Interview by Kritika Gupta
Dr. Kalavathi Alla is currently the Professor & HOD, Department of IT in VVIT Guntur. Her qualifications include MCA, M.Phil, M.Tech, and Ph.D. She has a total experience of 16 years in teaching. Before joining VVIT, she has worked at ChristuJayanthi Jubilee College and Mahatma Gandhi College as Asst. Professor and Lecturer.
Dr.Kalavathi is a recipient of Pratibha Puraskar Award from Urban Bank, Research Excellence Award 2012 from Knowledge Resource Development Welfare Group. Her research papers have been published in reputed international journals and she has presented her research papers in international conferences as well. She has also organized some national seminars on IT-related topics.
A lifelong learning sort of experience and perks of working in the education sector
Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. Education is an important aspect of our lives, while some of us take it granted, there are other who carve and struggle for it. From Aristotle to APJ Abdul Kalam to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, every famous personality is nurtured in the educational institutions. Inspired with such great personalities, I have chosen this noble profession to nurture students in technical, life skills and is serving in the same profession from the past 20 years.
As a teacher is a lifelong learner, I would love to be a lifelong learner and a bit envious about today’s students. They have every facility and resources at their doorsteps morally and materially, for which we, a two and half decades ago had struggled for even skimpier of resources. Working in education industry, once upon a time, was believed as a sinecure (well paid with less responsibility) profession, but nowadays it’s an uphill task with multi-pronged targets to sustain the needs of millennial stakeholders, primarily the students.
The alluring aspects of working in the education industry are below:
- Always being updated in the knowledge pool.
- Plenty of resources available to fulfil the thirst of advanced technologies.
- The powerfulness, peacefulness and job satisfaction acquired mentally through the divinity in teaching-l
- Maintaining responsible, respectful & resourceful relationship with numerous
- batches of Students & their parents
- co faculty members and their abilities
- subject experts from higher learning institutes and their proficiencies
- industry technocrats and their rapport for bridging the gap between industry and institute
- and above all, with the society, in a much closer manner through various awareness programs
Strategies to help underachievers in the classes
- Early identification of underachievers is more crucial than late implementation of tons of strategies over them. The minimum prerequisites for engineering education itself, guarantee that every student is having enough capability to achieve the objectives of their stream of engineering. So it’s only the matter of nurturing the student to reach their goals. The underperformers come in to picture due to several reasons, which are to be critically analyzed to deal with them.
- A frequent counselling of students is a strategy to help the underperformers, after having necessary information about their previous-academic, health, family, friends, hobbies, habits and their wannabes’/aims etc, which may show some effect on their current academic performance. So early identification of possible underperformers is the first phase and executing corrective measures is the next phase. The outcome tracking is the deciding phase in counselling the underperformers.
- Perfect deep diving into the hearts of underperforming students would demonstrate the reasons which caused them to be so. A stitch in time saves nine, as it states, an early identification of such student’s behaviour which drags them away from the objectives, will allow the system to draft needy measures to correct them.
- A few strategies we take up for the underperformers are enlisted below:
- Retaining them beyond the time table of class work and having one-to-one interactive tutoring in the format of make-up & remedial classes which have special schedule and action-plan.
- Putting them under Peer-teaching by an advanced learner, as their knowledge-transfer frequency matches in an informal environment.
- Employing project-based learning, role play, technology enhanced learning techniques such as visual simulation of the concepts etc. Suggesting them alternative methods/resources to understand the same concepts, where they are lagging or falling behind compared to normal and advanced performers.
- As a last recourse, we put them under a brute-force technique of reading and writing a set of abridged form of Questions & Answers, which are planned and prepared by the concerned Course Coordinator, keeping in mind of these underperformers.
- Seeking the support of the parents of these underperformers is also a key strategy, to apprehend the over enthusiastic, diverted, stubborn student who is diffident.
- The reasons for the underperformance of different student may have different cases, which need a case-by-case analysis and apt patches of actions to be taken for better outcomes.
