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At google.ai, study Machine Learning for free

ZeeBiz WebDesk | Mon, Mar 05, 2018 |  ZeeBiz WebTeam |

‘Learn with Google AI’ consists of exercises, interactive visualizations and modules, and instructional videos as well. The course is listed as approximately 15 hours which have over 40 exercises included. The tech giant stated that the engineering education team originally developed the fast-paced, practical introduction to ML fundamentals for Googlers.

Technology and search engine giant Google has now introduced an easy-to-learn platform called ‘Learn with Google AI’. This is available at At google.ai for free. This comprises a set of educational resources developed by Machine Learning experts at the company to help people learn about concepts, develop skills and apply artificial intelligence to problems in real life. When you go to the page on google.ai, it indicates the programme’s utility by saying, “Whether you’re just learning to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner, you’ll find information and exercises in this resource center to help you develop your skills and advance your projects.” Google in its blog said, “To help everyone understand how AI can solve challenging problems, we’ve created a resource called Learn with Google AI. This site provides ways to learn about core ML concepts, develop and hone your ML skills, and apply ML to real-world problems. From deep learning experts looking for advanced tutorials and materials on TensorFlow, to “curious cats” who want to take their first steps with AI, anyone looking for educational content from ML experts at Google can find it here.” So far, more than 18,000 Googlers have reportedly enrolled in MLCC, applying lessons from the course to enhance camera calibration for Daydream devices, build virtual reality for Google Earth, and improve streaming quality at YouTube.

‘Learn with Google AI’ consists of exercises, interactive visualizations and modules, and instructional videos as well. The course is listed as approximately 15 hours which have over 40 exercises included. The tech giant stated that the engineering education team originally developed the fast-paced, practical introduction to ML fundamentals for Googlers.  Recently, the tech firm launched an artificial intelligence research center in China. The research center is the first of its kind in Asia and will comprise a small team operating out of its existing office in Beijing, Google said in a statement. Chinese policy makers have reportedly voiced strong support for AI research and development in the country, and have imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign firms in the past year, including new censorship restrictions.  It may be noted that Google’s search engine is banned in the Chinese market along with its app store, email and cloud storage services. –  Courtesy      /       https://ai.google/education/


NPTEL, IIT Madras collaborate with Glass Academy Foundation

Economic Times | Anandi Chandrashekhar | ET Bureau| Feb 23, 2018 |

CHENNAI: IIT Madras to provide content for course, which is first-of-its-kind to be offered as a MOOCs in an open learning mode in India. The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has tied up with the glass Industry to reach out to upcoming architects and civil engineers to create awareness on efficient use of glass in the construction sector. NPTEL in partnership with Indian Institute of Technology Madras, aims to take this course to 1,600 colleges and educational institutions in the country. NPTEL and IIT Madras, entered into an MoU with Glass Academy Foundation on 20th February 2018 signed by Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, and C. N. Raghavendran, Chairman of Glass Academy Advisory Board. Along with other IITs, IIT Madras will provide content for the course, which will be offered as a Massive Online Open Course, in a first of its kind initiative. Andrew Thangaraj, NPTEL coordinator at IIT Madras, said, Collaborating with the industry is the next step for NPTEL to bridge the gap between academia and industry and make college graduates more job ready.

The first joint activity would be to co-offer online certification courses in the July-Dec 2018 Semester, targeted towards Architecture and Civil Engineering students. The possibility of offering internships and job opportunities to top performers of the course(s) are also being explored. The perfect home at the perfect price Radius Developers Senior citizen benefits in budget 2018 UTI Mutual Fund Recommended By Colombia Speaking on objective of the tie-up, CN Raghavendran said, Traditional materials have been the subject of study and training for decades. However, modern day glass as a material in construction is yet to become a subject of study and training in academic institutions. Our association with NPTEL will strengthen further by co-offering and co-certifying our courses as an elective to Architecture and Civil Engineering students. – Courtesy       /      http://www.glass-academy.com/

Online degree in non-technical courses soon to be recognised in India

The Hindu | NEW DELHI | January 16, 2018 |  Online degree in non-tech courses |

Javadekar says only universities with high NAAC scores will get permission

The Centre would soon finalise regulations enabling universities with high National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) scores to offer degree, certificate and diploma courses for non-technical subjects in online mode. Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar said this to newspersons after the culmination of the 65th Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meet here. Only institutions with a NAAC grade of A plus and A plus plus – meaning, a NAAC score of 3.26 or above on a scale of 4 – would be permitted to start these courses, which would essentially be open and distance learning in online mode. “The UGC will approve their course structure. There will be online lectures, tutorials and also a weekly online discussion forum where professors will answer queries of the enrolled candidates,” Mr. Javadekar said. “There will be an online examination in six months or one year. They will be granted certificates if they pass.” He said this would open an additional choice for people who want to earn degrees, certificates or diplomas, but cannot enrol for regular courses.

