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Author : DR UMA CHITRA
"A teacher from Kasturba Gandhi Degree & PG College for Women, Secunderabad, who is now at Kansas State University, USA as a Fulbright Visiting Faculty, gives an insight into academic life on US campuses.
As I bit into my Hershey's chocolate I suddenly realised that I had only a few minutes left for my class to begin. I rushed down and my graduate students were already in class. But I didn't have to worry as my power point was already uploaded on the W drive, and in a minute it was up and running.
As I began my lecture, Chelsi dug into her rotini and grape salad, but she continued to listen as did the others. The classroom in the United States is very informal but no less competitive or intense. As I continued my lecture, Rachel looked up from her laptop and raised her hand. She had a query. I answered her and then continued. It made sense to answer questions during class rather than at the end by which time the question might be forgotten.
I logged off the system and moved out of my paperless classroom. Well, academic life in a US university is in contrast to universities in India where focus is more on long lectures without much involvement of students.
The academic year in US consists of two semesters beginning in August and lasting through May. During the final two years of undergraduate study, college students specialise in one subject which is called a major.
Graduate study is the advanced specialised studies leading to a master's degree or a doctor's degree and emphasizes preparing students for research or for professional practice. The typical requirements for a master's degree include successfully completing 32 to 36 credits of graduate courses, including a minimum of 20 credits in the major field of study; maintaining a minimum average of grade B; writing a thesis; and passing examinations in all required courses.
The method of teaching in most colleges and universities consists of lectures supplemented by reading assignments and class discussions between the professor and students. Mid terms and assignments are held during the semester and the student is assessed on an ongoing basis. The instructor offering the course grades the student and there is no external or other faculty involved. Every course is worth a certain number of hours or credits, depending upon how many hours of lectures, class meetings, and laboratory work are offered each week.
Many graduate schools make assistantships available to candidates for graduate degrees. Assistantships are, in a sense, paying jobs. Sometimes the assistant is paid in cash; sometimes he/she receives free tuition for his services.
Assistantship duties range from grading papers to serving as a laboratory technician to teaching freshman courses or doing specialized research.
Grading systems vary among institutions.
Many employ the first five letters of the alphabet to denote levels of achievement. To receive full credit for their courses, students must maintain an average of grade ‘C', considered a satisfactory level of academic work. ‘B' denotes above-average or superior work and in most graduate programmes a grade of ‘B' is considered the lowest satisfactory grade. ‘A' indicates excellent achievement. ‘D' is a passing grade, but denotes lower-than-average work, and ‘E' or ‘F' symbolizes completely unsatisfactory work. A student who receives an ‘E' or ‘F' as a final mark fails to receive credit for the course.
At K- State I was using K State Online- an internet based learning management system which transforms the everyday classroom into interactive web sessions for K State's students. This enabled me to upload course content including syllabus, lectures, modules and handouts onto the course homepage which could then be accessed by the students.
These students were lucky- they didn't have to take or make notes. I could also communicate with the students by e mail using the roster.
There was also an announcements page to post announcements and grades could be entered into the grade book. Whenever I wanted to communicate with the students urgently all I had to do was to post an announcement on the course homepage.
In turn the students could send me their assignments through this unique system and I could read it at leisure. I could also review these and send them back. This was fast and environment friendly at the same time.
(Fulbright Visiting Faculty, Kansas State University, USA)
Source : The Hindu