India witnessed a massive shift to remote communication in the wake of COVID-19 Crisis. Schools, Colleges, and Educational Institutions all around the world are using online learning platforms to continue the teaching-learning process. This move has changed the concept of education overnight, and digital learning has emerged as a necessary resource for education right at this moment of time. The rate at which Coronavirus has spread to different regions in India has forced the central and state governments to shut down educational institutions as a precautionary measure resulting in the disruption of the academic calendar. This problem is prevalent everywhere.
While closing campuses or moving entirely to remote have been necessary steps in slowing the spread of the virus among students and staff, these shifts have caused massive disruption to students, institutional operations, and institutional finances. The substantial financial impacts on colleges will ripple through local communities, given the broad economic role higher education plays in much of the country. Similarly, in India, unless contingency measures are undertaken, students looking for admissions in A.Y.2020-21 could face hard times.
While academic experts are pushing for online models of education – be it classroom teaching or tutorials, we are yet to see how effectively a nation that primarily relies on an offline mode of teaching can seamlessly transgress to an online medium of teaching and education. “Given the digital gap in India, how successful will the digital education model be in a country like ours? Will India be able to embrace learning anywhere, anytime? Will it lead to innovation in the field of education? As various initiatives need to be implemented and escalated further in and out of the campus so that there should be no hindering in case of educational learning and outcomes”, opines Anantrao Thopte, Founder President, Rajgad Dnyanpeeth Technical Campus (RDTC).
A Heaven of Learning
RDTC was established in 2009. The college is approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) New Delhi, Directorate of Technical Education (DTE-Mumbai), was recognized by the government of Maharashtra and affiliated to the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. Envisioning to be an Excellent Institution for Education, Training, and Research in Engineering, RDTC aspires to develop competent Engineers along with professional skills and responsible citizens. “We have been awarded three times at the national level with ‘Excellent Emerging Engineering Institute in Rural Area of Maharashtra State’ by CII, New Delhi in 2016, Best Engineering Institute in Rural areas by ABP News Channel in 2017, and Best Emerging Technical Institute Award-2019 by Dr P. V. Pawar Research and Innovation Centre, Nashik, Affiliated to Ballsbridge University, Roseau (Dominica)”, adds Anantrao.
Offering exposure to project-based learning right from the first year, where the emphasis is on the identification of problems, and devising technology solutions through collaborative learning, RDTC organizes many sessions where the students get to interact with the alumni of the college, working in different sectors of the industry, which give the students an idea about the current scenario of the industry 4.0, along with the various career prospects and job opportunities. “Industry 4.0 will change the face of the CNC machine, and with this innovative technology, roles, and tools will change. We have a CNC machine at our machine shop that is equipped with computer-aided manufacturing software. Students can quickly operate the control panels, which include web-connected programs specified by the clients”, opines Anantrao.
Coping with COVID
The spread of the pandemic has drastically disrupted every aspect of human life, including education. It has created an unprecedented test on education. As precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus, deliberate measures were taken at universities and campus levels to stop the spread completely. RDTC took immediate measures like bringing into the concept of Work from Home for Staff who are involved in Teaching and Training Students. The main challenge is to deliver the curriculum to all 750 undergraduate students. RDTC trained its faculty members in preparing quality educational resource materials for the students and in conducting live teaching-learning sessions through online platforms. Anantrao adds, “During the last six months, our faculty members have conducted close to 1000 online lectures for the undergraduate students. We conducted around 25 technical and nontechnical webinars for the benefit of our faculty and students”.
With the RDTC Campus situated far away from the city, major efforts were taken to send the student hostel resident, especially female students, to their homes safely. “It was a herculean task to make immediate arrangements for vacating hostel in which our Management and Staff Relentlessly gave their unconditional support. Currently, we are working with minimum staff on a rotational basis so that any administrative work can be done on top priority basis”, says Anantrao.
Taking centre stage in improving the educational structure that took a hit during these unprecedented times, RDTC is conducting regular online sessions, E-learning workshops, Awareness Programme, COVID related quizzes, food and shelter for the needy were provided during the lockdown. “Our Hostels were completely dedicated to the made into Quarantine centres for those who came into our Bhor Taluka place from the outside region. Lavish Infrastructure with 24 hrs electricity along with the place situated in a hilly area which is to be pollution-free was completely utilized”, states Anantrao.
Helping Students step into the industry
RDTC has been very proactive in providing every possible platform beneficiary to graduating students. The efforts are made in Collaborations and MoU, Industry- Internship to students, and Industry Sponsored projects. The institute has a record of consistent academic results and placement. Further ignition and fostering of entrepreneurship which have several initiatives, led to the rise of several leading business managers at state and national repute. With one-to-one interaction, grooming program, and mentoring by the faculty, we have fostered self-employment as an important goal amongst several students. “With MIDC, SME and full-fledged Training and Placement cell, Regular mock interviews, Training programs, group discussion with special emphasis on soft skills for the needful development of the students from the start of the second year itself are organized as an essential part of our academics”, point out Anantrao.
