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IITR's Academic Report Card

February 23, 2023

Team Watch Out! conducted a survey to find the major issues related to Academic Affairs being faced by the students of IIT Roorkee. It was circulated in January 2023, and received responses from students across all years. In this survey, we also asked the students how they would like the structure to be molded to make academics more student-centric and smooth flowing.

After noting the various grievances faced by students daily during academic hours, as well as student reviews on the current academic structure, a need for change was immensely felt.

Summarized below are the major issues that we could identify, along with several testimonials (marked in italics) and changes that the respondents proposed. Since the issues vary greatly over students from different departments and in different years of their study, we have classified them into smaller subsections for the sake of clarity.

A. NPTEL Courses

In a recent notice issued by the Academic Affairs Office on January 3, 2023, the option to choose NPTEL courses as part of the academic evaluation was discontinued w.e.f. Spring Semester 2022-2023, except for certain special conditions. This was decided without taking the student community in confidence. As the students could not put forth their point of view, the decision has caused several grievances:

A.1 Students who wished to take up elective courses based on their interests are now bound to take up courses from a predefined list which may not be very relevant to them.

“The main issue […] is that many elective courses mentioned in our course structures are often scrapped, forcing us to take other electives which are not relevant to our interests […] The discontinuation of NPTEL Courses has made the situation even worse. Beyond electives, even some of the core courses are irrelevant.”

NOTE: WO! found out that students in other IITs, such as IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur, cannot take NPTEL courses as their minors. All courses are to be done within the institute coursework.

A.2 The decision directly affects the final-year students who had saved their NPTEL courses for their last semester to reduce their time commitment and better focus on reducing their time commitment and better focus on placements. It is also unfair to them as many students already took NPTEL courses in the preceding semesters.

“NPTEL courses are not allowed in lieu of PEC courses for final year B.Tech students, it should be allowed as many of the students are appearing for placements in their 7th and 8th semester so NPTEL courses should be allowed for them at least.”

A.3 There's also the lack of flexibility in the academic programmes being offered; discontinuing NPTEL courses further aggravates this problem.

“The institute being rigid in its way of teaching is really problematic. Not having NPTEL or more electives or non-existent inter-branch electives is a direct consequence of this.” ~Pratham Jain,3rd year

Note: Upon talking to the AAO regarding the short notice period in which NPTEL was scrapped, the Acad office clarified that they also learned about the NPTEL notice a night before it was released. Moreover, as a side note, they’ve mentioned that NPTEL on medical grounds will only be allowed for very rare cases, because this threshold is quite flimsy and unreliable.

To elaborate, they commented that the method used to cross-check this is to use BTP trail of a student, i.e. if a student also has BTP coming up along with an offer letter, then even that would get hindered on medical grounds. This forms the basis of a cross-check of sorts. Students sometimes have supervisor backing saying the project is Computer based and is allowed remotely. However, that is not always allowed for a BTP. Hence medical grounds are a flimsy reason and lack robustness, which is why the AAO does not consider it.

B. Second Examination

Students applying for the second examination faced major issues, with some finding it irrelevant to involve the DAPC in the second examination application process and others facing difficulty in convincing professors to allow makeup labs on medical grounds.

“Regarding the Second Examination. As per the Rules, I applied for a second examination by writing mail (with attaching Medical certificate also) to DAPC on time. But DAPC did not forward it to the Academic section. When the list of students came, and I didn’t find my name in it, I went to DAPC, but he scolded me like anything, even if it was not my mistake, it was only his mistake […]”

“Professors don’t allow makeup labs in some subjects even on medical grounds, leading to academics being poorly affected due to health issues.”

C. Minor Courses

Minor Specialisation lectures clash a lot with the usual timetable of students and often include first-year courses. Due to the shifted Academic Calendar of the first year, the end-term exams clash with students’ summer internships. A number of students approached the academic affairs office and the concerned departments with their issues. However they were sent back with a series of indifferent responses.

A student commented, “After running from department to department to adjust TT for me to attend (the) minors course, I went to the academic affairs office for the same complaint. Their response was to drop minors and [not to] do a minors degree. ‘We cannot do anything. It’s an unresolvable issue for us, too’.”