Insisting that this would not entail a decline in the level of education, he said only institutes with proven credentials would be permitted to run these courses. An official of the MHRD said there was a possibility that the regulations would separate the existent open and distance learning courses from courses in the online mode. While existent distance learning courses were subject to territorial jurisdictions of the universities concerned, the very nature of online education would mean freeing up these courses from such constraints. Mr. Javadekar also said that the CABE had resolved to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education from the present 25.2-% to 30-32-% in five years. It was believed that online education would help improve enrolment figures. –  Courtesy

Online courses  – The Telegraph, Basant Kumar Mohanty Jan 17, 2018

New Delhi: The Centre announced on Tuesday that universities would be allowed to offer courses online, including those programmes that award degrees, at a time enthusiasm for such a mode is on the wane the world over. HRD minister Prakash Javadekar announced that the University Grants Commission would soon issue a regulation to allow universities to offer all academic programmes online. The UGC had in 2016 permitted universities to offer 20 per cent of any course through the online mode. “A regulation will be issued to allow universities to offer online courses. Universities can start degree-level and diploma-level courses,” Javadekar said. He said only those universities whose accreditation score from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council was above 3.25 could allow online courses. Only non-technical courses will be allowed online.

“It will be the choice of the university (what programmes they want to start online),” Javadekar said. The International Trends in Higher Education Report 2015 published by Oxford University had said that enthusiasm for the Massive Open Online Courses was decreasing. “Several years after MOOCs entered the public domain, enthusiasm is beginning to wane. MOOC enrolment is high, but student retention and completion rates are low,” the report said. Asked about the success of online courses globally, Javadekar said: “Yes they have been successful.” – Courtesy

Infosys to Train Employees in Self-Driving Car Engineering

News 18 Tech | November 16, 2017 | IANS |

The programme, known as Udacity Connect, a combined in-person and online training offering, will give Infosys employees the skills needed as the company continues to focus on autonomous technology across a range of industries, including automotive, manufacturing and mining.

IT major Infosys on Thursday announced a plan to train its employees in self-driving car engineering technology in partnership with online learning company Udacity. The programme, known as Udacity Connect, a combined in-person and online training offering, will give Infosys employees the skills needed as the company continues to focus on autonomous technology across a range of industries, including automotive, manufacturing and mining, the IT major said in a statement.

The 20-week curriculum will train Infosys employees on engineering technologies for self-driving vehicles, including advanced courses in deep learning and machine learning. “The goal of this programme is to train 500 engineers by the end of 2018,” Infosys said. “Infosys is committed to re-skilling and training its employees in groundbreaking technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous technologies,” said Ravi Kumar S., President and Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Infosys. “We are proud to expand our partnership with Udacity with the launch of the in-person and online Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree programme as we accelerate the pace of skill adoption and ensure our clients continue to be at the forefront of innovation,” he added. – Courtesy    /     Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree – Applications end at 11:59PM on November 19. Classroom opens on December 14, Nanodegree program applications are open! Click here to apply…

MOOCs: The new generation learning

Digital Learning | | Archana Thakur | Opinion |


MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale, writes Archana Thakur, Joint Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), how MOOCs is helping students in their learning for Elets News Network (ENN). Gone are the years when whatever we learnt in school or colleges used to get stuck with  us throughout our working life.  The rapid pace of technological advancement has turned constant learning as the most pressing need of the day and for this the massivee open online courses (MOOCs) have been adequately equipped to address and help in it. MOOCs have been one of the most hotly-debated topics in the education circles over the past few years. Opinions have been extremely polarising, with some people heralding it as the greatest leap for education since the invention of the printing press, and some dismissing it as another fad. MOOC is an online course which aims unlimited participation and open access via the web. The first MOOCs emerged from the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island in response to a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08). CCK08, which was led by George Siemens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council, consisted  25 tuition-paying students in Extended Education at the University of Manitoba, as well as over 2,200 online students from the general public who were studying free of cost.

