Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The New-New IITs

The present central government announced several new IITs and IIMs after coming to power about a year ago. If the recently released IIT-JEE brochure is to be believed, four of the new IITs will start their operations from the coming semester in July/Aug 2015. These are:
IIT Chhattisgarh at Raipur
IIT Goa at Ponda
IIT Palghat
IIT Tirupati

However, I'm unable to find any website for these "new-new" IITs. The decision to start them without any director, faculty, infrastructure, land allocation seems to be a bit bizarre (only IIT Tirupati seems to have been given land); bit of a deja-vu from 7 years back when the then HRD ministry gave orders to start IITs in a similar way. Some of those newly started IITs are still struggling due to these systemic problems and the Indian government has once again refused to learn from the past.

On a personal note, I'm particularly excited about the IIT coming up at Goa. I love that place for its natural beauty, clean air, and relatively free way of life. If IIT Goa gets a good director and a good start, I will be very happy to move there.

EDIT: According to a recent news article in TOI, it seems IIT Goa does not start its operations until next year. A sad development.

Screenshot of the JEE brochure

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

On Skype interviews

A large number of faculty candidates in the IITs are people who are presently based abroad. It is usually difficult to fly back every time one wants to give a research seminar or a job interview and hence the concept of Skype seminar started.

I personally hate giving a talk on Skype, but find it equally convenient to have an interview / regular chat via video conferencing.

An interview works like a usual Skype chat. Some people sit around a table with a mic in between while your video is projected on the screen. A talk, however, is atrocious to say the least. The way I delivered my talks were via screen-sharing. I shared my screen with the audience and had my slides on full-screen. Then I went through the slides very slowly, speaking very slowly, explaining everything through the motion of mouse pointer.
The biggest drawback was that neither I could see the audience, nor the audience were able to see me during the entire 35-40 minutes. I thought that this created a huge communication gulf and was no better than watching a lecture on YouTube. In some IITs, I was asked some really good questions after the talk which gave an impression that not everything was lost and people did understand at least something :)

Some observations of the process:

  1. Skype based interviews are much relaxing as compared to the physical ones. You can sit on your favourite chair, wearing your favourite shorts (with a decent shirt/top/tie), stick some useful quotes on your monitor (such as keep smiling, speak slowly).
  2. Speak very slowly. Most IITs have a slow internet connection even in today's age and occasionally the voice can be muffled. In fact, at some places the people even asked me to turn off my video to save bandwidth :)
    (Oh IITs, how can you be premier institutes of technology while having pathetic internet speeds?)
  3. Learn to use your computer effectively. Some software (such as Okular on Linux) allow you to use your mouse as a pen in presentation mode. I use it a lot while giving presentation when I'm not allowed to use my face and hand gestures.
Having said all this, I would always advice to spend some money and fly back to give a physical seminar whenever possible. Face to face communication is a way more effective technique in getting the job one strives for.