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What makes NPTEL India’s EdTech hero — without newsy fundings and valuations

Factor Daily | Sriram Sharma | July 24, 2017  |

  • Initiated in 2003 by seven IITs, NPTEL’s YouTube channel has over 245 million views.
  • To put that in perspective, MIT’s OpenCourseware, another top Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) has fewer than half its views.
  • Online certifications are offered at Rs 1,000 per course, through an in-person proctored exam.

“Some people train for JEE from their 6th standard. There’s a huge number of people in India, students particularly, who have a strong analytical and problem-solving background. Not all of them get into IITs or the top institutions. What happens to those guys? They go to other colleges, and they do engineering. When they have access to IIT courses, a huge number of people are able to appreciate that. I think it really starts somewhere there,” says Professor Andrew Thangaraj, electrical engineering department, IIT Madras, in a phone call with FactorDaily. Thangaraj has been serving as NPTEL coordinator at IIT Madras since 2001 and is currently national MOOCs coordinator for NPTEL in the SWAYAM project of the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) of the Indian government. We’re discussing the impact and reach of NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning), which by some measures, is already a world beater. It’s also quite likely that you haven’t heard of it, unless you’re from an engineering background.

NPTEL was initiated in 2003 by seven IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, in 2003. In its first phase (2003-2009), NPTEL developed 235 courses in web/video format, at http://nptel.iitm.ac.in (now defunct). In Phase II (2009-14), an additional 600 web and video courses were recorded, with new features, such as indexing and keyword search. A YouTube channel was created in this period. In Phase III, starting 2014, an optional NOC (NPTEL Online Certification) was offered for Rs 1,000 through a proctored exam, which has seen over one lakh registrations so far.  “With over 250 web and video courses and more in development, NPTEL’s extensive offerings are rivalled in scale by few other online courseware programs,” wrote Taylor Walsh in his 2011 book entitled Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access To Their Courses. A lot has changed since then, most significantly, the rollout of a proctored certification program that costs Rs 1,000. Enrollments for July 2017 are open now for 159 courses, its course explorer states.

So, how big is NPTEL? It’s the most accessed library of peer-reviewed educational content in the world, an emailed fact sheet states. According to Alexa, it’s ranked at 328 in India. Its YouTube channel, with close to 20,000 videos, has more than 800,000 subscribers and over 245 million views. Head-to-head, MIT OpenCourseware has more subscribers, but fewer than half the views (112 million views). But Youtube stats alone don’t give a full measure of this mammoth beast. Its content is also free to download, available on DVDs, and distributed under the CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike) license. In its product brochure, NPTEL calls itself “the largest online repository in the world of courses in engineering, basic sciences and selected humanities and social sciences subjects.” That’s quite a mouthful, and kind of explains why it doesn’t get more recognition for its achievements. The former President of India felicitated the programme earlier this month, if that helps. “The video repository provided by NPTEL and mirrored in YouTube is the largest technical education online video repository in the world, which is structured and developed according to a unified curriculum, with free and unlimited access without a formal registration for downloading them,” wrote professor Mangala Sunder Krishnan, National Web Courses Coordinator, NPTEL Project (2003-2015), in a draft entitled The Story of NPTEL. The article is currently under review for publishing by the Commonwealth of Learning, an intergovernmental body with its head office in Vancouver, Canada. The programme has recorded more than 300 million visits, the article states. “Unfortunately, no agency bothered till now to verify our claims,” wrote Professor Krishnan, clarifying in an email to FactorDaily that this figure does not include the millions of visits to Google Scholar, the MOOC platform used by NOC. NOC has hosted more than 350 courses and run proctored exams, and issued certificates to more than 100,000 registrants, he said.