This provides interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs are widely researched development in distance education introduced in the US in 2006 for the first time. It emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. According to The New York Times, 2012 became “The Year MOOC”. MOOCs did not rely on posted resources, learning management systems, and video lectures. Instead it uses structures that mixed the learning management system with more open web resources. MOOCs are of two distinct types: one of them emphasises the connectivist philosophy and other resembles to more traditional courses. Stephen Downes proposed the terms “cMOOC” and “xMOOC” to distinguish in between them. The principle on which cMOOCs are based is of connectivist pedagogy indicating that material should be aggregated rather than pre-selected, remixable, re-purposable and feeding forward. It tries to connect learners to each other to answer questions emphasising collaborative development of the MOOC. MOOCs have a much more traditional course structure typically with a clearly specified syllabus of recorded lectures and self-test problems. The instructor is the expert provider of knowledge, and student interactions are usually limited to asking for assistance and advising each other on difficult points. MOOCs are becoming popular as they offer university-level courses without the need to complete an entire programme of studies. Students get the opportunity to study high quality courses online with prestigious universities, often free of cost. Users can select courses from any institution offering them independently. Video-based study offer interaction either through peer review and group collaboration or automated feedback through objective, online assessments. EdX is a non-for-profit provider, created by Harvard and MIT universities. Now extended to the Australian National University, TU Delft (theNetherlands), and Rice, Berkeley and Georgetown universities in the US.  Around the world, other MOOC providers include EduKart in India, ALISON in Ireland, and Aprentica in Latin America.

The reasons behind considering MOOC are:

         i.            Quality courses with low cost,

       ii.            Can be studied in combination with other work and

      iii.            Study resources are easily accessed from any computer at any location through web.

MOOCs can generate affective learning through four pathways or mechanisms:

  1. Sharing instructor enthusiasm.
  2. Discussion on controversial topics.
  • Exposure to diversity.
  1. Experiencing innovative teaching approaches.

The disadvantages are that while most courses are free, some are fee-paying and videos are normally short, drop-out rates are high – up to 90%. These rates are marginally lower for paid-for courses. A reasonable degree of computer literacy is needed. Many of the MOOC users are graduates seeking to top up their skills and competences. MOOCs do not feed into a degree or other qualification but are self-contained. Only a few students complete the courses. Content of MOOC offered by other country may not match the culture and condition of the home country of the student accessing the course.

 Advantages of MOOCs over physical colleges and universities are-

  • Scaling up the course batch size is a few clicks away.
  • Thousands of young minds can be guided by an emeritus tutor.
  • Self-paced study enables student to study and learn at their own leisurely rate.
  • Online courses can help mitigate and remove all systemic barriers, thus truly making education a universally available resource.

Three of the most pressing critiques of an open learning system are (a) lack of an effective system to measure and validate the progress of the learners, (b) how to integrate the course credits into the present system so that it counts towards a degree from a college, and (c) how to ensure personalised guidance and mentorship. However, all these are resolvable as having certain multiple choices questions at the end of each session to evaluate the understanding of the learner and a few universities have started launching their full-fledged courses online or allowing certain validated MOOCs to contribute credits to their physical courses. In India, SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) was launched on 15 August 2016 which is an information technology platform. It aims at providing high quality education on various subjects from school level (class IX-XII) to under graduate and post graduate students, covering all disciplines is a new portal for MOOC. SWAYAM is a programme designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality.

The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged. SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy. To ensure best quality content are produced and delivered, seven National Coordinators have been appointed. They are NPTEL for engineering,  UGC for post-graduation education, CEC for under-graduate education, NCERT & NIOS for school education, IGNOU for out of the school students and IIMB for management studies. SWAYAM platform is indigenously developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with the help of Microsoft and would be ultimately capable of hosting 2000 courses and 80,000 hours of learning: covering school, under-graduate, post-graduate, engineering, law and other professional courses. It is thus anticipated that MOOCs impact is going to be felt strongly on the education system in India not only in improving standards and availability of quality education in all fields, on the click of a button but also granting affordability of learning science for students from rural background or colleges in remote areas with paucity of competent science instructors.

Khan Academy to create educational videos in Indian languages

Live Mint | Sarah Zia | 01 November 2017 |

Khan Academy, the online provider of educational videos, is expected to release content in Gujarati, Bengali and Hindi by 2018

New Delhi: Khan Academy, a non-profit education organisation, is set to launch content in Indian languages. By 2018, the online provider of educational videos is expected to release content in Gujarati, Bengali and Hindi. “Currently, the content on Khan Academy’s portal which is also tailored to the Indian curriculum is available in English,” said Sandeep Bapna, managing director, Khan Academy India. “The vernacular content will not be dubbed but will be recustomised in local languages to tap the hinterland market in India.” To this end, Khan Academy entered into an agreement with the Karnataka government which will be recreating the content in Kannada for use across government schools in the state. According to Bapna, collaborating with the state government is one of the fastest ways of scaling the content available on the portal in local languages. “This content will be hosted on sub-domains and students can choose whether they would prefer content in English or their mother tongue,” he added.

