Interview: What will IIT Madras’ first online BSc programme be like?

Interview: What will IIT Madras’ first online BSc programme be like? Prof Andrew Thangaraj and Prof Prathap Haridoss, programme in-charge
Abhay Anand | Jul 16, 2020 - 4:52 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has launched the first ever online BSc course in programming and data science. The programme is open to anyone who has passed Class XII, with English and Maths at the Class X level and enrolled in any on-campus undergraduate course. Graduates and working professionals can also take up this programme.

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This online course will be offered in three different stages - foundational programme, diploma programme and degree programme. Students will have the freedom to exit from the program and receive a certificate, diploma or degree -- depending on the stage after which they exit -- from IIT Madras.

Andrew Thangaraj and Prathap Haridoss, in-charge of the programme, shared their plans for the programme, launching it during the coronavirus outbreak and why they believe it will help remove barriers in education.

Q. What is the objective behind launching an online degree programme in data science?

A. This is the world's first online BSc degree programme which removes different types of barriers in running a course, like the number of students in a programme. There is no system of entrance exams for this course. Students can straight away enrol for this course and after one month there will be a qualifier exam, where they can check how they are doing and make a decision if they wish to go ahead. The fee for the first month is very nominal, which covers the cost of the examination at the end of the month.

Q. Has IIT Madras recruited a different set of faculty to teach this programme or the regular faculty of the institute will deliver?

A. The regular professors of the IIT Madras will teach, we will also have some guest faculty from other IITs and also some industry experts. It will be the responsibility of the IIT Madras faculty to deliver the programme, and most of the work will be done by them only.

Q. Is the number of seats fixed for the programme?

A. We have not fixed any upper limit like we will take only these many numbers of students for the fundamental level, for the first one month course we even open to four-five lakh students enrolling for the programme. While after the test on completion of one month the numbers will progressively go down. But at the entry-level, we have not fixed any limit and we have the capability to handle a large number of students.

Q. What is the fee structure of the programme. Is it on par with the B.Tech fee?

A. There are different fee structures for the first, second and third year. For the first month, it is Rs 3,000 for the content and the exam. Then, for the first year, it is Rs 1,000 per credit, which will make it anywhere around Rs 32,000 for the first year. For the second as the students require deeper understanding and knowledge, we are charging Rs 1.1 lakh and for the third year also it is the same. Students will also have the option to exit after two years with a diploma and then they can also come back whenever they want to join back.

Q. When are you planning to start the enrolment for this programme, this academic year?

A. We have been working on this programme for the past year, we have plans to start it this year. We can also start with the content and the learning part but the monthly exam has to be conducted at a centre near to the candidate, while because of this coronavirus pandemic we are facing challenges in this area.

Right now we are planning to start it somewhere in September or October.

Q. The HRD Minister, while launching the programme, said that this programme will attract foreign students to India. How hopeful are you about that?

A. Foreign students are important to us and this programme will very much help us in attracting foreign students, but right now as the exam centres are in India only, we are only focusing on Indian students.

Q. This programme will also require practical exposure like internships. How do you plan to do so?

A. As there are going to be a large number of students so it will not be easy to find an internship for all of them, we will try to get an internship for top students. If there are going to be a large number of students it would not be easy to get all of them placed.

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