On multiple occasions, people generally discuss the educational systems in their respective countries and compare and contrast with the one here in the Netherlands. The US, being one of the most favoured destinations for higher education, especially in STEM fields and a favourite topic and many of my friends back from India are in the US currently pursuing their Masters or have graduated already and working. They usually don’t understand it when I tell them, ‘Im really busy with assignments this week.’ They compare the study load to their own and think I might be overrating it. Let me clarify today, the workload we have here in general and explain how (almost) awesome the coursework is.
I will take an example of the last quarter, Q3. I took the following courses:
- PV Technologies (4 ECTS)
- Intelligent Electrical Power Grids (4 ECTS)
- Economic Policy for Sustainable Energy (4 ECTS)
- Systems Integration Project (technically 0 ECTS with shitloads of weekly work)
- Business Development Lab (5 ECTS)
Be warned, PV Technologies is an insanely intense course with lots of edX video content to watch, 2 seasons (courses) load of Prof. Arno Smets and Prof. Rene van Swaaij talk about the underlying technology and related concepts of how solar photovoltaic cells work, lots of notes to be made, and a lot more of numericals and instructions to solve. This was the only course which had no mandatory weekly submissions in this quarter, yet packs an awfully strong punch at the end right before exams. 4 x 45min sessions every week in the class in addition to those 2 seasons of edx episodes. (PS. We weren’t given solutions to many of those numericals, even after a quarter long fight in their pursuit!)
Intelligent Electrical Power Grids took some time for me to get adjusted to understand the basics of power systems and grids. There is one weekly submission of an assignment report that entails studying the impact of an addition or pulling out of a generator or a load or both in a grid and simulate the results. What happens if you add a wind turbine farm to a grid with 2 coal plants and a large number of households? What if this is an onshore or an off shore wind farm? What happens to grid frequency if a generator is suddenly pulled out? What happens if someone tries to hack the network by feeding wrong data? What happens to a grid with PV if there is a sudden cloud cover? You will find out the answers to these questions and more through the use of MATLAB, Simulink, and OpenModelica softwares in your assignments. Quite an intense but interesting course with an MCQ based exam in the end. (PS. Be prepared to spend 1-2 annoying days every week on working out these assignments.)
Economic Policy for Sustainable Energy was one of the courses that I was most looking forward to, given my area of interest in Energy Policies and Economics. This course requires 2 chapters of reading followed by 2 quizzes based on those chapters every week. In addition, there is a numerical solving based assignment approximately for every 2 weeks. In the end, there was a group task with a unique question to each group followed by its presentation and discussion in class. While this is manageable, the interesting part is doing this in addition to the above-mentioned courses together, minding the unique submission dates and times for every assignment!
Systems Integration Project. The first thing that annoyed me the most was lack of credits for the work we did in this quarter. There was an assignment for this every week with certain specific questions to be answered by working out on MATLAB and Simulink. The objective for this quarter in SIP was to design a battery in Simulink for the final SIP in Q4. (which you will end up changing it by remodelling and resizing in Q4 because it was simply not good enough!). This would take us around 1- 1.5 day to work on every week.
While here end the 12 ECTS planned in this quarter, I took an elective Business Development Lab to feed my entrepreneurial curiosity and develop functional skills. This 5 ECTS course has a 4 hr session every week that has short lectures followed by active work sessions in the classroom. Working on developing an idea and a business plan building around the exact problems and needs of the customer, developing a marketing plan, go to market strategy and a revenue model to capture the value in the market were the final objectives in this course. Of course, our friend, the weekly homework, was to work out on a given task for the week and discuss its results with the profs in the following lecture and take feedback. The final deliverables included a short and interesting Business model, presentation, a group report and an individual report. Phew. (PS. I did come out with flying colors in this course!)
If you have started your journey on this course, be prepared. But I enjoyed this intense, action-filled learning process and wouldn’t mind having more of it! I will talk about life in quarter 4 soon after I finish my Q4 exams!