- Encouraging the students to participate in sports and games is also a strategy to bring change in the underperformers, which may unlock and give break-through in them in academics. It is an arbitrary strategy that worked well with some lethargic students.
The quality of VVIT students
- Statistically, when the admission quality is concerned, the students we get in to the BTech program were very active, enthusiastic and sufficiently Intelligent.
- Fortunately, the students of IT are subjected to a perfect blend of processes and activities that carve their all round performance.
- Members of Faculty of IT are enough experienced to cultivate the students with NOT only Technical skills but also the research, entrepreneurial skills with a taste of innovation and societal concerns.
- Many of our students are established in multinational companies in India and abroad that proves their potential.
- Entrepreneurs, innovators are also present in our branch with significant achievements listed below
- By its nature, the students of IT have enough potential to gain multiple skills and that makes them enough qualitative products in the industry/higher studies/others.
The most important current debates in the field of IT
- Results or in other way, the quality of outgoing students
- Rapid changes in the Information Technology domain
- Fast changing and escalating Industry needs and expectations
- Decreasing ethics in engineering and engineering education
- How to cater to the needs of millennial students?
- Maintaining outcome based education, amidst delineating admission strategies, policies and alluring tactics of managements.
Strategies to help the students excel in their subjects
A few strategies I would like to use for the advanced learners in my courses are enlisted below:
- Project based learning (in-house/real-time)
- Motivation to do research & development, by citing technological bottlenecks in solving real-world problems.
- Encouraging them to build prototypes of complicated and crucial technical concepts, that are like helpful examples to the other learners, in understanding those concepts
- Aiding them to peep into the open challenges in the technology related to that course and research for solutions
- Aiding them to solve end-lesson exercises of prescribed and standard books as assignments
- Motivating them to do advanced learning in same course or other industry related globally accepted certification courses to fill their quest for knowledge
- Motivating them to present seminars on the typical concepts, for sharpening their presentation skills
- Using / employing them to act as peer tutors, to teach their associated peer learners, where the expressive, explanatory, descriptive and preparatory skills will be sharpened
- Imparting Innovation, novelty and design thinking in the advanced learners may launch them early in to higher platforms in industry.
Challenges faced as the HOD in VVIT
- Pass percentage: This is a typical and peculiar issue, where some times with much effort it stands top and then becomes an uphill task to retain the same position. “A stone on top has the tendency to fall” as we all know. But keeping it there with varying factors is a real challenge!
- Resource Utilization: By using abundant and plenty of available resources, anyone can play the game, but for effective, efficient and optimum utilization of resources, it requires an extra, smart & hectic effort.
- Multi-faceted activities: Amidst most happening of all-round activities at the institute in general and department in particular, it’s an uphill task to control the over-enthusiastic students who have a tendency to fall behind in academics; as well as spoil the spirit of environment.
Curriculum ensuring best practices of the industry
Our curriculum is prescribed by JNTUK, we have very less flexibility to deviate from it. But anyway, the University curriculum itself is on par with the industry (Educational and Research-Development) requirements and standards. The autonomous status of our institute from this academic year A.Y 2019-20, is a promising season for incorporating more industry ready courses and subside orthodox and obsolete courses.
VVIT in general and IT in particular emphasizes upon the all round development of its students. So, we incorporated several additional co and extra-curricular activities that help them to shine.
Here are a few practices to reckon:
- Add-on courses through blended learning
- Training and Placement special activities
- Clubs for recreation and personality development
- Workshops/Seminars/Symposia/Short-Term Learning Programs/Summer Internships etc conducted with an objective to inculcate the industry standards to the students will serve the purpose
- Guest Lectures by the successful Industry people will instil the de facto standards of industry into the students
- Participation in Hackathons, project expos’, tech-events etc will impart the needed standards
- Traditional teaching-learning pedagogy with an addendum of innovative techniques will sure enhance the bachelors with the necessary graduate attributes
- Internships at top rated industry/institutes and industrial tours
- Feedback via Internal Quality Assurance Committee from students on resources is a continuous practice that helps to ensure quality of teaching learning and availability, usefulness of resources.
