Go for self-service libraries, automated grade submission
All documents in the IIM Lucknow (IIM-L) library are barcoded. But soon, the premier institute will implement radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to enable users to "self-check and self-issue" documents at any time of the day as well as return items without library staff assistance.
“The hardware for the same is already in place,” an IIM-L spokesperson said.
IIM-L is just a case in point. All the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are increasing their IT investments to manage the increasing number of students and bring down the overall costs of operations. Among other initiatives, for instance, IIM-L has used a green stone digital library (GSDL) system to convert its in-house publication in digitised format. The GSDL is developed by the University of Waikato, New Zealand and distributed as open source by UNESCO.
“We have already implemented a campus wide area network and some of the new hostels are wi-fi enabled. Also, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is under progress,” Murali A, who looks after IT deployments at IIM-L, said.
The solutions are expected to help IIM-L meet deadlines more effectively and improve employee skills and productivity, as well as bring down cost of operations. Team Synapse, IIM-L's student-run IT body, develops and maintains various applications for the institute community right from pre-admission mentoring stage to placements and beyond.
Its ‘Ignicion’ initiative has helped mentor over 2,000 IIM-L aspirants this year through group discussions and personal interviews by preparing them to clear the last hurdle for admissions. Learning and content management systems such as 'Claroline' and 'Joomla' are used to manage online courses at its Lucknow and Noida campuses, and on the student intranet portals respectively. IIM-L's in-house developed placement portal also helps students and recruiters by automating and streamlining the placement process.
At IIM Calcutta (IIM-C), some of the processes of the post-graduate programme (PGP) office has been automated through a custom-made software by HCL Technologies. A web-based application on JSP platform with an Oracle backend, the software is called 'academic management system' and is being used to automate three processes — attendance, grade submission and feedback submission. IIM-C spent close to Rs 90-95 lakh for the software from HCL.
The key objective of the entire IT implementation was to reduce clerical work in the office, reduce costs and speed up operations. Also, given the fact that the PGP office is understaffed and student strength is increasing all the time at IIM-C, this software had become a necessity.
"The post-graduate programme (PGP) office records attendance of each student at each lecture. The software helps compile this raw data at the end of each term. It also helps identify which students are missing the mandatory attendance requirement and how much penalty is to be imposed. Earlier, this compilation was done manually," Rahul Dasgupta, head of IIM-C's internet solutions group, said.
Also, the software helps IIM-C faculty to now submit grades of various courses through the online interface. There, they have the facility of defining the cut-offs for each letter grade, and the system takes care of the rest. Also, once they hit 'submit', the grades get stored in the central database which can later be easily compiled for calculations.
The software has also helped automate the course and faculty feedback submission system. Earlier, this was done on paper and, again, compiled manually. This application has helped the PGP office ensure a 100 per cent feedback submission rate from the students.
IIM-Bangalore (IIM-B), on its part, is investing in implementing an open source software to help with grading, assignment submission, dissemination of course content, among others. IIM-B is also investing in virtualisation of the university and upgrade it from its existing VMware platform.
IIM Kozhikode (IIM-K), on the other hand, is conducting research on the possibility of implementing a content delivery network (CDN) system in its laboratories to make efficient use of the existing network bandwidth.
"The institute uses a base budget of Rs 70-80 lakh. The purchase, use and renewal of proprietary software require additional costs. The remaining budget is mainly used for the purchase of IT infrastructure equipment like network components and laboratory PCs," Ranjit Radhakrishnan, the IT representative at IIM-K, said.