Virtual IIT Can Bring Revolution

Let me confess I did never get very much impressed by the quality of teaching at IIT at Kharagpur between 1957-1961, when I was there. As I can talk now, only few of the teachers were excellent. Most of them were just mediocre. I don’t remember if they followed any curricula and any specific book. Whatever they taught was not sufficient to understand the subject. They hardly provided any reading materials. I am sure things must be different now. For any course for a student after class XII, a specific book or a set of reading materials covering the curricula is a necessity. The teaching must make the student interested in reading additional books on the subject to further the knowledge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything like that from our teachers. And so I told one of my reputed teachers many years after passing out in a meeting that perhaps the students in a private school learnt more and knew better. IITians performed better in life as they were picked up from a huge number of brilliant students. Even without what they learnt at IIT they could have done excellent in life.

I am really happy that IITs are now talking of virtual courses. It will make the teaching transparent and bring in equity among the students.

A news report says, ‘Eighth IIT may be without a campus, a virtual one’.

As reported, steps are afoot to offer the technical excellence of the Indian Institutes of India to a larger population of students through a separate virtual IIT initiative rather than limiting it to only some 12,000 selected through the entrance examinations in which some 2.5 lakh participate.

Basically, all the existing IITs will be participating in this initiative.

The IIT faculty has already developed study materials for subjects such as mechanical, electrical, chemical, and computer engineering and these are available on line under its project NPTEL. While some content is expected to be in form of class notes, some lectures by the IIT faculty will be screened in video format.

IIT, Delhi is already working on creating virtual laboratories that can allow students to conduct experiments in a simulated mode. Simultaneously, the institutes can think of using the existing laboratories for the students of virtual IIT during the vacations or in another shifts.

To help clarify doubts and problems, the faculty could also interact with students occasionally.

The standard of courses offered by the virtual IIT will be of a standard comparable with the existing IITs. In order to maintain the high standards that are a hallmark of the IITs, the online IIT will follow strict admission criteria.

According to MS Ananth, Director IIT, Madras, “For this initiative to materialize what will be critical is bandwidth. One way out of the problem, at least initially, tying up with colleges having the required bandwidth for transmitting video programmes.

The best part of the virtual IIT will be that the services of the best teachers out of a big pool can be obtained to prepare the specific course. The course must be accessible to the students of all engineering colleges in India, if necessary at some fee to IITs. Local teachers will only be facilitators to students and devote time to upgrade their knowledge and/or get into research. The virtual institute will solve the problem of the shortage of good teachers to some extent also.
However, a group of experienced teachers and experts from the related industry must keep on updating the courses and making it more relevant and contemporary.

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