US Stay Becomes Study Leave

Every time I visit US, it becomes a study leave. I remember I came to US in 1993 for the first time, when Rakesh was with American Airlines and Alpna was studying. It was a very short stay, perhaps of three days but the most enjoyable period of the stay for me was the hours spent in Alpna’s college library. I could dig out how some Japanese had translated a rare Henry Ford book on concept of manufacturing. Later on the same was re-translated in English.

The six months long stay in 2005 was a great study leave for me. I regularly visited Borders, and kept on reading books and magazines of my interests. I had not spent that much time in reading and taking notes even in the whole of my four years in IIT, Kharagpur. I went through many books on China that was the hot subject at that time.

Border was the interest for even the two and a half months stay in Pleasanton in 2008.

I and Anand kept on discussing the potential of Internet and video for teaching many times. As an interest, Anand digs out the material. He informed me about MIT course material on Internet.

However, it is only in this visit of mine to US that I could get some taste of the possibility by listening to some of the education videos that the various engineering institutes including our own IITs have put on Internet free for everyone. To find out the quality of the videos and to evaluate if it can be a means to teach the students, I went the courses on Manufacturing Processes. Interestingly, Professor AB Chattopadhyaya of IIT, Kharagpur has presented it. And I happen to know him since the days Rakesh was in IIT, Kharagpur. I had met him and later on I invited him to Hindustan Motors for conducting a course. I also addressed once the mechanical engineering students on re-engineering of engineering education curricula.

It’s pretty clear that knowledge has become free today courtesy Internet and many websites that have videos on covering all subjects.

Apple’s iTunes U has become one of the world’s largest educational catalogues for free educational material. Over 800 universities have their websites at iTunes U, including many of the top universities from the US, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and so on. I have myself seen the videos on the courses on Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods, and heard to Pranav Mistry and Salman Khan.

Salman Khan’s Khan Academy (http://khanacademy.org) has a free educational site that covers mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.Salman Khan is reportedly developing an open-ended set of material covering many subjects, and is a favourite among people like Bill Gates, and John and Ann Doerr. Fortune covered him. As reported, 200,000 students access this site every month. About 20,000 are also from India.

Interestingly, I have seen some videos on ‘you tube’ of my interest on car manufacturing in Audi, Mercedes plants and many on the manufacturing processes including engine and gear manufacturing that was the subject of one of my books.

Videos of the subject make the subject easily understandable.

I have some suggestions on the IIT course that I saw. I would have liked it if it could have taken the feed back from the industry as well as from the students and updated or modified through editing. I say so after seeing and comparing some of MIT.

It’s clear that broadband Internet with sufficient speed can help teaching almost any subject in the schools and colleges. It can compliment and supplement the role of teachers. Besides improving the teaching skills of the teachers, it can take care of the shortages of teachers too. However, I am afraid that India’s education systems will take some more time to take the maximum advantages of it. Digital infrastructure and accessibility must reach every household. Speed provided and its cost in India are discouraging and annoying.

And if Sam Pitroda can be believed, India is on the track.

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PS: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Lean Manufacturing, Toyota Production System, Problem Solving Tools, Total Quality M anagement, Manufacturing Management, and Manufacturing Technologies had been some of my favourite subjects. I was just amazed to find the potential of learning about them just on the website of YouTube. And there are hundreds of such sites on internet.

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