How NPTEL is charting a new course

In the first 10 years of its operation from 2003 to 2014, NPTEL functioned as a repository for self-learning content. In March 2014, NPTEL gave its MOOC programme a unique value proposition — a certificate from the IIT or the IISc. The courses as such were free, anybody could enrol, go through the content, answer the assignment, and make use of the forum. But for Rs 1,000 per course, an in-person proctored exam would provide proof of proficiency. “We get them (the students) a hall ticket, photo and ID. Our representative is there at each centre, and we verify the credentials, and they take the exam in a proctored environment. That was the change we made in the Indian setting because it was important for us to know who is writing the exam,” said Bharathi Balaji, senior project officer at NPTEL. The platform support was given by Google, and launched by the MHRD, with TCS iON (a business unit of Tata Consultancy Services) as an exam partner, she said.

Certificates are awarded on the basis of a 25% weighting for the assignment score, and a 75% weighting for the final exam score. Certifications come with three tiers of merit — Gold (90% and above), Elite (60-90%), and Successfully Completed (40-60%). Every course conducted on NPTEL records a wide range of statistics on enrollments, registrations, certificates issued, and top-ranking students. NPTEL’s courses are also differentiated on the basis of diversity of the courseware offered, regardless of their popularity. While courses on computer science, Indian philosophy, quantum physics, and design get thousands of enrolments, there are some that get just hundreds. “We don’t do just popular courses — IoT, big data, and digital marketing are in hot demand today, but that’s not all we do. All the core engineering disciplines are covered in our courses. We cover all disciplines, including management and humanities, UG (undergraduate) and elective courses, PhD-level courses. Some courses have just a 100 students, but you won’t find them being offered at any institute across the country,” Balaji said. Based on NOC Statistics, computer science is the most followed subject on the platform in terms of top enrolments — the top nine enrolments are all from just this stream. NPTEL is also indirectly influencing the quality of teaching and technical skills of college faculty in the country. Fifteen percent of NPTEL’s enrolments come from faculty members, an NPTEL infographic on learner profiles shows. “This is something that has naturally happened, and it’s turning out to be a faculty development programme without us even thinking it to be so,” said Balaji.

Upping the talent stack

Why would anyone visit NPTEL when there is a plethora of world-class options available, including MIT OpenCourseware, and dozens of courses from the world’s top universities on edx.org? One clue might lie in the fact that not everyone in India is comfortable with a western accent. “There are plenty of MOOCs available, but the accent of the teachers is not Indian, and they charge more money for certification courses. So I have not applied for them,” said Alok Shakya, a final year engineering student at KNIT Sultanpur, UP, who has completed five certifications from NPTEL. He had applied to IIT-JEE earlier but didn’t get through, he said. Shakya took NPTEL’s courses to get a better grasp of concepts in the IT industry, as he didn’t find any good resources in his college. He stumbled upon NPTEL while searching for an explanation on a programming concept on YouTube. “I watched the videos and my doubts regarding that particular concept became clear. My college seniors also advised me to go for NPTEL courses,” he said. His favourite professor on NPTEL is Tanmai Gopal, who co-created the course entitled Introduction to Modern Application Development (IMAD), he said. While 80% of NPTEL’s audience comes from India, it also has participants from across the world. “We have a lot of traffic from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi, apart from US and Canada,” said Balaji. “Even for our exam in March, there was a faculty member from Saudi (Arabia), who had enrolled for a course and wanted to get the certificate. So, she actually flew down on the day of the exam in the morning, and got her certificate,” said Balaji. NPTEL’s most-watched video on Youtube, a lecture entitled Introduction to Basic Electronics has fairly positive comments from people around the world. “This Man is brilliant! Every American teacher could learn from this man!!!,” writes one commenter.