C.1 General Secretary Academic Affairs Verbatim

WO!: At times, students have to go from department to department to get their issues like clashing timetables, availability of minor courses and others resolved. Many times these issues are not resolved, and even if they are resolved, there is a lack of a proper mechanism to get these issues resolved. Also there is no record maintained of the problems resolved by the department.

Gensec Acads: Even we are working on resolving the clashing of minor timetable issues. The hindrance is that we follow an algorithm to generate the timetable, and with the available slots, the huge number of subjects are difficult to accommodate without clashes. I have proposed having a separate slot for minor courses just like Wednesday 4-6 for NCC/NSS/NSO. That might work, hopefully.

C.2 Academic Affairs Office Verbatim

Acad Office: The major issue which has led to such inconveniences is the lack of centralisation in timetable making; all departments make their own timetable which is sent to the Acad office near the start of the semester, and thus not many changes can be accommodated.

Slots for all common courses of 1st and 2nd year, and minors derived from those are fixed beforehand by the Academic office and sent to all the departments before the semester starts. After this, each department independently decides the slots for PECs offered by them and fits them into a timetable which comes right around the start of the semester. That comes after students have filled in their choices for PECs for the semester. Between this small period, it remains out of the hands of the AAO to make fruitful changes to the timetable as the semester is about to begin. They suggest that in the window provided for the addition/deletion of courses, students should alter their PCC/PECs’ choices and stick with the minor instead of going the other way around to fairly accommodate all of their choices. That is, if a student is voluntarily opting for additional breadth; they must choose the structure compatible with their minor’s choice. Moreover, the issue has been noted down; and a centralised portal for the generation of automatic timetables is under formulation. It could, however, take 1-2 semesters to be completely implemented.

Regarding the mismatch of calendar between people choosing minors especially ones that follow UG 1Y timetable and their foreign internships. They mentioned that the students should try to get the intern period adjusted or the mode changed to online, since the structure of minors cannot be changed for those few students. And the timetables for 1y would take a year or two to align with the rest of the batches owing to the gap created by COVID.

D. Query Portal

Students pointed out the delays they faced in getting a reply to their queries raised on the query portal.

“Queries on the query portal aren’t resolved even in 6 days.”

D.1 General Secretary Academic Affairs Verbatim

GenSec Acads: Some people are dedicated to resolving AIS portal queries, and they are doing their best. The only problem might be they may miss some queries, or some queries are difficult to answer before doing some groundwork.

D.2 Academic Affairs Office Verbatim

AAO: On AIS, the department is dedicated to addressing each query and resolving it in under 4 days. Some periods of the semester may see delays in query resolution as the Acad department has to shift focus to other pressing issues, for example, during the start of the semester.

E. Curriculum

E.1 Students across the years also feel that their course structure fails to impart the skills that modern-day jobs require, and many courses have lost relevance in today’s age. Many electives mentioned in the course structure aren’t even available to be taken up, and students are forced to take electives irrelevant to the field they want to build a career in.

“Personally, I feel minors are introduced very late in our academic schedules, and that makes them kind of pointless as you are not able to explore your minors’ field properly before graduation.”

E.2 Many students seemed discontent with the 75% attendance system currently in place. Students complained that the attendance system is a brute force method to make them sit in classes while they feel there are better ways to learn the same thing without the compulsion of attending lectures. Students also complained about facing the issue of not being able to track their attendance in a particular course.

F. Grading System

Professors having the discretion to decide the grading process they’ll follow for a course leads to a lack of uniformity in the grade distribution[1].

In the absence of a transparent procedure, students are often left in the dark with no other alternative but simply to accept the grades they’ve been given.

“There should at least be a more stringent guideline on what grades are to be given.” ~Pratham Jain, 3rd year

G. Changes Proposed

After noting the various grievances faced by students daily during academic hours, as well as student reviews on the current academic structure, a need for change was immensely felt.

