An Exclusive Interview with Dr.P.Nagabhushan on E-Box Colleges - Director, IIIT Allahabad
Q1. Tell us about your 15 years of experience in mentoring E-Box team?

I have to start with a brief on background. Dr R Pradeep Kumar worked with me for PhD. He was a candidate with learning intentions. He was committed to go deep with his research. He was critical and I observed that he could be a creator. It was resonating with my vibes that Engineering college education has not been happening the way it should happen. It was missing in knowledge assimilation and accomplishing skills that needs to be in a technocrat for being able to solve an engineering problem, and thus to create new knowledge. With the type of classroom teaching, and so called practical sessions, and the rot examination systems the desired target would not be achieved.

The first seed was sown in this period with such brainstorming discussions. After PhD, although he had many offers, he decided to venture on his own and the hidden seed started sprouting. He and Ms.Punitha entrusted their student partners Mr.Sivarakrishnan & Mr.Pradeep Duraisamy on this idea. That is how E-Box got its birth. They were all knowledge partners in this saga.

I enjoyed reviewing this development. It has gone through many phases and versions. The team used to come together, stay with me in our home and we would discuss for almost infinite lengths in time. We have elaborately discussed several times on phone calls.

E-Box is not a parallel tutorial model. It is developed as a model to fulfill the needs and addresses all the gaps in the conventional teaching model. It aims at blossoming a learner into becoming a full and an all round technocrat. It enhances the technicality of a learner.

I am pleased to be a mentor of such a team which has great concern for the welfare of upcoming generations and in contributing to the growth of India.

Q2. Why is E-Box important for higher education?

E-Box is not a wholesome substitute. It is a blend to raise the effectiveness of a campus ecosystem in multifolds. A good teacher in the backdrop can make e-box supplemented teaching into a more effective way of learning. It provides a great learning experience. The very objective is not to prepare a student for examination, but to make him a technocrat / an engineer.

E-Box provides a platform to the learner to pick up the foundations and build the learning from the level of foundations and navigate a learner to realize that he is capable to apply the knowledge to solve problems.Put in a more simplified form, E-Box ensures learning, and intelligently pushes a learner from a basic level to the next levels and then to the advanced level and so on until he has experienced learning. Concurrently the intelligence backbone provides a smart management of the entire track of learning. The E-Box brain monitors the progress of the learner, understands the pace and also the difficulties encountered by the learner. It intelligently navigates him in a proper learning direction. There is one more dimension, which is an intelligent integrated tracker which records the pace of learning. All these learning acumen are parameterized to generate the learning profile of every candidate. This provides a continuous and cumulative record of learning curves of every candidate. Here the very objective as a highly personalized assessment of a learner takes place without the learner experiencing / understanding that he is being assessed.It is not subjecting a candidate to the torture of conventional end semester examination. But it is a real sensible assessment in continuous mode – the true continuous assessment. What is cherished is continuous learning and automatic continuous assessment of learning profile. Learnability is enhanced as it is also measured as well as monitored.

All the above said, intelligent process can be possible if and only if proper content – that is learning material is made available in a structured way. This is where subject experts / good teachers are required to prepare the material / content.

A teacher should be able to provide an insight and a planned exposure to the content in the classroom and should trigger the enthusiasm for a learner to understand the content and apply the content. This basic cycle of understanding, applying and hence able to create is made possible by E-Box which provides a personalized teaching-learning platform to a candidate. E-Box provides an integrated solution. It realizes an intelligent integration of:

  1. Expertise in creating the structured learning content
  2. A monitoring and presenting system to the learner which understands the pace of learning and gradually unfolds a learner into a well planned sequence of hierarchical learning step-by-step
  3. A built-in capability which promotes a learner and also pleasantly challenges him to discover for himself, his accomplishments in the learning process.
  4. A friendly tutor and a critical supervisor in terms of providing a constructive feedback to the learner during his formative learning
  5. As an impartial evaluator which records the learning profile of a candidate that helps to accomplish the fool-proof assessment of a learner.
Q3. What are E-Box Colleges?

Many colleges have understood the limitations, and hence the drawbacks in practicing the conventional teaching in classrooms and practicals in so called laboratories, and which have experienced that a technocrat coming out of such institutions is still remaining incomplete, although he/she may still manage to get the same job. They have been realising that it is time to fix the gaps and perform as Engineering institutes in true sense imparting knowledge and create real sense technocrats. The colleges are trying to blend the advantages that E-Box could offer. Such colleges which have realized that a value addition is required in accomplishing a true sense completion of engineering education and that could be possible by seeking the support of the very creators of E-Box have joined together to make a consortium to offer E-Box supported teaching – learning and adding value to enhance technicality of a learner. The colleges which are members of such a consortium at which shall blend the engineering education with E-Box learning are E-Box Colleges. Time will prove that E-Box Colleges will be incomparably different. The colleges will not search means to get their students employed. On the contrary, Employability index would go very high because technical ability of students would be very high.