NPTEL’s greatest hit

According to NPTEL’s statistics, Introduction to Modern Application Development (IMAD) is the most popular course on the platform. The free online course was launched a year ago and has cumulatively seen over 1,00,000 registrations so far. “People haven’t just taken this course, more than 10,000 applications have been built. I feel it’s pretty amazing for something that was just a side project for us,” said Tanmai Gopal, CTO and cofounder of Hasura, a Bangalore-based cloud infrastructure focused startup, speaking to FactorDaily on the success of the course. “There’s a huge gap between the kind of knowledge you need when you start doing development, building applications, and what you actually learnt in university and school,” Gopal said. “On a side note, a big difference between India and the Silicon Valley is that everybody really understands tech there. There’s so much awareness in the entire ecosystem about what applications are, and how they’re built etc. But, their rate of innovation is much faster. Their applications are of a much higher quality from the word go. It kind of boils down to this fundamental knowledge of how applications are built, or how to get one built if you’re a business owner,” he said. To encourage deep, quality discussions on the platform, Hasura set up a Stackoverflow-type forum for people inside the community. The game-changer for students was the ability to write and deploy code, and see the finished product on their own subdomain. “Everybody has the will and energy to do things, but you need money, a credit or debit card, and spare income to do a random thing like hosting a server,” Gopal said. The IMAD.Tech portal was created using Hasura’s back-end technology, which enabled tens of thousands of people to run their own subdomain on a small cluster of servers.

“I could learn basic things by executing them on the console that the course provided on IMAD,” said Yogesh SP, a developer who works at Pathtracker.io, a Bengaluru-based tech startup. He appreciated how one could “learn by doing” in the course. “The course is more about creating a live website. It helped improve my HTML, CSS, JS, SQL skills. It enhanced my skills and provided me with a step-by-step approach to building a website,” he said. His future plan is to crack the Associate Android Developer course, and become a full-time Android developer. “That was one of the big things for students. It’s not just listening to things; after listening to me, you’re supposed to go try something out, and you’re supposed to go build something. You can build this on your mobile phone, on a tablet, Windows, Mac, Linux — it doesn’t matter,” Gopal added.

Growing enrollments with Local Chapters

Local Chapters, an initiative launched by NPTEL to drive up student participation, was launched in April 2015 as a pilot in Tamil Nadu. Through this programme, NPTEL appoints an SPOC (single point of contact), either a faculty member or a college student, as its ambassador. Until now, NPTEL has on-boarded over 1,000 colleges across the country in the programme and adds 5-10 more each week. Tamil Nadu (192) and Maharashtra (190) have the highest number of local chapters, followed by Andhra Pradesh (91). Enrolments are concentrated around industrialised states where there are a lot of engineering. colleges, said Thangaraj, adding that NPTEL’s state-wise statistics are in sync with the gross enrolment ratio for a university education. “Traditionally, even IT recruitment is like that and fits the same patterns. We are trying to make inroads into other states. It’s a bit of a long battle, and we’ll probably get there,” he said. Since last year, NPTEL has started recognising these Local Chapters as well, and rating them according to performance, based on the number of toppers, gold medalists, and elite students they produce. “We do a rating of the top 100 Local Chapters, also on our site,” said Balaji. While NPTEL has successfully closed the college loop, the industry loop is something it is yet to nail. However, it has had some success in offering its courses to decrease the onboarding time at companies, Balaji said. “Companies hire freshers and want them to do some courses before they come in. Companies said it reduced their training time at the job. TCS openly announced in one of our data analytics forum that if anybody has completed this course at TCS, we have a vacancy here,” she said. – Courtesy

IIT-PAL video lectures (SWAYAM PRABHA) IIT teachers to help you crack JEE through free TV, web talks

The Times of India | Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN | Jul 16, 2017

NEW DELHI: What if IIT professors coached you for free to take the Joint Entrance Exam? Sounds like something too good to be true? But it’s actually true. IIT-Professor Assisted Learning or IIT-PAL was recently launched under the Swayam Prabha channels of HRD ministry. All an aspirant needs is internet connectivity or a DTH setup for TV. From the comfort of their homes, aspirants in the cities as well as remote villages could watch lectures on physics, chemistry and mathematics. There are also lectures in biology as it’s an essential ingredient of the IIT foundation courses. IIT-Delhi in charge of the project that also has as partners IITs from Mumbai, Kanpur, Chennai, Kharagpur and Guwahati. Besides interactions, consultations via email and phone are also possible. Some Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers have also contributed to the lecture bank. So far, IIT-D has recorded over 600 hours of video content that’s available via satellite TV and YouTube. Lectures are only in English right now, but plans are afoot to include Hindi and other languages.

