When Dharamashi Rabari, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering and Applied Science, a Thermodynamics expert and enthusiast, visited Olin College of Engineering in 2018, he was fascinated by the courses on offer – History and Materials, History and Chemistry, History and Physics, and many more. Inspired by these, he read Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. The book identifies 17 groups of molecules and narrates how they have greatly influenced the course of history, providing the impetus for early exploration and future discoveries. Professor Rabari says, “I read and studied history for the very first time. It was very interesting to note how Napoleon's army perished because they could not sustain the cold temperatures as the tin buttons of their coats turned to powder. That's called Entropy Thermodynamics, I said to myself!” When he returned to Ahmedabad University, he decided to explore history and thermodynamics as a combined Independent Study Period (ISP) course for his students in collaboration with his colleague from the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor Aparajith Ramnath, whose research interests lie in the history of science and technology. In Winter 2022, they offered Thermodynamics in Historical Wars as an ISP course.
Ahmedabad University’s innovative initiatives such as the Foundation Programme, Engagement and Application Based Learning and Education (ENABLE), and ISP are building the foundations of a dynamic and strong 21st-century education in India. Recently, these highly impactful innovations in teaching and learning have been recognised internationally with two highly prestigious awards. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) presented Ahmedabad University with the Innovations That Inspire Award for 2023 for its Foundation Programme. Parallelly, the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards Asia 2023 recognised it as a Highly Commended University for Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year. Ahmedabad University received THE’s unique distinction for its research-pedagogy design and unique learning initiatives, underscored by the Foundation Programme, ENABLE, and ISP.
How these Innovative Learning Practices are Impacting Learning
ISP at Ahmedabad University is a set of hands-on winter term courses offered by experts, practitioners, and pioneers in various fields beyond their choice of discipline. It allows students to explore their passion and go beyond the classroom, making their academic learning truly interdisciplinary and conceptual understanding more experiential. One of the ISP courses, Exploration in Paper Pulp, offered by ceramic artist Snehal Kashikar gives students an understanding of materials on environment, individual behavioural pattern of usage, and pitching paper as a sustainable living solution.
The ENABLE initiative, quite literally, enables students to learn on their own through various techniques such as Project Based Learning, Flipped Classroom, Discovery Based Method and more, with the faculty acting as facilitators. One of our ENABLE courses, Digital Experience Design blends digital practice, technical skills, and narrative building techniques to train students in archiving, interpreting, and designing digital experiences.
Juhi Bansal, Senior Associate Director, Centre for Learning Futures, that offers the ENABLE and ISP courses, says, “Our ENABLE course Digital Experience Design builds on that digital practices are altering the way we archive, interpret and communicate knowledge resources to diverse audiences. Hence the need for understanding design and digital experience is crucial. Another of our highly popular ISP courses, Clues ‘The Truth Finder’: Solving the Crime, offered in Winter 2022 by our forensics expert, Professor Ritesh Shukla of the School of Arts and Sciences, makes students aware of the significance of clues and its role in the forensic investigation process and also prime them to prevent becoming a victim. We are facilitating an experiential learning process for students with a dynamic classroom approach.”
One of Ahmedabad University’s most unique pedagogical initiatives is the Foundation Programme. All students entering the undergraduate programme at Ahmedabad University undergo this common core which builds the foundations of interdisciplinary learning and engages with issues of society through project-based learning. The Foundation Programme is built around six domains that define contemporary academic and life skills in the 21st century, areas of innovation that are transforming the world, and perspectives that help you become a responsible member of any society. Parag Patel, Senior Associate Dean, Amrut Mody School of Management, says, “The Foundation Programme, which was envisioned as the heart of our undergraduate education, is uniquely tailored to nurture future thinkers and leaders of the 21st century. It symbolises our focus on sustainable business and responsible citizenship.”
Vice Chancellor Pankaj Chandra says, “We are a 21st century institution with a vision to build academic and life skills. We understand that solutions to large problems of society lie at the intersections of different areas, not in silos, and this drives our unique and forward-looking approach to education. Today, more than ever before, we need thinkers who are contextually aware of their roles in society and we believe that’s what we are doing with our learning initiatives. It delights us that the world recognises such an education to be essential in today’s environment.”