With the increasing number of institutions, it is becoming difficult for the students to choose good institutes that will give a boost to their career. There are number of propositions that nowadays institutes make to position themselves in the market and attract more number of students and quality faculty. One of the luring statements is academic rigor, excellence and value added education practices. Here I have tried to discuss on academic rigor often claimed by institutes, its myths and reality. It may be of use to the students and faculty in choosing the right institute.
The importance of academics is well understood by everyone both in academia and industry. Information and knowledge are essential. Systemic knowledge comes though academic process or training and learning. When we think of training the students for better and enhanced knowledge and skills for a specific period of time the term academic rigor is often cited. But several times it is also misinterpreted. The number of hours spent in teaching, use of attendance software, punch cards, use of learning management software, number of examinations is often wrongly referred as rigorous academics.
Why institutes focus on academic rigor
The role of an educational institute is to provide the best academic knowledge to its students. It helps in brand creation over a period of time. Now with increasing competition among educational institutes to sustain and create a position, institutes have to focus on some core value adding activity. It helps in acquiring a prominent position in the industrial community which helps the institute in placements and other value creating activities. Over a long period of time the brand image of the institute increases and helps in bringing quality intake.
What is rigor?
Academic rigor is not limited to class teaching and learning. It’s an academic process through which a piece of academic work is rightly understood thoroughly and carefully. Over a period of time a rigorous curriculum improves the ability to think critically hence develop a complex reasoning and other academic skill set of a student. Academic rigor as a process is planned and executed to achieve desired value at the end of the course. The process of academic rigor differs for different sets of courses and different subjects and also for different student groups. Rigor as a process is driven by the instructor but the at the same time carefulness, seriousness and continuous commitment are the key for its successful implementation.
- Out of the several myths and misunderstanding about academic rigor a few are
- Academic rigor is difficulty.
- Rigor is quantity of content
- Rigor is more number of hours of study
- It deals with 100% attendance and all online systems.
Is it necessary?
In a competitive and dynamic environment a professional needs the analytical, reasoning skills to excel. For students to get a job and perform academic rigor helps. In a professional course like business education rigor not only teaches the curriculum it also enhances their ability to excel in job. An institute which thinks of enhancing the benefit for its student’s lifetime and along with its own academic standards has to focus on academic rigor.
How to achieve academic rigor
At the core of it is the faculty. Each subject has its own curricular objective. A faculty designs the objective and to achieve it designs the proper session plans. He also determines the breadth of the course, pedagogy and the evaluation pattern. The level of sincerity a course demands can only be brought through the efforts and dedication of the instructor. It’s the passion of the instructor which drives the rigor of the course.
Few things to be taken care of for academic rigor:
1.Care for creating an updated and comprehensive curriculum.
2. A realistic focus.
3.Customized evaluation to cover most of the aspects of the course and student skill set.
4.Skill enhancement through engaging activities.
5.Setting reasonably high expectations from students and helping them to achieve it.
6. In-depth course coverage.
7.Use of IT when required to reduce unnecessary paperwork and improved utilization of time.
Since faculty is the core of the process and his passion for the course has a lot of role to play in achieving academic excellence it’s also the responsibility of the faculty to prepare well. The below mentioned points should be kept in mind:-
1.Faculty should be well prepared for class.
2.He should be knowledgeable about the latest industry practices.
3.Faculty should be updated and should have hand on experience.
4.Should have good communication skill.
5. He should clear the doubts of the students.
6. Should experiment and explore new innovative ways of teaching for better understanding.
The role of the institute is to facilitate the academic rigor for its students. Some of the pointers that an institute should keep in mind are:-
1. Its widely seen that faculty driven institutes excel in value creation to the students and follow highest degree of academic rigor. So faculty should be given the utmost liberty in terms of learning and delivery of knowledge.
2. A faculty should be provided with all sorts of resources to update and upgrade his knowledge.
3. He should be given adequate time and required resources for developing systematic knowledge.
4. He should get incentives for his output in terms of academic research etc. along with academic allowances.
Role of Institute in establishing academic rigor
1 Develop an annual target for faculty in terms of academic research output for first 5 years.
2. Develop a rating mechanism for the course taught by the faculty to help him improve.
3. Ensure faculty participation in national and international conferences and workshops and development programs for knowledge sharing and enhancement.
4. Faculty should be free from non value adding administrative tasks like examiner duty etc.
5. Excellent faculty incentive should be there for academic and research outputs and other academic allowances should be in place.
6. Faculty should be given reasonable academic freedom when required if justified like conduct of class, mode of exams, pattern of evaluation etc.
7. Institute should ensure that a certain reasonable level of uniformity in mental standard should be there among the students
8.The faculty should be the last authority to evaluate his or her student in his or her respective course.
9. A healthy relation with the industry should be facilitated to help faculty learn from practices and carry it to class
10. Promoting a light and joyful learning environment works as a tonic for academic growth
Above all here the basic assumption is the faculty is provided all academic resources and time and reasonable level of peace of mind to concentrate on his area of teaching and research.
Ultimately it’s the passion of a trainer and the culture of an institute to practice academic rigor and excellence. A continuous and sustained effort to achieve academic excellence and rigor should be aimed at which benefits students, faculty and the institution in the long run.
The author , Jayant Kumar is an Assistant Professor Strategic Management in College of Management, University of Petroleum & Energy Studies, Dehradun. For more information on university and courses, click on UPES Dehradun