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Q&A: Tech interventions needed to create project-based learning, says IIT Guwahati director

Posted on Monday, July 22, 2019

Newly-appointed director of IIT Guwahati, TG Sitharam speaks to Priyanka Srivastava on strategies needed to take the institute from being a tower of excellence to a network of excellence

What are the objectives and plans as you begin the journey as the new director of IIT Guwahati?

My first priority is to harness the power of partnership with emphasis on solving local problems with national and international participation. I would like to take IIT-Guwahati (IITG) from being a ‘Tower of Excellence’ to a ‘Network of Excellence’. We need to build a resilient institute with uncompromising autonomy and excellence. To achieve this, I would focus on key partnership with the society, industries, public sector companies, and government projects to tackle and address major challenges in the north eastern states and the country as a whole. Personally, I titled the changes and plans to be brought in as ‘IITG transformation framework’, which involves research and innovation, academics, society, students and faculty.

Most new IITs have introduced unique pedagogies and innovative courses. How do you plan to take this forward?
IITG will leverage the internet, ICT infrastructure, digital content, social networking and interactions to create new forms of education. This is being already thought of and IITG has created a new infrastructure with state-of-the-art classrooms and also contributed to MOOCS-based courses, online content and text books.
How do you plan to expand it further since this sector needs more professionals?
The IITG Center for Educational Technology with multi-disciplinary facilities has been involved in many mission projects of national importance focussed on north eastern states like GIAN, NPTEL-MOOCS, SWAYAM, etc. We will focus to achieve highest synergy between education, human development and technology in north eastern states through collective research, design and development of educational/pedagogical content through collaborative, multi-disciplinary teamwork. The ambitious mission of IIT Guwahati will focus on innovatively designing/orienting the present pedagogy adopted at school/college mainly through flipped learning, active learning by integrating lectures, experimental activities and demonstrations (LEAD) and Inter-organisational linkages by integrating IITG with the focussed stakeholders at all the North Eastern region state and school/college level. 
How do you plan to expand the research programmes in IIT Guwahati?
We are coming together by networking with other IITs and CFTIs to solve the research problems. We plan to focus on the areas of water, disaster preparedness, AI, etc in addition to high-tech areas of nano technology. We will expand our activities of rural technologies and dissemination of the technologies to rural masses by adopting five villages in Assam to make them smart villages.
Though IIT Guwahati has made its presence in the QS and Times Higher Education Ranking, do you plan to push the ranking further up in the coming time?
The only drawback of IITG is that the number of international students and international faculty is low. We are introducing innovative plans to increase their presence. In addition, we are increasing branding, perception and presence on social media along with a clear plan to increase ranking.
Since the Institute has a separate Centre for Rural Technology, do you plan to support the locals through this?
The Center for Rural Technology at IITG was established in 2016 to promote multidisciplinary activities relevant to rural sectors. We coordinate with the NGOs, voluntary organisations, R&D institutes to address rural issues which will lead to rural development. Innovative bottom-up efforts are required for holistic development of the two-third Indians living in rural areas which is also indirectly linked to other broader issues like environmental sustainability, social divide, various forms of violence and human right violations etc.
Please tell us about the Centre of Disaster Management, planned to be launched at IIT Guwahati soon
We are planning to start Centre of Excellence for Disaster Preparedness and Water Management. The Centre will be of great help for integrated land and water resources management with basin-wise approach. The group will expand its activity to fulfil the requirements of pragmatic water resource management in the Brahmaputra River system. Strategies and measures for short term and long term protection from floods, earthquakes, landslides and fire hazard damages in the North East will be developed.


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