Explaining the need for recreating the content in local languages, Bapna said that this was not just a content library but more like a personalized tutor. “The portal has content which tracks a user’s progress and suggests recommendations accordingly with the audio in the background sounding like one’s friend,” he elaborated. ile the portal provides content related to maths, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance as well as preparatory material for tests such as SAT and GMAT, only the maths and physics content has been mapped to the Indian curriculum. This includes roughly 5,500 videos and over 20,000 exercises across the two subjects. “While the focus is on maths and physics currently, we plan to map other subjects such as social science as well to the Indian curriculum By the end of 2018,” said Bapna.  An estimated 1 million users from India access the content on Khan Academy. The content is also accessible over the app where users can access low-bandwidth videos.  Further, the second edition of an India Talent Search has been launched to scout for content creators in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Tamil. The search is aimed at identifying those who could create lucid explanatory videos for complex concepts. “We are not going to judge entry videos for production values but on how one chooses to explain a concept,” said Bapna. The last date for sending entries is 17 December. – Courtesy

UK University Birmingham launches language course for India’s future engineers

Birmingham launches language course for future engineers

Dr Tim Jackson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering

Engineering students around the globe have the opportunity to sign up for the University of Birmingham’s new online training that will help them improve their technical English language skills – free-of-charge. The University’s ‘Electrical Engineering: Sensing, Powering and Controlling’ course aims to support students for whom English is a second language in mastering many of the key terms and concepts in Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering. Birmingham’s new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is based on real first-year modules at the University. Students can sign up for the free course at www.futurelearn.com/courses/electrical-engineering/1

The MOOC is aimed at direct entry students planning to attend Birmingham to study in the discipline of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, but the content is helpful to any student planning to start in the first year of any engineering discipline. The three-week course runs from 13 November and has been developed by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. It is led by Dr Tim Jackson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering. Dr Jackson said: “This is a great opportunity for students whose first language is not English to brush up their language skills and get to grips with the key terms and concepts associated with engineering. “The course will be delivered in English to help students to gradually develop their language skills. Students can learn online at their own pace, and there are opportunities to discuss their work online with fellow students and lecturers.”

Topics covered will include:

• Overview of Electrical, Electronic and Systems Engineering
• Transducers and their purpose
• Electronic systems in context
• Solar power / batteries in space
• The Space Weather research group
• Electrical circuits
• Analogue and digital electrical engineering

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

• Investigate what is meant by electronic, electrical and systems engineering.
• Develop their skills in analysing and designing circuits and systems.
• Improve their confidence in communicating engineering ideas using English technical vocabulary.
• Assess how different electronic and electrical engineering systems are used in specific contexts.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Tony Moran in the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 8254 / +44 (0)782 783 2312.

Notes to editors

• The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. –  Watch the Video

This online course aims to spread STEM education to women from small cities across India

Edex Live | Reshma Ravishanker | 03rd August 2017 |

Participants have to use the knowledge gained from the course and make a submission for the project

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) India launched 2017  Codeathon.in for women students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) from smaller cities across India. As a part of the event, participants have to use the knowledge gained from the online course and make a submission for the project: Navigate the Mars Rover. The project involves designing and implementing a solution that will apply a variety of shortest path algorithms to help the Mars Rover find the optimal path between the starting point and the destination marked by the user. The end user will have the ability to choose the algorithm to be used.  This initiative is an online platform that offers the students an opportunity to enhance their coding skills while developing innovative solutions.

