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Learning material for IIT courses goes online in Phase II

Started by sajiv, Jun 14, 2009, 12:53 PM

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Learning material for IIT courses goes online in Phase II

CHENNAI: A year ago, the IITs went the YouTube way. With a fresh grant of Rs. 96 crore being sanctioned by the Union government last month, the Indian Institutes of Technology are now a step closer to creating a virtual technical university.

The National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning, or NPTEL, a joint venture between the seven older IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, is now ready to implement the second phase. In its first phase, NPTEL put 240 engineering courses developed by IIT professors online, including over 3,600 video lectures available on YouTube. This is the world's largest repository of technical courses in the streaming video format.

Now the second phase will make 600 more engineering and science courses available to anyone with an Internet connection. "These course materials will become the base content for a virtual degree programme in three to four years," says Mangala Sunder Krishnan, a professor of Chemistry at IIT-M and the national web courses coordinator for the NPTEL project.

The first-phase courses were largely for undergraduate courses in five engineering disciplines — mechanical, civil, computer science, electrical, and electronics and communication. In the second phase, 400 courses will focus on other engineering disciplines, advanced level basic sciences and electives in emerging areas such as nanotechnology. The remaining 200 will enhance the offering in the five original areas, with courses at the MTech, MS and PhD level.

"This will complete the repository for a few disciplines up to the highest levels, with not just lecture content, but also assignments and solutions... Some professors may also indicate project work," says Dr. Krishnan.

Once Phase II is completed in 2012, the content will be used to develop an online distance education programme. "MHRD has given in-principle approval for a virtual technical university. It may not use the IIT brand name, but it will use the course materials developed by IIT faculty," said Dr. Krishnan. The director of IIT-Kanpur is in charge of the virtual university project.
Interactive element

NPTEL Phase II is also introducing an interactive element, with message boards to be launched in August. "Students will be able to submit questions online, to be answered by quality faculty appointed by the IITs," says Dr. Krishnan. Peer-to-peer interactions will be encouraged.

The second phase also hopes to draw in the knowledge and teaching talent available at the National Institutes of Technology, or NITs, other central universities, and even private universities with a reputation for quality. "Quality teachers, wherever they are, need to be made available to our engineering students," says Dr. Krishnan. "There are 2.5 million engineering students in this country, and maybe 50,000 are actually getting good lessons from quality teachers."

Phase II will also train teachers themselves, with 300 workshops across the country, to help engineering college faculty make optimal use of the NPTEL materials in their own classrooms.

NPTEL is also arranging to halve the cost of buying the courses in offline formats. The web courses will now become available to private engineering colleges on a set of DVD-ROMs for a one-time payment of Rs. 50,000, with the video courses available for another Rs. 50,000. Individual students could soon by the DVD set for just Rs.250.