Each subject has its own free-to-air DTH channel that transmits fresh content as per a fixed course schedule for four hours daily (two each for classes XI and XII). This is repeated six times a day so that a student could watch it as per his/her convenience. So far, the instruction only consists of recorded lectures. But soon, downloadable e-learning material apart from ‘doubt clearing’ sessions would go live too. IIT-D director V Ramgopal Rao said, “This is a great initiative to help senior secondary students. Not everyone can afford coaching classes. We need to help children from the rural backgrounds and from disadvantaged sections to enter the IITs. We are hoping that this will help facilitate entry of such children. There are bright children in every corner of the country and they can use IIT PAL and provide us their feedback. We will keep improving on the content.”  Professor Ravi Soni of IIT-D’s physics department, who is also the national coordinator of the programme, said, “The main objective of the initiative is to assist the students of Class XI and XII who are IIT aspirants. The lectures that are delivered by experts in the specific subjects will help the students understand basic concepts in a very simple way. It will also help the socially and the economically backward students prepare for the IIT exam.” – Courtesy  /   The SWAYAM PRABHA is conceived as a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting of high-quality educational programmes on 24X7 basis using the GSAT-15 satellite.  – Take a Look at  : http://www.swayamprabha.gov.in/index.php/home

/   Click here to Download the Swayamprabha Mobile App

Learn to create mobile apps with free online course from IIT Madras

India produces lakhs of engineers every year who aspire to enter the tech industry. However, there’s a skill gap between market needs and what students have learnt. In this difficult job environment, with massive layoffs predicted in the near future, both working professionals and college students are looking for ways to upgrade their skill sets and learn the latest technologies. Introduction to Modern Application Development or IMAD, is a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) – offered by Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and Hasura, a core technology start-up – which aims to bridge this skill gap.

IIT Madras is offering an opportunity to all those with basic programming skills to learn App development in eight weeks. The Institute will be starting the free online course IMAD from 24th July 2017.

Through this course, one can learn to develop mobile applications, popularly known as ‘Apps’ which have become an integral part of our everyday lives. More than 83,000 students have registered for the course so far, making it  India’s largest MOOC. They have come up with more than 6,700 apps. Around 430 candidates have landed internships with start-ups. Students who successfully complete the course get a certificate from IIT Madras. The top students from IMAD are also eligible for product development internships at Hasura. These internships give the students an opportunity to hone their app development skills in the real world and provide much needed exposure to industry. The course will be broken into 5 modules that will be covered over 8 weeks:

  1. Introduction to the Internet, and its common network protocols

  2. Build a basic but complete web application

  3. Learn the how and why of modelling data for your application using databases

  4. Learn about performance and how to ensure security for an application

  5. Learn how to build your own mobile application

Registration for the course has begun and can be done by visiting http://www.imad.tech . The website also has resources required to learn or to brush up required programming basics. Besides being free for everyone, anywhere, the course strives for the right balance between theory and practice by focusing on building an application quickly while also ensuring that it never breaks. A 20-minute course video will be available online on YouTube and can be viewed anytime. One can take the course even from the comfort of their home. The course will have graded assignments, and a final test to help one remain focused through the course.  The course will be conducted by Prof. Gaurav Raina, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras, and also a visiting research fellow in the Statistical Laboratory at Cambridge University along with Mr. Tanmai Gopal, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Hasura. He is also an alumnus of IIT Madras from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Speaking about the course, Prof. Gaurav Raina, said: “It’s a great time to be working in technology, but one really needs to have relevant skills. If you are a student, a working professional, or someone looking to work in technology, the IMAD course aims to prepare you for the rapidly changing technology sector.” This course will help in developing skills crucial to someone wanting to develop apps and get started on their own. It is aimed at equipping one with the ingredients to get started with an idea. There is also the tangible benefit of internships at some of the top tech start-ups/companies in India. In addition, an examination (optional) will be conducted on completion of the course and on successfully clearing it, one can obtain a certification from IIT Madras.

