After the semester ended in May, we started faculty development workshops to facilitate course redesign for online and blended delivery.
Dishan Kamdar, Vice-Chancellor, FLAME University
While it isn’t yet clear how the job scenario will turn out to be for university students next year, Dishan Kamdar, the vice-chancellor of Pune-based FLAME University, says there is a sense of optimism in the corporate world and business leaders have expressed confidence about a steady recovery. “We are engaging with the industry to explore hiring possibilities and the kind of roles they seek to hire through campus placements,” he says. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that the liberal education university is training students to be ready for the changes that will impact various aspects of the economy post-Covid-19.Excerpts:
Are there apprehensions that many FLAME University students may not be able to find jobs during final placements next year, as the economy is not doing well?
There is a sense of optimism in the corporate world and several business leaders have expressed confidence about a steady recovery. We are engaging with the industry to explore hiring possibilities and the kind of roles they seek to hire through campus placements. Also, since our students have been working on internship opportunities, companies are already aware of the talent at FLAME.
Our placement office and faculty are working in close collaboration to train our students, giving them insights into the current happenings at organisations, training them to be ready for the changes that will impact various aspects of economy post-Covid-19, helping them to skill themselves and work on related projects, etc, such that they get ready for the workplace.
Did the faculty require special training for teaching online when the lockdown started?
A digital learning taskforce was formed to support faculty members to transition to conducting courses online. The transition to online learning was fairly smooth because of the timely formation of this taskforce; our courses migrated online in less than five days.
When teaching online, you need to be able to engage with students differently. You cannot expect students to sit in hour-long lectures and engage in discussions the same way as in a physical class. After the semester ended in May, we started faculty development workshops to facilitate course redesign for online and blended delivery. Workshops included topics such as creative assignments, games and virtual simulations, and creating lecture tutorials. These workshops encouraged faculty to stretch themselves mentally, and experiment with pedagogical innovations in their courses when teaching online.
We also encouraged our staff to take up self-learning courses during the lockdown. They were incentivised with the potions of applying those skills in their respective areas of work and also get acknowledged. This had a positive impact, with the staff down to the junior-most level going online to enhance their learning.
Were there any students who lacked the tools (laptops, internet connectivity, etc) for studying online?
All our students are fully and functionally equipped in terms of IT hardware and software to be able to attend classes and study online.
How, in your opinion, will the NEP impact higher education in general, and new-age institutes such as FLAME University in particular?
The NEP has notable recommendations like its emphasis on STEM, the three-language formula, skilling and vocational courses, conceptual understanding over rote-learning, among others. It exhorts education to be interdisciplinary in character, and aims to develop ‘good human beings’ who are rational and critical thinkers, empathetic, compassionate, courageous, resilient, ethical and productive citizens. With creative combination of subjects, cutting-edge curriculum, flexible options, and multiple entry and exit options during the undergraduate course, students can explore their areas of interest and careers of choice.
Allowing top global institutes to set up campuses in India will propel our education institutions to become truly global. With increased competition, this will raise the bar for higher education in India.
At FLAME, we have an interdisciplinary approach to education, and hope these policies will open up a new world of opportunities for students.
Has FLAME University started taking part in national or international rankings?
We are a young institution, and haven’t started taking part in rankings. We are working on implementing the next phase of our vision under which we are focusing on expanding our portfolio of programmes, recruiting a larger pool of research-oriented faculty, accelerating our research agenda, revamping our curriculum, and enhancing the experiential component of our programmes. Rankings will be a by-product of achieving these milestones.
Campuses of Indian universities don’t have enough foreign representation in terms of both students and faculty. What can be done to make these more ‘global’?
Participation in international rankings has benefited Indian universities and higher education institutions—by imbibing global best practices, understanding areas of strengths, and identifying gaps and the kind of changes needed to be counted among the top global institutions. It has also played a role in influencing the global academic and student community to consider India as a high-quality education destination. We’ve had several top global institutions come and set up base in India for their India-centric research centres, executive education offerings and partnering with Indian institutions in collaborative teaching and research opportunities.
It’s important to note the government’s interest to ensure Indian higher education becomes globally competitive. Two recent measures are indicative of this:
1. Setting up of the Institutes of Eminence and supporting them to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions; 2. The NEP has several provisions that allow mobility of students from and into India under a well-designed global education system. Meanwhile, at FLAME University, we have been making efforts to recruit international academics as faculty, and have been able to attract academics from leading international institutions in the US, the UK, Australia and Asia.