Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Dec 09, 2022 Updated 9 Days ago
The recently launched government-led AICTE (LITE) programme supports the professional development of teachers in engineering education
AICTE LITE: A promising government-led industry-academia partnership The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 identifies four broad categories for the use of Technology in Education. These include: i) improving teaching-learning and evaluation processes; ii) supporting teacher preparation and professional development; iii) enhancing educational access; and iv) streamlining educational planning, management, and administration. The COVID-19 pandemic provided the EdTech industry with the momentum to lift off and there are now a very large number of companies offering a wide variety of EdTech services, mainly in the teaching-learning category. Most of the solutions in this category are focused on ‘test preparation’, catering to students preparing for various entrance examinations for higher and professional education. There are also personalised learning solutions available for school students, in a B2C model in which parents pay. Many companies are also offering solutions for lifelong education, targeting working professionals and youth who are seeking to either refresh their skills or to re-tool themselves.

The word ‘online’ in the name was originally used to refer to live, synchronised, lectures but it is now used most commonly to refer to courses available on the Internet that can be accessed asynchronously and in a self-paced way.

Many of the institutional models in the teaching-learning category in higher education take the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The word ‘online’ in the name was originally used to refer to live, synchronised, lectures but it is now used most commonly to refer to courses available on the Internet that can be accessed asynchronously and in a self-paced way. Many universities, both national and international are offering MOOCs, with Edx launched by Harvard University and MIT in 2012 being an early example. Prominent government-led examples in India include NPTEL and  SWAYAM and more recently, the Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Programming and Data Science offered by IIT Madras which has as many as 13,000 students enrolled. Initiatives among private institutions have also gained a lot of momentum but recent moves by some EdTech companies to offer degrees in association with universities have been declared to be ‘not permissible’ by both the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), as of January 2022.

AICTE (LITE) Programme

Predictably, there are very few solutions for teacher preparation and professional development, particularly for teachers in higher education, being offered by EdTech companies or even educational institutions. One promising industry-academia partnership towards the professional development of teachers in engineering education is the recently launched government-led AICTE Leadership in Teaching Excellence (LITE) programme announced in June 2021. As described in the announcement, the genesis of the LITE programme was AICTE’s efforts to prepare an elite ‘National Engineering Leadership Cadre for Public Service’ during the pandemic, in conjunction with industry, consisting of full-stack developers who can create open-source software for digital public goods. A standardised software programming test for selecting students to this programme was administered to 50,482 students of which only 24 students qualified, an outcome that underlined some of the weaknesses in the education of these students. The successful training and deployment of the selected students, coupled with the global demand for highly skilled software engineers and the NEP’s goal of incorporating proven online teaching-learning methods into a large number of educational institutions, prompted the AICTE to announce the LITE programme in partnership with engineering colleges and universities, with the aim of training 100,000 faculty members and 24 million students.

The trained faculty members are expected to lead the introduction of a Minor degree (18-20 credits) in the area of their instruction at their home institutions, thus, helping to mainstream the curriculum and content developed by the industry partner into their classrooms.

Universities and AICTE-affiliated engineering colleges are invited by AICTE to sign up for the LITE programme so that their faculty members can receive training in new and emerging areas from AICTE’s industry partner Pupilfirst.org. The selected institutions and their faculty members would then become AICTE’s ‘Brand Ambassadors of Change’ and serve as change agents to bring in best practices in online education into their institutions, in line with the vision of NEP 2020. The trained faculty members are expected to lead the introduction of a Minor degree (18-20 credits) in the area of their instruction at their home institutions, thus, helping to mainstream the curriculum and content developed by the industry partner into their classrooms. The Minor degree is open to students from all academic disciplines at participating universities and colleges. In the first round, the industry partner has been assigned two topics that are in demand – Advanced Web Development and Electric Vehicles. Only one industry partner has been chosen so far by AICTE under the LITE programme. Through this initiative, AICTE is leveraging the considerable demand in the Indian industry for well-trained professionals in the chosen areas, to empower students and faculty alike. The first batch of trained faculty members serve as AICTE’s LITE faculty coordinators at their respective institutions and oversee student learning. In this task, they are supported by volunteer/paid teaching assistants drawn from a pool of students from previous editions of the course, available with the industry partner. Given that these courses are part of a Minor degree, the curriculum is required to be approved by the academic councils of each participating institution before the training can begin. The courses are delivered online and training for a joint second batch of faculty and students is currently underway. Faculty members who successfully complete their training are certified jointly by AICTE and the industry partner. The students will be assisted with finding placements. Training for faculty members is free of cost and there are many scholarships for students made available by the industry partner.

