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What ails OJEE’s e-counseling system?

We regularly hear of scary stories about aircrafts. Ditto with Indian Railways. In the last few months we are witnessing massive protests regarding widespread corruption in the Indian democratic system. What is our reaction to such situations? Do we ban air travel, stop plying of trains, or invite some other country / person to run the country. No way. Drastic steps are never the solution to a problem.
That’s the essence and relevance to the headline.

Many well-meaning stakeholders of the engineering education in the state say that the e-counseling is the prime cause and should be done away with. The solution lies in strengthening the loop holes, rather than throwing the baby along with the bath tub.
The e-counseling system was mooted in the first place about 5 years earlier to make it simpler for the students – who used to travel from different places to Bhubaneswar to get admissions in engineering colleges. In the process they and their guardians incurred significant costs and went through significant inconveniences. In that backdrop a progressive idea emerged to use technology to provide better service to the students.

That essentially is the context. Certainly today technology is very advanced and mature, and such solutions can be deployed successfully. In that sense e-counseling as concept is a step in the right direction. However like everything else in BPUT / OJEE is had been experienced a Tughlaqesque jinx. Simply put good ideation, pathetic execution. Which has become the norm, not the aberration.

Coming to facts, earlier a student used to spend three days of her/his time [including travel time] for outstation students and about six hours of her/his time for students from Bhubaneswar & neighbouring places. In the revised format, the e-counselling process is taking 4-6 weeks and the student may need to go to the cyber café or centers 3-4 times. In the process there e-counseling becomes both longer and more tedious. What us much worse is that, in the earlier system, the student by the end of the 2-3 days new for certainty the college and course where he would study. In the current system, the candidate is in a quandary till the very end.
This is a distressing case of technology not being the means to an end, but probably a fad. In no why are we giving a better experience to a student that what we gave earlier. It is obvious that there will be dis-satisfaction.

But the solution is not to junk the idea of e-counseling. The solution is to strengthen it. If we go back to the earlier system, the ills of the previous system will remain. What we need to do is to design and deploy a system that solves the ills and does not create newer problems. Blindly using a solution used by AIEEE and IITs is not the solution. Firstly, their situation is probably different from ours. The downside of a poor system there, is not loss of admissions. So our context is far different. Secondly, technology enables latter users to learn from the mistakes from the first movers and leapfrog to a better system. We don’t necessarily have to ride the learning curve of the first movers and make the same mistakes. This goes back to the oft articulated problem of poor program management [read execution].
We have two choices now, one is to bring in reinforcements to strengthen the system – bring in well designed, pilot tested, risk managed systems. The other is to indulge in a blame game and regress back to a decade old systems and relinquish the opportunity to be a leader and set the trend. In any new systems, there will be challenges – but the challenges need to be addressed through diligent risk assessment and mitigation programmes. That is the need of the hour.

e-counseling is a step in the right direction. Thanks to the then Vice Chancellor the idea was pushed through. This is one of the very few areas that Odisha was ahead of its peers. It is easy to predict, in days to come; real time e-counseling systems will come. Technology has advanced far ahead and these solutions will get deployed sooner than later.

Sept 10, 2011


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