A few statistics about the course so far

Total number of registered students – 83,190
Number of internships offered – 430

Student Profiles:
● College Students – 64% (more than 53,000 registrations)
● Working Professionals – 15% (more than 15,000 registrations)
● Faculty and Educators – 2% (more than 1800 registrations)

Demographic distribution of students:
● 13-20 years age group – 35%
● 20-40 years age group – 58%
● 40+ years age group – 6%

Geographic distribution of students
India – 98% of all students
Outside India (20 countries) – 1500 registrations –     http://www.imad.tech/      — Click Here to Register : https://onlinecourses.nptel.ac.in/noc17_cs40/preview

NPTEL offers 116 new certification courses this July session

Online course: Free for all, Certification exam: For a nominal fee.
Learn anytime, anywhere! Only requirement: Interest and enthusiasm to learn 🙂
The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) will offer 159 courses for its July to November, 2017 session.  All these courses are open for online enrollment.  Among these 159 courses, 43 are old and 116 courses are new.

NPTEL was initiated by seven IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 2003. Prof Andrew Thangaraj, NPTEL coordinator at IIT Madras said, “It is a great opportunity for learners across the country to access the IIT and IISc systems as well as experts from other reputed institutions. This enables learning without boundaries. You learn what you are interested in, and get a certificate confirming your abilities in that area.” The courses will begin from July 24, 2017 or August 21, 2017 with examination dates being on September 24/October 22, 2017 (Sundays).   All courses are free. The certification examination is optional and comes at a fee of Rs 1000/course examination. https://onlinecourses.nptel.ac.in – Click here to Take a Look at the site :   https://onlinecourses.nptel.ac.in/explorer
List (tentative) of Online certification courses from NPTEL to be offered between July-November 2017: http://nptel.ac.in/LocalChapter/Assets/spoc_refdocs/Tentative_course_list_July_2017.pdf

Students can opt for fully online degree courses soon

Hindustan Times | Jun 16, 2017 |  Neelam Pandey |

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission.

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission. The human resource development ministry has decided to allow universities to offer such degrees and is drafting rules, official sources told HT. Once the rules are in place, institutes will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture and physiotherapy. At present, the commission does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module. From this year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. But if a student gets a degree through any online course, it’s not recognised. A number of private universities offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognised by the UGC.

The ministry has now started preparing draft regulations for online programmes that will allow universities and higher educational institutes to offer degrees by conducting exams online; students will not have to attend classes physically. The draft came up for discussion before the UGC and the HRD ministry recently. “World over online degrees and courses are offered by institutes and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts. Institutes will have to apply to the UGC for approval and degrees by such institutes will be recognised,” said a senior official. To qualify, a university would have to be NAAC-accredited with a minimum score of 3.25 on a four-point scale to ensure quality. According to the official, the online platform will be integrated with Aadhaar to verify the identity of learners at the time of application as well as through the duration of the programme, including examinations. “The programmes can be designed for conventional learners, as well as working professionals depending on what the institute is looking for,” the official said. Apart from the actual programme delivery, components such as the counselling process, online application processing and fee payment will also be provide online. – Courtesy

Enrolment open: AuthorAID free online course in Grant Proposal Writing & Research Writing starting on 18 April 2017

Online Course in Grant Proposal Writing & Research Writing For early career researchers in developing countries.  
Supporting  Developing Country Researchers in Publishing Their Work…AuthorAID is coordinated by INASP.

