Life Skill Courses at IIT Madras


Here is an exciting new development in recent years that you should know about and contribute to!
It all started with some discussion during my batch reunion in 2010 in which when we met, we realized the fact that there are things we are wiser about today than yesterday when we reflect yesterday today. What was not taught or introduced at IIT but you ought to have learnt. We all meandered through our lives post IIT days to find the sea of wisdom. Reflecting, we realize that had we learnt some of these life skills and tools early, we could have run our rivers of life better.

By then, one of our seniors, Devadas Menon, had started on a mission to give a taste of what it means to be self-aware through a curricular course offering. I felt that it is better to give this wisdom at the grassroots level and first introduced a course in the first year of College in the regular curriculum which is now called Life Skills in 2013. Though the name looks pedagogic, the aim of this course is to recognize that a complete engineer is not just about the technical prowess alone but also the ability to comprehend the world and cope with it. This was the central idea of the course preparing one to deal with the world outside and to deal with herself/himself sowing the seeds of such thoughts in the student early enough. The course has features that we wanted to build in terms of student centric learning. Thus, started courses offered that are strictly a part of the curriculum that come under the realm of development of the individual personally and professionally. They are called the GN category courses (General Category) and have become hugely popular since they were introduced about a couple of years ago. Once the purpose of the GN course is established, the next task is to design courses that cater to the ‘engineer is also person’ concept. Can you believe that a group of IIT student now wear an empathy hat and go around the campus looking for a problem? He /She doesn’t stop there, goes all the way to even implementing the ideas in the campus! That too as a team!!
We have had rave feedback from many students who have taken these courses. In fact, now, as many as 1500 students (apart from the freshers) routinely show interest in registering for these courses. There is a huge demand for these courses.

The Institute has so far been supporting Guest faculty appointment for the above and in addition, we have a contingent of alumni who are participating in offering some of the above courses.

Not being associated with any department, the Office of Dean Students generally takes care of all logistics of these courses. There is a need for funding resources in relation to materials, Teaching Assistants, GN courses administrator, honoraria for one off lectures by resource persons, etc.

We estimate an annual budget of about 10 to 15 lakhs for this purpose. (TA payment, honoraria for one off sessions by resource people, GN course administrator, materials). An endowment to cover this will go long way in sustaining this effort.

- Dr Sivakumar .M.S (former Dean students, IITM) 

Some of the GN category courses offered past few years are:

GN1101/GN1102 Life skills I & II for the first years focusing on two aspects of campus life namely, Getting along and coping with change.

GN6101 Strategies for Professional Growth – this course introduces topics that will help student understand how to cope with the world outside once she/he is out of the campus. Topics such as Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Mgmt, Cross cultural understanding, creative thinking, listening, design thinking, art of questioning, reading skill etc. This is a huge burden lifted off the shoulders of corporates who come to campus for placement in terms of finishing school training.

GN5002 Discovering Creativity / GN6110 The Purposeful Engineer – these courses stress on owning one’s own creativity. It is about understanding that a problem needs to be owned before we attempt to solve it. The student wears an empathy hat and goes around the campus looking for a problem. Once a problem has been identified he learns the process of creativity by going through each of the following steps. Identify the problem, seek information, redefine the problem, generate ideas, choose ideas, shape the ideas and implement ideas. This course is very structured and helps them learn that creativity is a deliberate act.

GN6111 The Purposeful Engineer – the emphasis is on serving the world at large and seeking meaning in being an engineer. The student is encouraged to solve a world problem thereby helping him understand his usefulness to serving a larger cause. For this we ask students to pick a problem from the 14 grand challenges and research the problem and present an implementable solution.

GN6106 Habits, Happiness and Success –The essence of the course is "Does success cause happiness" or "Does happiness lead to success" + How can keystone habits like (exercise, meditation, good sleep, helping others, gratitude) contribute to happiness. This course is offered purely in an experiential mode by Alumni thanks to the effort of Prashanth Vasu and Sriram Kalyanaraman.

GN6109 Fostering Enriching Relationships – High quality relationships are central points in our existence. Higher incidence of social isolation and loneliness that are called the new ‘epidemic’ is a cause of concern. This introspective and practical course on building, nurturing, and sustaining enriching, deep friendships intends to create opportunities for learners to develop meaningful relationships through the course.

GN6002 – Lets Play to Learn - What if we can create a world where studies/learning & play/fun need not be seen as opposites, but are one and the same. With this premise, the course explores various kinds of games and play forms possible, like, Puzzles & Brainteasers, Game shows, board and card games, quiz like, simulations, other tools of interactivity. The ability to work individually as well in a group are essential needs for this course. Kartic and Preeti have curated this fun filled course.

ID5101 – The Innovative Entrepreneur 1 – Customer discovery
ID5102 – The innovative Entrepreneur 2 – Launching your venture

This two part course is an Immersive entrepreneurial experience for the students. Part1 is about customer discovery. Customer segment and value to him/her plays a pivotal role in survival of any initiative. Part 2 focusses on maturing the ideas and customer segments identified into an executable venture.

Many more…. More on the anvil!!!

Life Skill Courses at IIT Madras

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