September 3, 2009
Center for E-learning, Amritapuri
Prof. Kamal Bijlani, Director, Amrita E-learning Center, was at eIndia 2009, the recently-conducted nation’s largest Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Conference. Prof. Bijlani was invited to participate in the conference’s Conclave of University Leaders. His talk focused on Amrita’s e-learning initiatives. “I spoke about A-View as well as our e-learning projects being done in collaboration with other universities and the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD),” he shared later.
A couple weeks prior to the conference, A-View had been unveiled at some of the nation’s premier universities in a high-profile launch. A multi-modal distance learning platform that blurs the boundaries between classroom learning and e-learning, A-View is beginning to evoke much interest. “I was asked about how universities could sign on, bandwidth requirements, whether satellite connectivity was needed, and so forth. IIT Bombay, IGNOU, VNIT Nagpur have already installed A-View. We are installing next at IIT Delhi and IIIT Allahabad. Institutions are selected based on their proposals.”
A-View, or Amrita Virtual Interactive eLearning World, is a multi-modal distance learning platform. Students could be anywhere in the country or for that matter, anywhere in the world. Four 42′ high-resolution displays enable their simultaneous viewing of the teacher, the Powerpoint slides being used, video displays, if any, a whiteboard, as well as the students themselves. Preliminary reports have indicated that an A-View enabled classroom compares quite favorably with an actual classroom. It is the acute shortage of adequately qualified teachers in India that makes this platform so valuable.
IIT Bombay has already begun using A-View to deliver classroom lectures to students at VNIT Nagpur, located several hundred kilometers away. Dr. Kannan Moudgalya, Head of the Center for Distance Engineering Education Program (CDEEP) at IIT Bombay, states, “It is gratifying to see how close the A-VIEW system comes to a real-world classroom experience.” Ex-President Dr. Abdul Kalam was at Sona College of Technology in Salem on August 12, for the launch of A-View at that college. From Salem, he was able to interact live with Amrita’s Coimbatore campus through A-View.
Also present at the Coimbatore campus on that day was Dr. Shankar Shastry, Dean of the College of Engineering, University of California at Berkeley. “We expect that this may become a building block for programs that we can conceptualize between Amrita and Berkeley,” he stated. Discussions are on to begin joint initiatives in the areas of wireless sensor networks and cybersecurity. Amrita already offers dual degree programs in collaboration with State University of New York at Buffalo. A-View is expected to enable such similar programs with other leading universities around the world.
“The topic of discussion at eIndia’s Higher Education Forum — Conclave of University Leaders was Best Practices to Next Practices,” further shared Prof. Bijlani. “In addition to A-View, I also spoke about our funded e-learning projects promoted by MHRD’s National Mission on Education using ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Amrita is part of a consortium of some of the best universities in the nation to develop virtual labs as well as haptics-based modules for vocational training. Both projects have the potential to significantly impact higher learning in India.”
Amrita was represented at the conference also through a stall put up by Amrita Technologies at the conference exhibition.