What are Electives?

Electives are courses or subjects that students can choose to study based on their personal interests or career goals. Unlike mandatory or core courses, which are required for graduation or to fulfill specific academic requirements, electives provide students with the flexibility to explore different areas of study outside of their major or core curriculum.

Defining Electives

IIT Madras offers a wide range of disciplines and specialized programs. By selecting courses that suit their interests, career objectives, and ability, electives give students the freedom to tailor their education. Students can customize their educational experience and gain competence in a variety of subject areas owing to this customization. In an institute of national importance like IIT Madras, offering programs in diverse streams and subjects, electives promote the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach, enabling students to think critically, make connections across disciplines, and tackle complex problems from a multidimensional perspective. IIT Madras offers a diverse range of electives spanning humanities, social sciences, management, entrepreneurship, and more - this arrangement opens up avenues for students in engineering disciplines to delve deeper into these domains, and complement their core subject knowledge.

Why Electives?

Many JEE aspirants across the country spend 2-3 years preparing for the exam, that would ultimately land them in their dream institute. In the years that go into studying and preparing oneself, one has to devote their complete focus to mastering the concepts from the science stream that form the syllabus of the entrance exam, therefore leaving them negligible time to explore other subjects or areas of study that they might be interested in. IIT Madras recognizes the importance of nurturing students’ curiosity and supporting their individual growth. By offering a variety of electives, the institute encourages students to develop their unique talents and explore their potential beyond the confines of their core curriculum. These electives are also aimed at making students industry-ready with a versatile skill set and knowledge base, boosting their employability. Electives in emerging areas such as data science, artificial intelligence, sustainability, and entrepreneurship help students acquire their desired careers. IIT Madras encourages students to pursue research in their areas of interest. Elective courses often provide a platform for students to work closely with faculty members and peers from different disciplines and gain research experience in the same.

How to assess and choose Electives?

Students may often have doubts about the relevance of electives to their core course in terms of pre-requisites or outcomes; or about the quality of the course and the instructor. At IIT Madras, the course registration portal displays all such particulars at the time of registration, to give students an idea of what to expect. A reasonable time frame is set for the registration process, giving people the opportunity to interact with others about the course and the instructor. The slot system ensures that students may opt for electives that do not overlap with other courses. There is no question of inability to pursue an elective since the curriculum prescribes it in the first place. Cons of electives such as work overload is overcome by the add/drop option available to students, often into the middle of the semester.

Electives at IIT Madras

The curriculum for B.Tech. and Dual Degree students has been revised to include many more electives. There is a significant increase in the number of electives that were allowed in the old curriculum. Students have flexibility in choosing electives from other departments starting as early as in their third semester. To enable students to have a choice in electives that they wish to pursue, all departments are requested to allow (a fixed number of) students from other departments in all their courses, including core courses. Many branches prescribe Humanities electives in their curriculum and the Humanities Department offers electives across disciplines like economics, literature, foreign languages, history, politics, international studies, sociology, statistics, etc. Similarly, different departments offer their department electives, some of which may be exclusive to students of the particular department and some which will be accessible to all, called free electives. For instance, electives such as AI and data science are department/free electives offered by the CSE department.

How do electives translate into a minor degree?

There are self-study elective courses and minor stream electives, in which students may pursue up to 4 electives in a specific domain and claim a minor degree in it upon graduation, helping students create a wider roster of careers for themselves to choose from. These may act as boosters on their resumes while applying for internships and jobs, and they might even acquire a major in the subject in the future. Adding to the advantages, electives that align with personal interests can contribute to overall personal growth, satisfaction, and well-being. For some, an elective course might be a recluse from the daily grind of the routine core courses. Engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment can enhance overall happiness and positively impact academic performance.

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