Project Centric Learning - A Powerful Tool For Students To Work In Areas Of Their Choice And Strengths

Rajesh Jalnekar, Director, Vishwakarma Institute of TechnologyA Ph.D holder from the Government College of Engineering, Pune, Rajesh boasts of having a three decades work experience during which he has held leadership across diverse companies that include DB Power Electronics, Micro Power Systems, and Bharati Vidyapeeth's College of Engineering, Pune.

Education must be a planned, purposeful, progressive, and systematic activity in order to create positive improvements in the teaching learning system to address the society's needs from time to time; at least once in three years. Innovative curriculum and teaching learning methods is the need of the engineering community and society at large. Student centric methods must be implemented to enhance the learning experience. The following skills sets should be imparted to the students for employability in 2020: Complex Problem solving ability, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with others, Emotional Intelligence, Judgment & decision Making, Service Orientation, Negotiation, and Cognitive Flexibility. Education should be focused on developing these skills; very few students are employable in the current scenario. From my vast experience of 30 years in Industry, Research and Teaching, I suggest to enhance the employability of the students by following ways:

Project Based Learning:
Traditional teaching learning methods are very time intensive on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy like remember and understand there by having little time to focus on the higher levels like analyze, apply, evaluate and create. As a result, the student is left to deal with the higher levels of the Booms Taxonomy on his own. This keeps the learning objectives of the course only partially complete and result in industry `unready' engineers. Leading academicians and industry experts hence often highlight the importance of `hands-on' knowledge instead of theoretical knowledge popularly known as `Learning by Doing}. In Project based learning students learn to apply the knowledge learnt in classroom. The projects test, the higher levels of blooms taxonomy for the students thereby automatically testing the lower levels too.

Project Centric Learning:
Project Centric Learning is a powerful tool for students to work in areas of their choice and strengths. Along with course based projects, curriculum can be enriched with semester long Engineering Design and Development course, in which students can solve socially relevant problems using various technologies from relevant disciplines. The various socially relevant domains can be like
Health care, Agriculture, Defense, Education, Smart City, Smart Energy and Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan. To gain the necessary skills, to tackle such projects, students can select relevant online courses and acquire skills from numerous sources under guidance of faculty and enrich their knowledge in the project domain, thereby achieve project centric learning.

Student Exchange Program:
Wherein, much needed international exposure can be given to students, where they can get the freedom to attend the courses at international universities? It will give the perfect launch pad for student careers to excel at international level.

Semester Long Internships: To make students industry ready students can be promoted to go for semester long internships. Through this the students get, the much needed industry exposure and get to work on live industry projects.

Flipped classroom helps the students learn at their own pace through watching videos, and also helps the teacher give more individual attention to slow and fast learners

Learning through Innovation & Research:
Introducing innovation as a science right from the first year in the form of projects followed by presentations, publications and patents. Collaborative as well as experiential learning is achieved through course projects, semester projects and final year projects wherein students develop prototype solutions for engineering problems. Research culture is nurtured in students by exposing them to project based learning where students learn to apply the concepts learned in classrooms in real life thereby honing the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy like `Apply, Design and Create'. All students can be given training to publish journal and conference papers, by arranging student conferences every semester. As a result of these efforts, students can get the crucial head start in the competitive world to pave a way to a bright and prosperous career.

Flipped Classroom:
Flipped classroom helps the students learn at their own pace through watching videos, and also helps the teacher give more individual attention to slow and fast learners. The advantage of this mode of blended learning makes the best use of avail-able class time, fulfilling the learning objectives of a course complete. It is most suitable tool to implement Bloom's Taxonomy.

Industry Oriented Courses:
In order to make students industry ready, courses can be offered by industry as per their domain expertise. Through these courses students learn specific skills useful for their careers and get a leading edge over their competitors. Electives (tailor-made) must be introduced to meet the requirements of industries as per demand, based on the need of the industry.

Humanities & Social Science Courses: Courses in humanities, social sciences and soft skill are introduced for overall personality development of the student.

Techno Commercial & Management Courses:
Courses in economics and costing along with project management can help students develop the much needed Techno Commercial and Management acumen making them industry ready.

Even the assessments should be made more versatile which should include course project, course assignments, Viva, course presentation, online MCQ examinations, conventional theory exams, Quizzes, Poster presentation and Market Place.

Career Guidance:
Based on the SWOC analysis & interview the student can be guided to set their career goals and objectives. They can be exposed to various career options in corporate, start ups, higher studies, public sectors, civil/defense services and other areas.