In the survey conducted by Watch Out! We also asked the students how they would like the structure to be moulded to make academics more student-centric and smooth flowing. The responses were recorded, and some of the most pressing ones are as follows:

G.1 It is widely agreed upon that the decision to remove NPTEL courses in the middle of the year by the Acad section did not consider the students’ stance on the issue. Students chose their courses accordingly for the year, keeping the presence of NPTEL choices as an option in mind. But when asked to suddenly compulsorily choose electives, it led to changes in their schedule management and caused confusion and stress among the student body. There was a lack of uniformity as some students from the same batch who had taken NPTEL earlier were at an unfair advantage. NPTEL also helps students take up subjects that are not available in the institute; manage other activities, minors and non-academic courses. It has overall been heralded as a misdirected decision.

Students had a common consensus that NPTEL courses should be brought back as they were highly dynamic and interesting.

As a third year student suggested: “The NPTEL rule should be applied from the joining batch this year onwards, as no one from the batch has had the opportunity to use that until now. Few 3rd, 4th and 5th year students had already used the NPTEL option, which was unfair to their batchmates who didn’t get a chance to do so yet. Secondly, a fixed deadline should be given to the professors for grade delivery, and failure to do so should lead to serious actions. This is similar to the late fee fine that the students have to follow. Additionally, the Acad office should fix a proper slot for the conduction of minor courses, as it does for OECs and HSSMECs. This would also avoid the clashes in the timetable that many have experienced.”

G.2 Department and inter-departmental courses should be introduced from the second year itself, allowing students to shape their career as they want to; whilst also providing them with incentives to maintain a good CGPA to be offered their preferred courses each semester. Another suggestion was to introduce more HSS-MEC courses in 2nd year, as the few provided usually force students to choose the one which gets them grades easily, as opposed to the ones they’re actually interested in.

For example, due to a lack of effective choices, students from the Economics branch took up HSS-01 as their preferred choice, despite being taught similar course contents in a more advanced manner in previous semesters. This made it a redundant course for the students of the Economics branch as well as unfair for students of other departments taking this up for the first time and facing relative grading with others. The limitation of choices is a very real issue which must be resolved soon. Appendix-A contains the conversation WO! had with IITK and IITKGP in this regard.

G.3 “During the chaos that followed the NPTEL and minor selection time, what was apparent was the stringent nature of the Acad department and their unapproachability.” It was noted by many students that the academic section does listen to their grievances but there are no real efforts made to change it so that the students are at their convenience; and it often feels like they’re unreceptive to the students’ needs.

“The academic section should be more flexible and more receptive to students' grievances instead of taking a stance that students should handle all this themselves.” ~ Pratham Jain,3rd year

More efficient communication between departments, within the academic section, between the admin and departments and within the department is necessary to avoid the many, many cases of timetable clashes that were seen. If, due to unavoidable reasons, clashes do occur, students should be allowed online alternatives for certain courses, especially important ones like minors and electives, which would help students to cover up material at one's own convenient time. “More flexibility in course structure, an approachable POC between students and Acad office is needed.”

NOTE: A snippet of the conversation with GenSec Acads regarding this matter:

WO!: A lot of students complained about there being no point of contact between the Acad department and students. As the GenSec Acads, why do you think this problem still exists in spite of the existence of elected student representatives such as the DAPCs and the Gensec?

GenSec: Certain things in the Acad department take some time to process because there are specified paperwork and even protocols to be followed, due to which students might feel there aren’t any updates. But the people who approached me or even some other student DAPCs have often got their issues resolved or clarified.

H. Miscellaneous Suggestions

Some miscellaneous suggestions regarding commonly faced issues within the academic structure:

  1. A notable instance was when professors mentioned the need for sliding blackboards for classroom teaching. LHC-GB has no such infrastructure in place, which must be rectified asap. The issue is not pushed as much because many professors opt for teaching via slides. Blackboard teaching leads to content delivery becoming concise and intuitive for students.

  2. If attendance is made compulsory, it is necessary to cater to students who are interested in pursuing a field of study other than their branch. Providing notes/slides (exclusively for home study) is a good answer that assists both sets of students.

  3. It is necessary that updated software and present-day technology are added to labs and coursework to make them more relevant. It often happens that the practical aspect of a course exists, but the lab is in such a dilapidated state that it is almost unusable. This leads to both the lab assistants and the students wasting time and effort trying to keep up with the experiments.

