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NPTEL - IIT Madras - offers online course and certification in Programming, Data Structures & Algorithms

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NPTEL - IIT Madras - offers online course and certification in Programming, Data Structures & Algorithms

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Last updated on 11th June 2014

Course details in a nutshell

  • Duration - 10 weeks, 2 to 3 hours lectures per week + assignments

  • Certificate exam at the end of the course is an in-person proctored exam (supervised exam to ensure academic integrity)

  • Expected charges: online teaching (+ assignment evaluation, I presume) - FREE, certification exam - Rs. 2000 (less than 34 US Dollars as per current rate of around Rs. 60 for 1 US Dollar), so total expected charges (from online educator - NPTEL) is less than 34 US Dollars (computer/laptop & Internet charges have to be managed/borne by the student).

  • FREE teaching service of NPTEL is made possible by funding from Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

I was overjoyed to visit this link today,, and also see the embedded video. The around 5 minute video has experts/leaders from industry and academia talk about the online course followed by certification, in Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms, conducted by NPTEL.

Some points from my going through the above link:

  • The online course is free for all and the certification exam has a nominal fee (maybe around Rs. 2000 (currently 1 US Dollar is around Rs. 60. So Rs. 2000 currently is less than 34 US Dollars). [Ravi: That is very, very affordable. Fantastic!]

  • The Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms online course is aimed at undergraduate college students of any engg. or science stream in their 2nd year or above, but it is open to everyone (as per my understanding of the FAQ). [Ravi: Terrific! So even commerce and arts students who are willing to go the extra mile to pick up any math needed for the course, can do the course and get the certification. I am really overjoyed to know about this.]

  • The online courses certification portal,, is powered by Google who is partnering NPTEL for this effort. NASSCOM members like TCS and CTS have participated in syllabus and content creation. [Ravi: In the embedded video a NASSCOM leader (executive director) talks about job opportunities (employment facilitator, job ready ...) opened up by these certificates. I find that very exciting. I mean, now any graduate or under graduate student who wants to acquire a NASSCOM recognized certificate in this software development foundation course, has a very affordable means to do so, provided he/she has the requisite aptitude and is willing to do the hard work necessary to finish the assignments and clear the certification exam. Software companies may start recognizing this certificate as a key statement of software development foundation skills having been acquired by the certificate-holder, if the assignments and certification exam are good in testing and validating the skills of the student. As it is an academia-industry collaborative effort any lapses, especially in the initial course executions, can be fixed via suitable feedback. Industry run in-house training courses for freshers in the mid 80s had, and it probably continues to have today, a strong feedback mechanism to ensure that suitable skills needed by industry are imparted to students. (I underwent training for COBOL programming and Systems Analysis for 4 to 6 months - 5th and 6th month being more on-the-job training type (in 1984), and then was a trainer in COBOL programming for a fresher batch (in 1985) in my first company, Datamatics Consultants in SEEPZ, Mumbai, and so have direct experience of industry training in programming for freshers).]

  • Course duration: 10 weeks; 2-3 hours of lecture per week; involves online assessment & programming assignments; has in-person proctored examination (supervised exam to ensure academic integrity) with certification. [Ravi: 2 to 3 hours lecture time per week should not be a problem for any interested (and Internet connected) student. The first weeding out test will be the programming assignments. Only those who are able to follow the lectures, have the aptitude and make the time & effort to finish the assignments will be able to continue on in the course.]

  • A sample certificate is shown in the above link. [Ravi: The certificate mentions the course name, "Programming, Data Structures & Algorithms", and has the names of IIT Madras, NASSCOM, MHRD and NPTEL! That makes it a pretty impressive certificate, IMHO.]

From the dates info. provided on the site, it seems that the first batch of students doing this certification course will appear for the certification exam in July 2014. Hopefully, NPTEL will share statistics of how many students enrolled, how many continued through the course and took the certification exam, and how many passed the certification. Even if the first time numbers are small this effort MUST be continued as I think it has tremendous potential for giving vital certified software development foundation skills to any interested Indian (and non Indian too perhaps), college student or non-college-student.

I heartily applaud and congratulate MHRD (govt. ministry funding NPTEL and providing top level policy directives, I guess), NPTEL, IIT Madras, and NPTEL's partners like Google and NASSCOM (members like TCS, CTS ...), for this wonderful initiative, and pray to Almighty God to shower His Grace on these efforts.


Update on 11th June 2014

As I thought about it more and discussed it with some locals in Puttaparthi, I find that my enthusiasm and excitement over the course has not ebbed. Puttaparthi locals face a lot of problems in terms of availability of affordable higher education facilities (the free Sathya Sai educational institutions have limited seats for which there is a lot of competition from all over Andhra Pradesh state and also other parts of the country). Now Puttaparthi locals can consider a combo. of an affordable science (or commerce but with some additional Math learning on their own) degree programme in a govt. funded college and combine it with this certificate course in Programming, Data Structures & Algorithms from IIT-Madras, to give them a decent chance at competing for a software job or even a non-software job which might involve some programming.

For the computer/laptop and Internet facility, I wonder whether the many Internet cafes in Puttaparthi can offer a special package where they make the computer and Internet facility available for a few hours (at less busy times) some days of the week at affordable cost to local students. Elsewhere in small-town-India (and similar other countries) the situation may be similar.

Overall, I think these kind of very affordable (virtually free from higher education provider but with computer & Internet costs to be borne by student/parents), certified courses from top-notch higher education brands like IIT-Madras in collaboration with industry (e.g. NASSCOM) are going to be an awesome game-changer that will democratize the job-oriented skills teaching part of the higher education field (i.e. make it accessible to lower middle class and even some of the poor people of the country).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

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