Real Knowledge through Virtual Class

Many new experiments for the development are going on simultaneously in many parts of the country.

It was surprisingly pleasing to know that Bihar’s silicon campus is the first of its kind in the country-courtesy the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of the Ministry of Communications. The scarcity of good teachers in educational institutions is real. It is also a fact that every institution can’t have its all teachers with equally high teaching capability. However, it is also true that for every subject for any course, there are certainly quite a good number of teachers who can easily be compared with the best in the world, available in India. Internet and digital technology can provide an access to the best teachers and their lectures through computer networking to all the students. It may be a little costly, but if planned and coordinated properly, it is very much a practical perhaps the right way to enhance the quality of education. Private companies and philanthropists can put their money for the right cause at the right place.

Year ago, I was in US. I used to have discussion with Anand how digital technology can make knowledge of all kinds available to everyone in all corners of the globe. Many of the US universities have placed its course materials on Internet. MIT is one. I never thought that it could come to India so fast. But it has happened.

And it has started in Bihar. A Patna University faculty delivers lectures at the NIC Patna studio; the teachers and students from other universities can listen in from their NIC centers and also interact.

Look at a scenario when Prof. A.K. Mishra from the Department of Statistics, Bhagalpur University is lecturing on the “essentials of Database Management.” Sudhir Kumar, a 19-year-old student of Madhepura district in Bihar is listening to the lecture sitting in the air-conditioned NIC conference room that is just too good to look like a typical classroom. When the lecture ends, there is a real time round of questions and answers session too. And the professor answers even the most basic of questions. Queries are also taken through email or scribbled notes, which are scanned and transmitted to the moderator. The lectures are saved electronically so that they can be accessed through the Internet later.

The highly interactive distance learning sessions may, at times, surpass the interactivity of a traditional classroom, particularly when a large percentage of teachers are poorly placed as teachers. If the teachers so wish can also attend to these lectures and upgrade their skills.

The lectures saved electronically can be accessed through the Internet later whenever required.

The educational programme of NIC has linked eight Bihar universities. Every Saturday, when NIC studios are not used by the administration, each university holds a session on five different subjects, which are open to teachers and scholars of other state universities.

Currently, the districts of Patna, Gaya, Bhojpur, Saran, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Madhepura and Bhagalpur are covered by the project.

Geographical barriers will get removed by using video-conferencing network. All the students can access the classes through community cyber centers or cyber cafes in the market places. Bihar must extend the programme to all the courses starting from the school level to the professional institutions of higher learning.

Why can’t the engineering students in even the remote corners of the country get the benefit of the course materials prepared by IIT and IISc, both in text and video format that are available on the Internet as part of the National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning? Video courses of the five engineering disciplines: Civil, Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering, Computer Science Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering can be availed even today. IITians working at Google have offered to put the engineering courses in video format up free of cost.

And very soon if one student misses a class, he need not go to his friend to collect his substandard note, he can directly access it from You Tube in the cyber café in the nearby market.

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