Published: 01st July 2020
Up to 2,50,000 students can enroll for this online BSc degree at IIT Madras. Here's how
We caught up with the IIT Madras faculty who designed its BSC degree and diploma in Data Science and Programming
It is almost superfluous to say that the IITs and IIMs are the Indian equivalent of Ivy League institutions. So, it won't be surprising to see almost every Indian middle-class household pushing their children to get a degree from these institutions, which by the way accepts very few students. Call it a boon of the digital age or whatever, but now, getting a legit degree from IIT Madras is just a few clicks away. The institute on Tuesday had launched the world's first online BSc degree and diploma in Data Sciences and Programming.
A programme with two entry and three exit points, it has the capacity to enroll over 2,50,000 students, with no geographical or age restrictions. The applicants are only mandated to have passed class XII in a stream that includes English and Mathematics. Those with a class XII certificate can enter the foundation level course. Upon completion, they can either exit the program with a certificate or move to the diploma level. Those who have a bachelor's degree can skip the foundation level course and enter the diploma level directly. Upon completing that, they can either exit the program with a diploma in data science or programming respectively or move to the degree level course. The course has no age, stream or geographical restrictions. While all the classes will be held online, the examinations will be held over various centres spread across the country.
Soon after the launch, we caught up with Dr Andrew Thangaraj and Dr Prathap Haridoss, IIT Madras faculty, who spearheaded the course's design. Dismissing speculations, Thangaraj tells us that the course wasn't exactly a project that was developed amid the pandemic. "In fact, COVID only delayed its launch. We were aiming to launch it in April or May," he says. "We have been working on this since 2018 when the UGC approved online degrees," he adds. He also tells us that depending on the demand, the course may accept even up to 5,00,000 students.
Since the lockdown, education in India has moved largely online. While we only saw online classes, now universities are even moving towards online examinations. However, this again raised a question of accessibility among the underprivileged students. Thangaraj tells us that digital divide was in fact a concern for the institute. "People with a smartphone can access this course. The only issue comes with watching videos online. We can work a way around to ship these videos to them," he says. "But there are a large number of people who have no access to smartphones. Now that this initiative is in place, we hope the government, the alumni and the education community will step up to help," he adds, sanguinely.
The course was launched by the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank'
Now, since the course enrolls a larger student population, will it be difficult for all of them to get their queries answered? Haridoss says, "Previously, in our National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) projects, we had a million students writing examinations. This is a tried and tested process. We have an active discussion forum and an army of teachers who answer religiously." He adds that he had once taught an online batch of 40,000 students.
The professors tell us that the institute will also assist the top performers with placements. There are other perks too. "Even though it is an online course, top-performing students can come to the institute and work with us," says Haridoss. While Thangaraj adds that not a lot of courses can be done online, the institute will now work to introduce a four-year-BS degree and an MSc degree in this stream.