Q4. How different will be E-Box colleges from normal colleges?

Normal colleges cater to university examinations. Perhaps the breadth and depth of learning would be decided by the old question papers. The students learn ‘What to write in examinations’ rather than learning ‘how questions should be understood and how answers have got to be derived’. Ultimately also in such colleges, students try to learn ‘how to get a job’. No doubt such colleges are 9 Am to 4 Pm type of colleges. On the contrary, in E-Box colleges, classrooms in college would instigate a learner, trigger him and entrusts him. He will explore learning using E-Box. E-Box is a close ally and a companion for the learner. E-Box will be with him beyond conventional college hours explorating learning, learning to solve and learning to understand and internalize would happen. This results in creating technologically sound engineer who need not try to seek a job because such competent technocrats are always required as they make dent as performers. Teacher will not be correcting the answer books, but E-Box assists them in assessing every learner impartially and continuously. The quality time of a teacher is thus saved and would be utilized in strengthening the subject content and in creating the inquisitive challenge for a learner to be put into E-Box. The E-Box in itself is not a static supplement, but a dynamic entity which simply aims in making a learner a critical creator.

Q5. Can you throw more insights on the differentiators between Human Driven Campuses vs AI Blended Campuses?

I have spoken in great detail as answer to the previous question.AI blended campus is blended in all senses. A teacher is pleasantly challenged to keep the learners on their toes. A learner is challenged to become problem solvers, rather than just rote-learning on what to write in the examination.

A teacher realizes that a lot more can be taught to a learner beyond a classroom through E-Box as he/she is the contributor to the quality content in the E-Box. A learner gets the right feedback and enjoys an impartial assessment without getting ‘harassed’ by the tests and test schedules.

Q6. What's your roadmap as a Mentor & Advisor to E-Box Colleges?

I want to emphasize that there is no shortcut to learning and perfecting. During the student life, one has to learn to be a lifelong learner. I would love to be associated to understand the real role to be played by the college and also motivate the E-Box team to continuously keep on extending the horizon of E-Box

If my long academic and research experience could make the institutions in presenting the creation of a pleasant world for next gen humanity, then I would be very much contented. I would be highly pleased if I can motive E-Box team to go deeper and deeper with their noble ideas.

Q7. E-Box Colleges to E-Box Universities. What's the Future?

We should categorically understand that affiliating universities’ sole job is to conduct examinations and they cant create true sense learners and particularly professionals such as Engineers. At the same time, Autonomous shouldn't be for Dilution. It's sad to know many Institutions become Autonomous to dilute their process and improve on their pass percentage which is not the aim of Engineering education.

Institutions should become autonomous and administer creativity in learning, ensuring continuous assessment and assessment all time, any time and any where. Assessment should also aim at providing constructive feedback. This strength shall result in E-Box supported / E-Box supplemented colleges with autonomous learning-teaching infrastructure. For the smooth administration of such institutions, a E-Box University shall get shaped. However it should be noted that E-Box University is not a body to assess a learner because teaching-learning-assessing are integral part of an autonomous E-Box supported institution. E-Box University will be a facility creator. It looks into planning, monitoring and realizing effective learning process.With revolutionizing changes happening and with proactive governments, no wonder E-Box University should happen sooner.

The first step is already put in that direction with the happening of E-Box Colleges. The next step is that all E-Box Colleges should be part of real sense autonomous E-box institutions. This will be a bold step towards the creation of E-Box University in near future.

Q8. Your message to Engineering Aspirants?

Dear Engineering Aspirants,
At the outset, I should strongly convey to you that you should not join engineering, just because you can get a job. You should not be a job seeker.

You should be a quality technocrat. You should be a highly skilled problem solver. The moment an employer speaks to you he should feel that his team would be incomplete without you.

You should be an Engineer because you are passionate about it. You cannot become an engineer by rote-learning ‘what to answer in an examination or test’ . You should learn ‘how to understand, how to analyze how to solve and how to answer’. Your aim should not be at the salary package that you would get but it should be towards the possible impression and dent that you would cause as a great creator and a contributor. You are capable therefore you will be a performer. Don’t underestimate yourself. You are a silent lake with a lot of talent that can cause ripples. Focus on understanding, internalizing the foundations, developing capabilities to interpret and to solve the problems. Apply yourself.

Most Important – Practice Self-Respect, Self-Discipline – Self confidence

Q9. Your message to the Parents of Engineering Aspirants?

Dear Parents,Please don’t insist on deciding the future of your ward. He / She has his own heart, his own mind and he has his own brain. He is also capable of thinking how to plan for his own future. Listen to him. As parents let us become facilitators. We shall make the runway but we will not dictate in what direction he has to fly.

Please don’t decide an institution based on if it has a capable campus placement center which can get your wards a job. Believe in the capabilities of your ward. Have trust in him. Next four years of engineering is very precious. Allow him to learn. Therefore choose such institutions which would encourage and enhance Learnability.