Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pseudo experts

“B-schools are filled with finance professors who have never closed a deal or traded a bond, marketing professors who have never marketed anything, management professors who have never managed anyone, and strategy professors who have never designed or implemented any business strategy.” - Pablo Triana in "Lecturing Birds On Flying"

This applies equally well to the BSc IT teachers whose only project has been their own TY IT project. Did they ever again do a practical project? In a class of 60 students, a teacher is expected to "guide" 15-30 students. Is this at all possible. Why is the University of Mumbai making a mockery of projects? Not just TYBSc projects but also MSc projects and PhD thesis can be downloaded or "outsourced", or "ggogled".

What is the experience of these IT teachers to examine students for 200 marks in 10 minutes? If a 100 mark paper needs 3 hours to be answered, can a 200 mark project undertaken over a period of one semester be assessed by an examiner in 10-15 minutes? A student did an excellent project on RFID, complete with assembling the equipment, programming, etc and the so-called "external examiner", supposedly an "expert" in IT from a South Mumbai college was unable to understand the project! How many of these IT teachers would know how to draw the UML diagrams, which one is appropriate under what situation, ..? Why have they done away with the powerpoint presentations which explain the projects? The reason is simply this - the examiners do not have the time, the enthusiasm, the interest in the subject, and worse - they do not have the well-being of the student in mind. Being an external examiner is a prestige issue - being treated like a lord and pampered by the college, so that "our students do not suffer". How is this any different from plain and simple corruption? This applies to many, not necessarily all examiners.

The University has laid down certain guidelines as to how these marks are to be distributed out of 200. Is this information conveyed to the students? Is the student not supposed to know which component of the project carries how many marks? Its just like giving a 100 mark question paper and not specifying the marks for individual questions. The college or the BSc IT coordinator must give the breakup of 200 marks - how many for the black book, how many for the presentation, viva, source code, etc. I know that most colleges donot give this info, and many donot even know that their is such a breakup - they assess students in 10 mins , out of 200 marks!

The University authorities, and BSc IT coordinators are all responsible for this mess.
1. inform the students how they will be assessed,
2. be available to your students on the phone and through Internet by chat / email
3. dont take more than 5-6 students at a time - be honest to yourself, you will never be able to guide or keep track of 30 projects.
4. Give equal importance to all projects - there's nothing like a "live" project. All projects are "live". There are students who approach small shady companies and manage to get the source code of their apps - all IT profs know this and no point denying this.
5. The college should approach the industry or prospective clients and get the projects for their students. It makes sense to develop a complete application - finance, marketing, etc for a single client, developed by a group of students.

Hopefully the new syllabus will be more open on this. And BSc IT teachers will not be like B-school faculty!
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