Subha, doing her second-year graduation in an arts and science college in the city, has lost all interest in attending seminars organised at her college. She would have attended just three or four in the two years. “Very rarely do you attend a seminar out of interest. We are forced to go as attendance is marked. At least when it is a non-technical seminar, the speaker must be interactive,” says Subha.
Seminars, whether they are department, national or international level, have become an important feature in college curriculum. They are aimed at creating an interface between the students and the industry representatives and to enrich understanding of a subject. But, are such sessions helping bridge the gap or are they just becoming an exercise for a college to show the number of seminars conducted?
For students, it is the speaker that matters. They say colleges should also consult them on the choice of the speakers. Nitish, a final-year engineering student, says every semester a department-level seminar is conducted. But he does not have much to say on what he has taken back from them.
“They may be senior executives from the industry but not many have a hold when addressing students,” says Nitish. While there are information and communication tools other than PowerPoint presentation, which can add value to a talk, experts say it requires more effort from the speaker.
V. Seshadri, group advisor, Mohammed Sathak College, finds fault with the syllabus, which is why students sometimes do not assimilate a technical lecture. Sri Sai Ram Institute of Management Studies has one speaker every week who addresses students on a topic, where students have to take notes and feedback is also encouraged. Experts say figures such as number of students who attended or the profile of a list of speakers cannot be parameters to decide if the seminar/talk was received well. A “quality benchmark” is essential in any such initiative, with a balance of speakers from the industry and academia.
“You have to benchmark such initiatives with credit points, where weightage for the knowledge provided and skills imparted is assessed through the feedback collected,” says S.P. Thyagarajan, pro-chancellor, Sri Ramachandra University. He says that parameters such as content, presentation methodology, communication skills of the speaker, interactive session and innovation of the speaker should be accessed by the audience. Whether the speaker has provided any handout material also matters. And students should be given credits only if at least four hours of academic transaction has been attended in a day.
“Most of the statutory councils follow such “quality benchmarks”,” says Prof.Thyagarajan. He adds that such benchmarks are looked into by the accreditation council.