    “More practically applicable teachings to be imparted. Skills sets like communication to clients etc. Should also be covered within the course structure.”

  4. Uniform grade distribution has become rare if a large enough pool of professors is taken, and that is concerning. Students are left with unanswered questions as to why they’re receiving grades lower than 7 when they’re well above the aggregate class scores (given the professor has announced relative grading). Such incidents, however small, do multiply in effect, causing a severe divide and mistrust between professors and students.

  5. Moreover, there should be an open choice of minor courses instead of selecting from a pool of 6/7 courses, as well as more departmental elective courses that are offered. Along with it, compulsory attendance in Minors should be scrapped.

  6. A more mathematics-intensive CSE curriculum is seen as necessary. (A detailed review on this is mentioned in Appendix-B)

This article aimed to bring the grievances faced by students daily under convergence and address them efficiently. From the responses we received in the survey, we have mentioned the changes students think should bring about a difference in their daily academic interactions. Moreover, we also talked to the academic office to dig deeper into the root cause of the problems pointed out. We got some great insights and found out valid reasons for some of the inconveniences; whilst also noticing a need for immediate change in certain areas.

Appendix A: IITK & IITKGP Verbatim

IIT Kanpur

WO!: Can you explain in short how students opt for minors? What is the structure exactly? Are there clashes in the timetable with regard to departmental courses and what minor courses? If so, how are they resolved?

IITK: Students can opt for Minors after the fourth semester and in each semester till the 7th semester. Minors are allocated in almost all departments and are generally offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and CGPA in some cases. Completion of minors is fairly doable, and clashes with courses are a manageable problem since each Minor has a basket of courses, out of which 3/4 need to be done. Several electives are available for students to choose from.

IIT Kharagpur

WO!: Could you explain in detail about the conduction and structure of minor courses there; and how do students opt for them? Basically an overview of the entire process.

IITKGP: I’ll explain with an example. I am pursuing a dual major. My B.Tech degree is in Chemical Eng. and my M. Tech degree is in Financial Eng.

So students can opt to pursue a dual major at the end of their second year. They can take a master’s degree in any of the three interdisciplinary programs - Financial Engineering, Artificial Engineering, and Engineering Entrepreneurship. The allocation to the three is done on the basis of CGPA of the students who have applied.

Students can also opt to do a minor in any department. This is done in the 5th semester. Any student can do a minor in any department of his/her choice if his/her cgpa at the end of 4th semester > 8. A dual major gives a deep understanding of the subject, whereas a minor gives an overview.

WO!: Are there clashes in the timetable with regard to departmental courses and minor courses? If so, how are they resolved? If not, what is the method of allotting these courses in the timetable?

IITKGP: There are no clashes between the subjects of a dual major since the B Tech degree is done in a different subject and M. Tech degree is done in a different subject. If a student enrols in any dual major program, then the respective subjects are added to his/her M Tech timetable, which does not clash with the B Tech timetable. B Tech courses take place from 1st - 3rd year. There are only 1-2 courses in the 4th year, and Mtech courses take place in the 4th and 5th year, which is how clashes are avoided.

Whereas if a student is doing a minor, then he/she has to take the subjects on his/her own either as electives or breadth or additional. The student should look for subjects each semester required for completing the minor and do not clash with their department timetable. In case of a clash, the students can request the professor to change the slot of a particular course. This is done after consultation with the professors in charge of the course and the Head of the Department.

WO!: How many electives are offered, and how many are actually taken up by the students? Are the courses actually useful for someone looking to build their career in a field that doesn’t align with their branch?

IITKGP: Electives are a part of the degree. Each student has to take up 6-10 electives and 4-6 breadths depending on their course and degree. Electives offered by any department depend only on the department.