- Constructive , progressive, positive and continuous counselling and mentoring of students
- Impeccable, stern Examination and Assessment Processes
- Student-centric activities that are organized by them will enhance their leadership skills and let them experience the niceties of quality
Ensuring the quality of education in VVIT
Being a Coordinator of IQAC, I can proudly say Quality is the responsibility of every member of this institute. When everyone does their role perfectly, the quality will be ensured. As a rule and as a whole at institute level we have IQAC working with a regimental mission to ensure quality in every process of the institute and to take corrective measures if it deviates from the quality targets set by the chef-de-management-people of institute. IT department is running the IQAC cell.
A list of few processes that are followed to ensure quality education is here.
- Auditing infrastructural resources
- Auditing academic teaching learning activities
- Auditing the Assessment methods and evaluation strategies
- Assessing and training the students in industry relevant skills
- Sampling Feedback at periodic intervals and taking corrective measures
- Giving awareness among all stakeholders about the quality and its fruits
A row of issues where one should NOT take leniency in the
- admission policy
- infrastructure maintenance
- recruiting and maintaining faculty quality in terms of qualification and credentials
- comprehensive teaching learning methodologies
- continuous monitoring of student performance
- Balancing the industry-institute gaps and many more are there
Establishing a healthy relation with the students
A healthy and auspicious relationship must be maintained among the Teacher and Student as per the ideal scenario. In this millennial education system it can be made practical if every teacher treats every student as their own ward.
- I follow a policy to meet every student in person one-to-one to give an impact that I am here to help them at any situation.
- An amicable and amiable relationship with students will give them confidence we are with them.
- A stop and wait policy with the problematic students, may sometimes bring change in them if we patiently watch and wait and give incessantly preach for a good change in them
- A frequent and constant communication with the alumni students via social media and other means,
- Enquiring their where-abouts
- Knowing their successes
- Wising their achievements
- Suggesting and analyzing a right path for them when they are in dilemma
It’s all my way of establishing a relationship with the students even after they leave the institute with a degree.
Leadership philosophy of Dr. A. Kalavathi
In academic system leadership is inherent, as a teacher has to do, perceive, practice and experience before guiding the class of students or co-teachers in any activity. My motto in teaching learning is to assist the students/stakeholders, obey the orders of head of institution and respect the policies of management and strive for execution of those policies in my gamut of performance.
In an academic environment, an authoritative leadership with students will yield mixed results, killing their creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and their passions. According to the situations, a better leader in academic environment sustains by changing his style. Sometimes it requires to apply participatory leadership style and certain situations demand an authoritarian style, especially while dealing with students. So, my leadership style is a Situational/Hybrid style.
After taking orders from my Head-of-Institution, I exercise on creating clearly defined roles. I allow all my staff and students to know what they are required to do and what they will be receiving in exchange for completing these tasks. It allows me to offer a great deal of supervision and direction if it's needed. Staff members or students may also be motivated to perform well to receive rewards.
But I allow students to go an extra-mile without watching them, to encourage the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in solving the problems.
Suggestions for today’s youth
- I would like to suggest the youth and aspiring engineers to read the lives of more successful engineers/entrepreneurs/innovators/visionaries/researchers first, and then set their goals.
- Be in to engineering study by choice NOT by chance, there are myriads of options for you today.
- Engineering study is the lucrative field which gives immense contentment and commitment through the life by your works, if you fulfil.
- Constant practice with a zeal to achieve your goal will make you successful.
- “Smart work” should be the mantra of your study of engineering.
- Above all the most missing factor in majority of today’s unsuccessful youth is attitude. The feelings, outlook and thought process of them is detrimental to the society as well as to the orthodox Guru-Shishya system of education.
- Current youth are adept in technology usage and social networking, so I wish they succeed very quickly if they come to engineering, because users when turn into builders, can make miracles.