Following the success of the third AuthorAID MOOC (massive open online course), we are pleased to announce our upcoming online course in grant proposal writing and research writing. This is an open online course and it is free of cost.

Who the course is for: Early career researchers in developing countries.

Main topics covered in the course: Literature review, publication ethics, making a research plan, writing a grant proposal, targeting the right journals, writing and publishing a research paper.

Course duration: 8 weeks

Course dates: 18th April to 12th June 2017

Course leaders: Andy Nobes and Ravi Murugesan of INASP, along with guest facilitators from the AuthorAID network

Complete information about the course along with enrolment instructions are available in the course announcement document. Please go through this document carefully if you are interested in the course. The deadline to enrol is 18th April 2017.

Please note that although this is an open course, if we see a very high number of people joining, we may have to limit enrolment due to server capacity. We suggest that you enrol in the course as soon as possible if you are interested.

INASP designs and runs capacity development activities that cater for both women and men’s interests and needs. We use methods that increase active participation and an inclusive learning environment, adopting attitudes and behaviors that value differential experiences and perspectives and ensuring listening and respect for each other’s experiences and views.  Read More…Brochure – 5 pages (pdf)     /         http://www.authoraid.info/en/

40% of NPTEL online study applicants in 2016-17 from Tamil Nadu

Times of India | Amrutha Varshinii | TNN |  Feb 7, 2017 |  40% of online study applicants in 2016-17 from Tamil Nadu |

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu continues to be a trailblazer in the field of online study platforms. As NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) completes another year with as many as 130 courses introduced, it has emerged that as many as 40% of all NPTEL applicants were from the state in 2016-2017.  Teachers, doctors and IT employees are opting for courses in large numbers along with college students. This, NPTEL sources say, is due to the receptiveness of the state and the strong network with colleges. “A faculty crunch in several engineering colleges in interior parts of TN is a big factor contributing to these kind of numbers,” said Andrew Thangaraj, professor of electrical engineering at IIT-M and NPTEL national coordinator.

NPTEL has tie-ups with institutions like Pondicherry Engineering College, SSN, SRM University and National Engineering College Kovilpatti, among 200, that enable students to take up courses relevant to their field of study or interest, and gain college credits by completing the online course.  Another big draw for TN students, most of who pursue professional courses, is that courses on electrical circuits, modern applications and data analytics bolster their CVs. “A course certificate from one of the IITs carries a certain weight for the students,” said Thangaraj. The competitive exam culture is another contributing factor. “Courses like ‘English for Engineering’ have been helping students prep for exams like GMAT, Some niche subjects like ‘Electrical circuits’ helps not only clear GATE exams but also build a profile towards securing a job at a Public Sector Units (PSU),” said Prathap Haridas, IIT-M professor and NPTEL co-coordinator.  IT firms like Cognizant technology, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and HCL give their employees incentives for finishing specific courses. –  Courtesy

Information received regarding SWAYAM under Right To Information Act, 2005

Legally India.com | 05 January 2017 |  Author: sflc_admin | Opinion |

SWAYAM, the national Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) project established by Ministry of Human Rights Development (MHRD), is a laudatory effort set to serve as a source for courses related to all fields from high school to post graduation. This one stop destination is meant to bridge the educational and digital divide by ensuring learning resources are made accessible in consonance with principles of equity and affordability in the varying socio-economic sectors of the country. Last year it was announced that the development of SWAYAM platform has been decided to be pursued through proprietary platform, disregarding free and open source software (FOSS) options that have proved successful and are being used in MOOC platforms such as edX at the global scale.