Clarification regarding students asking for a math intensive CSE curriculum

Current situation of Math in CSE courses:

1st Year: 1st semester offers MAN001, which provides a decent exposure to calculus and linear algebra (which is relevant for fields like computer graphics and Machine Learning (more on this later). 2nd Semester introduces students to Discrete Structure, where they are taught Number Theory, Set Theory, Graphs and more. The topics taught are relevant, although not in-depth, since the syllabus is vast. Apart from this, the Quantum Mechanics course supplements the mathematical foundation. In addition to this, they are taught Optimization techniques

2nd Year: Transform calculus is taught, which includes topics like Fourier transforms, Z transform, etc. In 2nd sem, Design and Analysis of Algorithms teachers some math (involving proof and such like induction, contradiction), but not in much depth (unlike the course offered by Math department)

3rd Year: It offers an elective in probability (more on this later)

4th Year: It offers an elective in Advanced algorithm

Apart from this, students are free to take inter-department courses since the math department offers quite a few.

Need for change?

The courses of the computer science department teaches the relevant mathematical topics, but since it’s not a degree in core math, some topics are not taught and not needed either. Case in point: a course like computer architecture is based on math, but it uses discrete math like binary mathematics, logic gates, et cetera. Continuous mathematics doesn’t find much relevance, thus the need to teach it is not large.

As most CS professors would agree, computer science, at its very heart is Mathematics. Students are introduced to these topics as one might expect at a UG level, and if they wish, they can specialise and research these topics in their Masters’.

If one wishes to pursue the “hot topics” in computer science field (ML, DL, AI), then some of the relevant math is taught in MAN001, so students are introduced to the subject

What needs to change

As mentioned above, probability courses are offered in the 3rd year, but that too on a rotation basis (i.e. only alternate years are offered this course).

It should be made a PCC for the students so they can learn topics like probability distributions. This is extremely important for students wishing to pursue a career in Data Science or Quantitative analysis. The inspiration for this should be the Stats 110 course offered by Harvard. PS: There is already a course (MAN006) which deals with Prob-Stats but unfortunately not taught to CSE students.

Not to mention, there has been limited or no exposure to the Stochastic aspect. Other IITs like KGP and Guwahati have been quick to adapt and include this lucrative field of Finance Engineering while Roorkee is lagging behind.

The current growing topic in technology is Blockchain. However, no courses are offered in that field. The closest we have is an NPTEL course (which, moreover, can only be audited now). Considering the extreme relevance of the field in the future, it should be offered as an elective. This should be supplemented with a course in cryptography, which forms the backbone of blockchain.

Numerical Methods is a very important topic that actually familiarizes students to real life problems that need to be solved through computation. Under this, topics like Monte Carlo simulation and curve tracing should be taught as it also finds application in Quant. This should also include Mathematical Modelling and Simulation (a course which is a part of the BS-MS Mathematics and Computing course structure [MAN004, MA302])

A word for Minors:

Since this is a minor in CSE, the courses have relevant computer science courses. The students have an option to pursue a minor in the mathematics department if they wish to specialise in math extensive courses.


Clarification regarding upper cap on the number of credits a student can get each semester

Acad Office: The system has now become flexible and student-friendly, and one may now choose up to 32 credits per semester. When choosing for >24 credits on the academic portal, a warning is displayed to the student so they may reconsider the decision to take up such a heavy academic load. After the usual process of a student being recommended for a course by the DAPC, we can take up to 24 credits. For more than 24, Deans can vouch on behalf of the student after running due diligence. Beyond 28, the IAPC can approve a student to take up 32 credits after knowing sound reasons for doing so.

Now, the DoAA also stands empowered to decide when the number of credits lies between 28 and 32; to help smoothen the process even more.

Once the recommendation reaches the Academic Office, they look for CGPA Criteria. Students under a 5 CGPA aren’t allowed to exceed the 24 credit limit. This rule is relaxed for students in their last semester/extended year. Moreover, the Acad office also examines the trail of the student, which could suggest reasons for the relaxation of the rule.

Students above 5 CGPA can still opt for 24-28 credits. For >32 credits, there’s a separate channel of application via the IAPC. Due reasoning for such a credit score is demanded, and approval is based on that.

Additionally, for students in 3-2, if they wish for >=4 PECs for reasons such as doing their BTP in a foreign college but have no offer letter in hand proving so, they aren’t allowed. Students are hence randomly assigned two courses among the chosen four or asked to take the other two as additional credit courses. This method is randomised and not encouraged even by the academic office. Students in 3-2 are thus encouraged to stick to the mentioned rules.