RDTC has started Research and Development cell (R&D Cell), chaired by the principal, industry member, and senior faculty members from each department and resource person. Research and Development Cell have initiated its action plan to encourage the faculties as well as students to conduct research-based activities. This cell aims to promote faculty members and students as well as to conduct a research survey in and around industries to cater to the needs to resolve associated industrial problems. “The institute organizes various workshops, guest lectures, conferences for enlightening the research environment. Institute has established Institution Innovation Cell (IIC) as per guidelines of AICTE, New Delhi, and MHRD to promote entrepreneurship through Industry Institute Interaction”, says Anantrao.
Intending to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship among its students, RDTC has come with an Entrepreneurship Cell that hosts activities to create awareness, mentor students, and assist them in getting financial support for their start-ups. “We have been fostering better linkages between Parent Institution, Industries and R&D Institutions in the region and other related organizations engaged in promoting small and medium enterprises including NGOs and other voluntary organizations”, adds Anantrao.
Promoting employment opportunities, RDTC effectively responds to emerging challenges and opportunities and aspires to inculcate entrepreneurial spirit and culture among the Science and Engineering graduates and postgraduates. Anantrao says, “We conduct programs in entrepreneurship enabling skills and skill industrial development programs with updated technologies to provide need-based consultancy services to industries”.
The institute consciously takes effort to cultivate creativity in the teaching-learning process. Industrial visits, Group discussions, and ICT classrooms with audio-video aids are used to make the teaching-learning process more effective. An innovative operating lab manual for each laboratory assignment/instrument is developed by faculty members and is made available to the students for use. The institute library has infrastructure and resources such as reference books, journal papers, E-Resources, NDL Membership, and DELNET membership for the enrichment of knowledge. “To enhance the technical skills among students, the institute organizes the technical event, ‘ANANT NIRMAL TECH FEST’, where the students can participate in technical competitions, poster presentation, and project competition”, adds Anantrao.
Providing Industry with Top-Notch Professionals
Having a Training and Placement Department that is fully functional and proactive, RDTC has placed more than 1500 students across India in the last few years through On Campus/ off-campus/ Pool Campus Drives. Around 80 Recruitment Drives are generally conducted every year. A total of 119 Placement offers in the first 30 Companies for RDTC students in the Academic Year 2019-20. “Reputed Core Companies like KSB Pumps, Alfa Laval, Godrej, Cummins, L&T Technologies, TCS, Godrej, and many others recruit our students. Also, our college T&P cell encouraged the students to participate in online registration for firms and to attend the job fairs and off-campus programs conducted at the institutional level”, adds Anantrao.
The Training and Placement (T&P) cell of the RDTC provides career guidance and organizes campus recruitment drives for the students. The T&P cell prepares the students for placement and overall development activities through various initiatives such as online assessment tests, soft skills development programs, Add-on Courses, Group Discussions, Personal Counseling, and providing Internship opportunities to all students to make them industry-ready. “The T&P Cell also arranges special coaching for Soft Skills and other competitive examinations. We have associated with Rubicon Skill Development Pvt. Ltd. which provides necessary training programs and conducts the assessment of the students”, says Anantrao.
With the students participating in various national and international level competitions, RDTC students have secured 57th rank in “Maruti Suzuki SUPRA SAE INDIA” at, Chennai and obtained 3rd rank in “Smart City Competition Pune” State-level Competition. Securing 18th place in “Hybrid Vehicle Design competition” at Noida, New Delhi, the students qualified in the “Smart India Hackathon 2017” competition. The student team has also participated in “Gokart Championship 2020” secured 2nd rank in the 150cc category and got the prize of Best Emerging Team. Supporting their students, the RDTC student team has participated in national and international level competitions like HACKATHON, SUPRA organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Gokart organized by Nexus Motorsport.
Shaping the Future of Business and Society depends more on the education system in general and higher education in particular and the institutions of higher education. Leveraging all existing academic activities and focusing on the major challenge of getting accredited by NBA, New Delhi, for all the branches, RDTC is looking to have major Tie-ups and collaboration with foreign universities and multi-access skill development platforms globally for 100% professional growth of students. “We are in talks of strengthening our CDC and EDC Cell to help students make their presence proactive in the global scenario”, concludes Anantrao.
Anantrao Thopte, Founder President (RDTC) and Ex. Education Minister, Maharashtra State
Founder President of Rajgad Dnyanpeeth Trust, Anantrao Thopte is the Ex Education Minister of Maharashtra. He served proactively as a sensible politician with a total serving experience of more than four decades. He has collectively worked at different portfolios right from education minister to transportation and animal husbandry department. He has played a pioneering and proactive role in the establishment of our institution. He has been involved in the process of social, economic, and political reform in Maharashtra and especially around the Pune region for the last 40 years. His visionary leadership to established academic activities from KG to PG under one roof has made our institute a name of pride in serving effectively and efficiently in the field of technical education. He implemented multidimensional activities to enhance and enrich our academic endeavours. Our institution is working very hard under his strong leadership to reach the zenith by improvising innate qualities, adopting innovative ideas, acquiring new skills, and implementing new techniques to overcome our weakness and thus strengthening the institution.