Sunday, May 16, 2010

Virtual IITs: Top degrees a click away - BSNL to set up virtual univ network

After half-a-century of being an exclusive club, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will finally open their gates wider. Assigned the task of reaching out to more Indian students, IIT directors are drawing up plans to set up a virtual university. IIT-Madras Director M. S. Ananth said, "We basically want to make quality education accessible to many more students using modern tools instead of setting up brickand-mortar campuses". The proposal has been accepted as part of the National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT). But Ananth was quick to add that the details are yet to be worked out and the plan would be rolled out over two years. "We will involve industry in administering the programme. Moreover,we need to create labs where students can perform experiments. The IITs will take care of the entry, the exit and develop the courses", he explained.

The job may be said to have already begun. The IITs and the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have already designed 240 courses that were captured on video in studios set up in the institutes. They will develop 1,000 more courses in the second phase. The IITs have also run pilots on virtual labs. The Union Human Resource Development Ministry has allotted Rs. 4,600 crore (Rs. 46 billion) for three years till March 2012 for NMEICT, the mission under which course content is being developed and virtual labs will be created. Kannan Moudgalya, member of the NMEICT standing committee, described the exercise as ambitious.

The idea of a virtual technical university was first mooted by the P. Rama Rao Committee, which looked at expanding quality engineering education across the country in 2006.

BSNL to set up virtual univ network
IIT directors are working on a plan to create a virtual university. Public sector telephony giant BSNL has been asked to provide the necessary bandwidth to ensure that no college is without connectivity. Kannan Moudgalya, standing committee member of the National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT), said, "The two plans (of setting up a virtual platform and allowing access to existing colleges) should not be viewed as being mutually exclusive", he added.


The P. Rama Rao report, which first mooted the idea of a virtual technical university, had pointed out that engineering colleges are plagued by factors like faculty shortage, forcing several institutes to recruit teachers who do not possess the minimum prescribed qualifications. An inferior quality of education is the result.

IIT-Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande, who is also working on NMEICT, cautioned that the IITs would have to ensure that quality did not suffer in the race to expand student intake. But there is no denying that we want to reach out to more candidates using technology, he added. The IIT directors have often lamented that there are several bright brains who are identified in the gruelling Joint Entrance Exam (popularly known as JEE) but get left out because of the restrictive student capacity.

Source: The Times of India, May 16, 2010

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