competence. This feedback is totally unbiased, unlike year end feedback form; here the students have no perceived benefits from giving a good remark. It is a feedback in which students are calling out to teacher to lead them to their career goals, and this is what really counts.

It is only in such system that I feel it is possible to sustain interest of students in academics and maintain high enthusiasm level of teachers. Afterall, each of them deserves appreciation for their efforts and decisions.

2 responses to “Electing Electives”

  1. Chintan Raj says:

    hey dude, just read your blog… quite interesting… in fact such small changes, if implemented can really help bring about constructive changes in your coll… I am sure someone from the deciding panel will take a note of it…

    keep up the great work..!!

  2. Rohit says:

    Good points.

    But wud that really mean that a prof. who gets the highest aggregate bid points or the highest avg bid points is necessarily the best prof in the campus?

    Like here in IIM-C everyone wants to pick a Finance course and wud surely bid a lot higher for a Fin course than let’s say an Eco course, but that doesn’t make an Eco course or a Behavioral Science course any lesser as compared to a Fin course. Wud it?

    Taking the example of IIT-D, I am sure most of us wud hav bid a lot higher for a DMS course rather than Advanced Fluid Mechanics (say). Wud that make the course or Sheshadri any lesser prof?

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