Conspicuously absent in the IITM landscape this past year has been the sight of beleaguered, khaki-clad freshers, cycling to and from the Central Workshop. This is due to a major change in the academic curriculum for undergraduate freshmen: the rescheduling of workshop courses. Each workshop course (WS1010 and WS1020) has been condensed into a week’s time; one was held right after the end semester examinations of the even semester and the other is to be held one week before the odd semester begins. Until last year, the two workshop courses were conducted during the course of the semester alongside all the other courses. The change in schedule was implemented by the administration in response to the increasing numbers of students failing to clear first-year courses. Its aim was to make it easier for first-year students to concentrate on their other courses and extra-curricular activities during the semester; also, the extra time freed up in the afternoons could be utilised by students for academic work.
When asked whether they liked the new system, freshers were about equally divided in their opinions. Most first-year students felt the benefits of the extra time they got to settle into college life; instead of long afternoons in the workshop and evenings of report-writing, they could focus on academics and extra-curricular activities. ”I had a tight schedule in my freshie year, it was hell!” says Rohith Koraganji, a second-year Biotechnology student who feels the new system is better. Without the workshops, students tend to stay more fresh and energetic through the day than before, increasing their productivity. They can also focus more on the workshop course itself, as there are no other classes during the workshop period.
Most freshers had no qualms with the reduced holiday period – which is not surprising, considering that the holidays are much longer than they are used to. There were those who felt that even the reduced holidays were too long. “I am happy with the reduced summer as it is boring at home anyway,” says Srinivas Sridharan, a Mechanical Engineering student.
But the new system is not without its ills. Freshers were unanimous in agreeing that the learning process was greatly stymied with the new schedule. The short time meant that the workshop courses were rushed through, with students getting to do hardly anything in some modules. “The new system seems inefficient in imparting practical knowledge,” feels Bhavik Rasyara, another Mechanical Engineering fresher. It involves long hours of arduous work in the peak of summer. “Eight hours of work continuously for nine days is going to be painful,” laments Anukriti Gupta, a Chemical Engineering fresher who will be having the longer workshop course after the holidays . Hands-on experience is reduced and there is a lot to grasp in such a short period. Falling ill carries a much more severe penalty than it did before, as it would result in a student missing the entire course.
Many senior students were in favour of the system of paced-out workshop classes during the semester which they had experienced. While that system certainly added to the academic workload during the semester, they felt that they were able to cope with this. They expressed a preference for longer vacations, and many also opined that the idea of workshop classes at the height of summer was disagreeable. “I can’t think of any reason why the workshop was rescheduled, the semester was quite peaceful for me,” says Manikandan Srinivasan, a second year Electrical Engineering student.
The new system has made students’ lives easier during the semester, but it defeats the purpose of the workshop when it comes to learning. A better alternative next year might be to keep the workshop courses in different semesters- the two-credit WS1020 in the heavier semester and the four-credit WS1010 in the lighter semester. But only time will tell us what the administration decides.