“Currently, the industry efforts in this area are concentrated in the six to eight metro cities. At times there is so much happening that the talent in these cities is spoilt for choices. There is a large pool of untapped talent in smaller cities that have a lot of knowledge, they need more exposure and confidence-building. 2017 Codethon.in aims to bridge this gap. The participation from colleges and students in the selected cities has been positive and we look forward to some great codingsaid Geetha Kannan, MD, ABI India. The event is being held in select engineering colleges in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Mysore (Karnataka) and a few cities in Kerala. It will be conducted online from July and will go on until September 2017. It will also offer all participants coaching and practical experience that will better prepare them students for exciting careers in technology. –  Courtesy    /   Click here to take a look at  Codeathon.in        /  The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology is a nonprofit organization founded by computer scientist Anita Borg. The institute’s primary aim is to recruit, retain, and advance women in technology.The institute’s most prominent program is the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, the world’s largest gathering of women in computing.        https://anitaborg.org/about-us/india/

Digital Initiatives for Higher Education: Action Plan 17-by-17 for Digital Campuses


9th July 2017 – Action Plan 17-by-17, (17 points to be achieved by all the Vice Chancellors by Dec 2017)

1. Approve the courses on offer: The list of courses which are being offered for the coming Semester is available on http://www.swayam.gov.in . All VCs and Heads of Institutions are requested to take approval of the Competent Authority (Academic Council/Senate) for these courses so that students can opt for them, and seek transfer of credits.

2. Publicise the courses: The SWAYAM courses shall be publicised by printing posters, WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts and Twitter accounts of the University. The objective is to reach as many people as possible so that they can get benefited by these courses.

3. Prepare new courses: If there are talented teachers in the Universities who are willing toplace their course on SWAYAM, they should be encouraged. Such proposals may besent to the National Coordinator for approval and for providing funding to prepare thecourses.

4. Retrain teachers: All teachers may be asked to use the SWAYAM courses during their own teaching process so that we can have a blended learning process. The flipped classroom model, where the SWAYAM videos are seen at home, and there is a discussion in the class would help in improving the quality of learning.

5. Monitoring Cell: Every University should have a Digital Learning Monitoring Cell which reviews the current use of these digital resources and suggests way to improving their utilisation further in the university and the affiliated institutions.

SWAYAM Prabha DTH channels

6. Buy Free Dish for accessing SWAYAM Prabha Channels: Every VC may instruct buying of the DD Free Dish from the market (costs about Rs. 1400 one-time cost only) and configure these channels in their office first; and later install in as many class-rooms as possible. Mandate other affiliated colleges: The same message may be given to all the affiliated institutions for setting up these channels and operationalising them immediately.
7. Orient the teachers: VCs may hold orientation sessions for all the teachers so that they see and use these channels while teaching their courses.

National digital library

8. Join the NDL: All institutions and the affiliated colleges may immediately join the National Digital Library at https://ndl.iitkgp.ac.in/. This will help students to access more than 80 lakh digital resources at no cost. Universalise access: Pl ensure that all the students log-in and join the NDL. While doing the class work/assignments, they may be asked to use these resources.

9. Digitise your libraries: All books in the libraries may be digitised and shared with the NDL at IIT Kharagpur so that it would add to the digital resources and there is greater sharing of the digital resources by all institutions.
National Academic Depository
10. Join the NAD: Every institution should join the NAD which hold all the certificates digitally. All the past certificates/degrees/diplomas issued should also be uploaded on to the NAD. For more details, please see https://cvl.nad.co.in/NAD/home.action

Other digital initiatives
11. Digital campus: All campus processes like admissions, academic calendar, attendance, assessments, result declaration, administration, pay roll, financial and such other processes shall be computerised.
12. Smart Campus: Every campus shall plan for efficient and economical use of water, electricity and waste. Use of solar power and water recycling systems may be planned for, as they would bring sustainability and savings in the long run.
13. Clean campus: Every campus shall participate in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and achieve clean campus that has clean toilets, systems for solid/liquid waste management. There will be swachhata rankings of all institutions and the best institutions would be
14. National Digital Payment Mission: Every institution should move towards a complete digital payment system in their campus covering all transactions by the institution. The digital payment modes like BHIM App should be introduced to all students and commercial establishments on the campus, including the canteens.
15. Unnat Bharat Abhiyaan: Every institution to adopt atleast 5 villages and help in translating their knowledge for the use of the rural poor.
16. Innovation drives: Students may be encouraged to think out-of-the-box and arrive at solutions that are innovative. For this competitions may be organised for all students covering various areas. Every institution should try to participate in the hackathons that are being organised by various agencies, apart from Govt. Planning

17. Plan for future: Every institution should plan for the future. They should constitute a group within the campus for preparing the following:
a. A 15-year vision: to determine where the institution would like to be.
b. A 7-year strategic plan: to work out medium term plans to reach there
c. A 3-year action plan: for immediate improvement of the quality of learning.

Click here to download the circular (3 pages, pdf) : www.aicte-india.org/downloads/17by17.pdf

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)  http://nptel.ac.in/     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    /       http://nptel.ac.in/