SFLC.in conducted in-depth research regarding the discussions that took place by the committees within the MHRD that led to the decision of choosing proprietary software, despite India having implemented the Policy on adoption of Open Source Software for the Government of India in 2015 that makes it a mandatory requirement for all e-governance projects undertaken by various Government organizations to adopt open source software as a preferred option in comparison to closed source software, and wherever making the decision to choose closed source software, to provide reasons in writing. To generate awareness about this issue, a Joint Letter, signed by various academics, non profit organizations, and individuals, was drafted by us and sent to the MHRD. A copy of this Joint Letter can be accessed here.

[Our findings from this research, and a time-line of the events since the inception of the project in 2014 can be accessed here and here respectively.]

In addition, we also filed applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 for a complete set of minutes of certain meetings that were unavailable on MHRD’s online portal. The applications filed by us asked for the minutes of the meeting held by the technical committee that decided to use proprietary software and awarded the contract to Microsoft. In the reply received by us, we were provided with the minutes of the 9th meeting of the SWAYAM Project Cell (SPC) where Microsoft was finalized as the Systems Integrator for SWAYAM.

It has details of the discussions regarding the projected costs and further states that the technical and management committees constituted by The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for the purpose of deciding the method of development of SWAYAM had come to the conclusion that in-house developers from National Informatics Centre Services Inc. (NICSI) should be recruited for developing the platform, and “keeping in view the complexity of the project and the requirement of timely and reliable servicing facility, SWAYAM should be developed on a proprietary IT platform rather than open source.”

Furthermore, it states that available systems of Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP were evaluated, and Microsoft was chosen for the following reasons:

  1. Microsoft platform has the whole bouquet of systems required for designing the MOOCs application, viz SQL, Windows servers, Share point, Dot Net and System Centre.
  2. The Software licenses (Educational versions) are available at highly subsidized rates under Education Discount Policy through their Authorized Education Partners (AEPs) as LSPs.
  3. Microsoft platform is available on DGS&D Rate Contract, so we can buy the same off the shelf.” [Point 9.3 of the minutes of the meeting]

Watch this space for updates on further RTIs we have filed on this topic. For the entire text of the RTI reply and the minutes of the above mentioned meeting, refer here.

Author: sflc_admin
©Republished under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) Licence

IIT-Bombay to set up centres for teacher-training programme nationwide

The Indian Express | Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai | November 11, 2016 |

THE Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, (IIT-B) is planning to set up a first-of-its-kind centre of excellence to train teachers across the nation on how to integrate technology in their teaching. Through a combination of online and offline learning methodologies, the institute plans to extend its existing teacher training programmes to over hundred million teachers. The institute, which has already trained around 1.5 lakh engineering college teachers through its ‘Train 10,000 Teachers (T10KT)’ programme, now aims to extend the training to teachers from schools, colleges and vocational training institutes.  The proposal to build a ‘Centre of Excellence for Online and Blended Learning and Educational Outreach’ was tabled in an alumni meet held last month to invite financial contributions. The estimated budget to establish the centre is around Rs 100 crore.  While the other teacher training models of the institute are funded by the MHRD, the IIT-B has sought financial aid from its alumni association to set up the centre. The proposed centre will have three wings. While the research wing will conduct research in the field of education technology, the innovation wing will implement the research findings through projects.

The outreach wing will conduct massive teacher training programmes through a combination of methodologies. “We have been providing training to teachers of engineering colleges since 2009. With our experience, we feel there is scope to extend the training to teachers from schools, high schools, and Industrial Training Institutes,” said Deepak Phatak, professor in the computer science and engineering department. He said the centre will mimic the T10KT — a four-week model where teachers are taught through pre-recorded videos, live-streamed lectures from the IIT-B, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and workshops. Phatak, who has been spearheading the T10KT and other projects launched under the MHRD’s National Mission on Education Technology through ICT, said there was an urgent need to improve the skills and teaching methodologies of teachers, particularly in remote locations.  “The teachers don’t have to physically come to Mumbai for the training, they can complete part of the training at home and part of it at the nearest remote centre,” said Phatak.  The teachers will also be evaluated throughout the training process. The centre will be beneficial for teachers in rural areas, said Sandeep Gund, a primary school teacher in Pashtepada in Thane district. He, however, pointed out that many teachers in rural India do not have access to internet or gadgets. “Such a training course will be beneficial only if access to technology increases,” said Gund. –  Courtesy

