Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) has recently come up with a new syllabus for its upcoming 3rd semester students. We would like to express our sincere appreciation for the university's
progressive approach in specifying Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS)
in various courses in its newly updated syllabus. It is indeed
heartening to see the commitment to providing students with a diverse
and inclusive learning environment that reflects the evolving landscape
of technology and education.
However, we express our concern with regard to the proposed lab titled "Data Analytics with Excel (BCS358A)" for the 3rd semester students of CSE and allied branches. Specifically, the curriculum mandates the use of MS Excel, which is classified as proprietary software. We would like to express our support for the use of FOSS based tools in this course, especially in a government-funded university like VTU.
While we understand the need for standardized tools to ensure a cohesive learning experience, we believe that mandating a specific software, in this case, Microsoft Office, may inadvertently limit students' access to a diverse range of tools that are widely used in the field of data analytics. It is essential for students to be exposed to various platforms and tools to enhance their adaptability and prepare them for the evolving landscape of the industry.
Several open-source alternatives, such as LibreOffice, R Studio, Julia and Bokeh etc, provide robust functionalities for data analytics and are widely adopted in both academic and professional settings. Mandating a specific software may pose challenges for students who may have limited access to Microsoft Office due to financial constraints or other reasons. Additionally, Microsoft Excel and other Microsoft Office products are only supported on proprietary operating systems, which represents an additional licensing cost.
We encourage the university to consider the national policy on Open Source Software as outlined by the Indian Government. The Indian Government recognizes the importance of skill development for employability. Many industries, both within India and globally, prefer candidates with skills in FOSS tools for data analytics. Integrating these tools into the lab would better equip our students for the demands of the job market.This initiative not only aligns with national goals but also empowers our students with the skills needed to contribute to India's digital future.
We kindly request the university to reconsider this mandate and consider offering flexibility in the choice of tools for data analytics operations on spreadsheets and to modify the curriculum where students have a choice to choose FOSS as an alternative to proprietary software like Microsoft Excel.