The featured courses from each Ed-Tech company are priced as per their own pricing policy but the company is expected to offer scholarships to deserving students.

The LITE initiative is managed through the National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) programme of the Ministry of Education, which has AICTE as its implementing agency. The NEAT is in itself an initiative that was set up by AICTE in September 2019, through which some of the best technological solutions in education pedagogies, offered by private Ed-Tech companies, and evaluated by AICTE, are made available to the students through a common platform. NEAT makes it easier for the student to choose courses since these are pre-approved by AICTE. The featured courses from each Ed-Tech company are priced as per their own pricing policy but the company is expected to offer scholarships to deserving students. It has a 3:1 scholarship ratio, so for every three students who pay the fees one student from socio-economically disadvantaged group is given a full scholarship. The enrolments and the disbursement of the free scholarships, are both monitored closely by AICTE. Selection to NEAT is through a double blind process in which quality of learning outcomes are given utmost importance. The LITE industry partner Pupilfirst.org is also a member of NEAT.

Room for improvement

As with any new initiative, there are a few small improvements that can be considered. For instance, the design of the faculty development programme (FDP) does not as yet include any special orientation for faculty members towards anchoring the Minor degree for students. This can be remedied quite easily by extending the FDP to cover not just the technical material but also the best practices in pedagogies for online education. At present LITE faculty members are nominated by their parent institutions which means that they may not necessarily have the time to devote to the course. It would be preferable to have interested faculty members volunteer for this task. AICTE’s ambitious goal of reaching 24 million students cannot be achieved solely through this institutional model. The process of signing up new institutions and training their faculty members is a fairly slow and cumbersome one. Ways of extending this learning opportunity to interested students from all around the country, not necessarily only those from the participating institutions, will need to be thought of. Lastly, this model of training will only truly be tested when non-IT subjects that require different pedagogies have also been catered to.

The faculty development programme is being conducted under the aegis of the AICTE Training and Learning Academy (ATAL) so that participating faculty members can get credits for the hours of training towards their own professional development.

The LITE programme is remarkable for being thoughtful in its conception. The curriculum, for both courses, developed by industry experts, have been declared to be ‘Model Curriculum’ and made available on the AICTE website. This move has helped many more educational institutions and their faculty members, even those that are not part of the LITE programme, to adopt the curriculum and offer it to their students, and this fact is borne out by the testimonials of faculty members at the participating institutions. The faculty development programme is being conducted under the aegis of the AICTE Training and Learning Academy (ATAL) so that participating faculty members can get credits for the hours of training towards their own professional development. This makes the training opportunity very attractive to them. AICTE’s effort to address the challenges of faculty development in areas of cutting-edge technology is laudable, also for the sustainable model that it has created. The many innovations in the design of the LITE programme will likely ensure its success. LITE incentivises teachers through the ATAL academy, students through industry-ready curriculum and jobs, and institutions by giving them more visibility. By making model curricula available to all institutions through its website, AICTE also contributes to the overall improvement of the quality of delivery of these courses across the country. Feedback from many faculty members indicate that they are happy to be teaching a curriculum that is sought after by the industry and is kept continuously updated. The LITE model is certainly worth emulating in other disciplines and with more open access to students.
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Contributors

Leena Chandran Wadia

Leena Chandran Wadia

Leena Chandran Wadia was Senior Fellow at ORFs Mumbai Centre. She has been leading the Mumbai Centres research and policy advocacy in education since 2010.

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Aparna Sivakumar

Aparna Sivakumar

Aparna Sivakumar has over 21 years of experience working in technology education policy and advocacy and community organising. She has a B.Tech in Computer Science ...

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