Technology to the assistance of the flipped classroom model

Live Mint | Wed, Oct 19 2016 | V. Sridhar | Krunal Sagan | Opinion |

The Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) massified the reach of online education through asynchronous delivery of lectures from the well-renowned universities and professors across the world. Most of the start-ups have realized the growing need of personalized learning experience of students, and have started exploring this space.

The quality of manpower is a significant resource for large populous countries such as India, which depend on them for their rapid economic growth. Realizing the potential and opportunities in the education sector, the start-up space in this segment has seen much action off late. Almost one third of these companies have yearly revenue in the range of Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore and one fourth of these companies have revenue of more than Rs.1 crore per year. Investment communities are also very enthusiastic about EdTech start-ups. According to VCCEdge, the education sector has seen the rise of investment in recent years. In 2010, the total investment in EdTech was valued at $187M for 27 companies which rose to $248M for 48 companies in 2014 and in 2015, the 51 deals were signed in EdTech investment valued at $155M. The taxonomy that one can use to analyse the education space is whether (i) delivery of course content is synchronous or asynchronous and (ii) tests, assignments and other methods of assessments and discussions happen synchronously or asynchronously. While the traditional class rooms are synchronous in both, the Learning Management Systems such as Moodle assist synchronous class room delivery with assignments and quizzes that could be digitally posted to be done asynchronously.

On the other hand, the Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as Coursera, edX and Udacity massified the reach of online education through asynchronous delivery of lectures from well-renowned universities and professors across the world. However, even after five years, these online platforms are figuring out ways to closely monitor and track the asynchronous conduct of assessments and exams. However, new platforms that use the philosophy of “flipped classroom” are beginning to appear in the horizon. In this mode, the lectures are given asynchronously using video and other multimedia while the quizzes, doubt clearing sessions and discussions do take place synchronously assisted by technology and by instructors and moderators. The flipped classroom model allows the participants to come together and engage collectively in discussions and problem solving. This collaborative method of assessment is very different from the traditional methods being practiced. Through technologies, the flipped class room model (i)allows constructive and collaborative learning (ii) provides rich multimedia based course content to be learnt at own space asynchronously in a personalized way. Communication technologies such as Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) enable peer-to-peer video based discussion sessions between students and instructors or amongst students to be set up with much ease. The granularity of data collected by the platforms enable deep analytics to be performed to provide personalization of content. With improved mobile broadband and increased cost of commute for synchronous face-to-face sessions, the flipped class room model provides an interesting alternative. Most of the start-ups have realized the growing need of personalized learning experience of students, and have started exploring this space. Hence, as in MOOC, thought and technology leadership is required to massify the flipped classroom model.

The use of the above technologies is echoed by the Edustars survey that notes that 61% of Indian companies have built mobile and tablet apps in education space; 54% of these companies use cloud for their offerings and 32 per of them use video technology for learning solutions. Though there is big boom in EdTech start-ups with the ever growing usage of online learning, the education system is yet to experience the game changing effect that we all have been eagerly waiting to happen. While the technology is expected to disrupt education with online courses reducing costs of content and creating equal access opportunities to students around the world with improvement in adaptive learning, the education sector still has to experience a radical difference. There still remains unemployed and underemployed graduates who pay high tuition fees that coexists with poor completion rates. It is time that we ramp up to adopt disruptive models such as flipped classroom to bring a revolution of some sorts to the critical field of education.  –  V. Sridhar is professor at IIIT-Bangalore and Krunal Sagan is cofounder, Epecate. Courtesy