Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Proposed Curriculum

Here it is... the much-delayed proposal for a curriculum (see previous posts). I've procrastinated far too long, but packing up an entire house should be some excuse. Before I begin, the abbreviations I use are:
PC - Preparatory Course, an elementary course in a student's field that is required for the more advanced CDCs. An example could be Discrete Mathematics for a Computer Science student.
CDC - Compulsory Discipline Course, a required course for students majoring in a discipline. A CDC typically covers one field in reasonable depth, though not as much as a specialised elective. CDCs roughly correspond to 'higher-level' courses at several universities. Microelectronic Circuits might be compulsory for Electronics students, and Statistical Mechanics for Physics students.

Further explanations will be required, but it will probably help to see the curriculum first. I have listed courses in a semester-wise pattern, with between 18 and 20 credit hours per semester. One course is listed per line, with the number of credit hours in parentheses.

First Semester
Mathematics I (3)
Physics I (3)
Chemistry (3)
Biology (3)
Computing I (3)
Engineering Workshop (3)
Methods I (2)

Second Semester
Mathematics II (3)
Physics II (3)
Applied Mathematics I (3)
Measurement Techniques (3)
Computing II (3)
Engineering Graphics (3)
Methods II (2)

Third Semester
Mathematics III (3)
Circuit Theory and Introduction to Electronics (3)
Engineering/Science Elective I (3)
Humanities Elective I (3)
PC 1 (3)
PC 2 (3)

Fourth Semester
Applied Math II(3)
Engineering/Science Elective II (3)
Humanities Elective II (3)
PC 3 (3)
PC 4 (3)
PC 5 (3)

Fifth Semester
Four CDCs (12-14)
Applied Math III (3)

Sixth Semester
Four CDCs (12-14)
A systems / lab course (3)

Seventh Semester
Six electives (18-24)

Eighth Semester
Project/Practice School

A long series of explanatory notes is obviously called for, so here goes.

Numbering: Why are Preparatory courses numbered 1, 2, ... while Mathematics Courses are I, II, ...? As I said in earlier posts, one of the goals of this curriculum was to increase the amount of choice available to students. A Roman numeral after a course indicates that it is part of a series where the student has a certain amount (sometimes more, sometimes less) of freedom to select individual members in the series.

Mathematics: Mathematics I, Calculus is required of all students. In addition two more pure mathematics courses (6 credits) are required to cover Algebra (2/3 credits), Differential Equations (2/3 credits) and Complex Analysis (1 credit). A student can select as his first course either Math IIa (3 credits of Algebra) or Math IIb (2 credits of Algebra and one of Complex Analysis). If he has chosen Math IIa, he will have to take Math IIIa (1 credit of Complex and 2 of Differential Equations); else he will take Math IIIb (3 credits of Differential Equations). A student may choose either path depending on his interests or preferences, or on what he believes will prepare him better for future courses. Departments may recommend a stream for students of their major, but it can only be a recommendation, not a requirement. As an example, the Computer Science department may recommend Math IIa as better preparation for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science. On the other hand, a chemical engineer might prefer to place more emphasis on differential equations than advanced linear algebra.

Physics: Two physics courses are required, but students can choose from one of two streams. The first provides a general introduction to mechanics, electromagnetic theory and optics at a level slightly above high school. The second covers selected topics in greater depth: introductions to fields like relativity and quantum mechanics may be provided.

Computing: The first computer science course is common to all students. It provides an introduction to computers and computing, operating systems, programming, etc. The second course has two avatars: the first on programming, with topics such as file I/O, and the second covering abstraction, basic algorithms and data structures. Students hoping to major in Computer Science or related areas would be required to take the latter course; all others may choose.

Applied Mathematics: A three course sequence covering Probability, basic Statistics, Numerical Methods and Operations Research (including Optimisation techniques).

Methods courses: I cannot describe these better than Timothy Burke does in his proposal for the 21st century college. Note that Measurement Techniques (in the second semester) is also essentially a methods course, but it is named in the curriculum because it is required of all science and engineering students. The other two may be selected from a subset of those Tim Burke lists, with the proviso that either Reading or Writing must be chosen.

Engineering/Science Electives: This is one of the more complicated parts of the curriculum. Every student must, in his second year, choose two courses outside his own discipline from basic sciences or engineering fundamentals. Every department must offer one or more courses that meet this description, forming a pool from which students select. Typically, preparatory courses for students of one discipline could fill this elective slot for other students. Thus, Microprocessor Design and Interfacing is a required preparatory course for Electronics students (and hence cannot fill this elective position), but could be an elective for a Chemistry student. The idea is to provide a student with an elective slot to pursue an 'outside' interest, and/or expose him to a technical area he might not have otherwise studied.

Humanities Electives: To round out the sophomore year, a student must take two courses from a pool of humanities electives. These may include History, Economics, Management, Music, etc. The same rule applies here as previously; a student may not select a course that would normally be required for his major.

Every student is also required to do several preparatory and advanced courses from his own discipline; this is usually a minimum of thirteen named courses (in addition to some that may be common to all students) and a few electives. The seventh semester is reserved entirely for electives; students may use them for advanced study in their own discipline and/or to explore interesting areas in other fields.

I'll post a sample curriculum for a Computer Science student soon, but I'm done with the basic outline. I'd love any feedback: criticism, suggestions or compliments. (Note: compliments are especially welcome!). I may not be able to respond immediately, but I will reply to all comments.

Before I forget, the credit (or blame! - ed.) for this proposal isn't entirely mine. I really have to thank Karthik Narayanan, Sohini Roy, Divya Devarajan, Prof. Sundar Balasubramaniam and Prof. G. Sundar from BITS, Pilani for all their time, ideas, and help in various forms.

1 comment:

Ranjith said...

I've always has a problem with the Physics n Chemistry... is it *really* required ?!! Why not make them optional too... :) ??

http://www.cse.unsw.edu/undergrad/programs/index.html

Maybe students who dont want to be so *exploratory* can he given choices of selecting a curriculum like the Software engg curriculum at UNSW ?! Well, why not?