December 22, 2010
E-learning Research Lab, Amritapuri
Newspapers around the country described it as a historic moment. Over 1000 teachers from nearly 500 colleges in India came together these past two weeks for an advanced workshop on Database Management Systems.
It was technology that brought them together. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s e-learning platform A-View was used to beam expert lectures to these college teachers, who assembled not in one place, but attended from the comfort of their own college campuses.
“IIT-Bombay is spearheading this teacher training initiative across the country,” explained Prof. Kamal Bijlani, chief architect of the A-View platform. “This uses the nation’s emerging high speed educational network.”
“When teachers learn about the subject from the author of a textbook that they are using, it is bound to have a major impact.”
S Sudarshan, professor at IIT Bombay and the author of an international textbook on database systems, led most workshop sessions.
After Week 1, Mr. Ramadorai, ex-CEO of TCS addressed the teachers.
“India’s future depends on the capabilities and expertise of its human capital,” he said. “It is the academic community that can play a transformation role in building this future.”
“This first-of-its-kind online national teacher empowerment program is a bold step towards building excellence amongst the teaching community. This unique operation should be scaled for much wider use in coming years.”
And indeed, it will be. Newspapers reported how the next phase of workshops will cover courses in mechanical and electrical engineering, in addition to computer science and engineering.
Because A-View delivers content over the internet, many such workshops will be planned and delivered simultaneously. With the satellite network EDUSAT proposed earlier, only one workshop at a time was possible.
“Our Chancellor Amma always encourages us to undertake projects in the service of humanity,” proudly stated Prof. Kamal. “We are so happy to see that the platform we developed, is today being used to empower teachers in this way.”
“It is gratifying to see that my dream of empowering thousands of college teachers in core engineering courses is being realized,” stated Prof. D. B. Phatak, the Subrao M. Nilekani Chair Professor at IIT Bombay. These online workshops were originally his brain child.
Teachers at all three campuses of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham also attended. The Amrita campuses were among the 32 nodal centers that hosted faculty from several nearby colleges.
“At Amrita, we usually have Faculty Development Programs (FDPs), after the students complete their final exams every semester,” stated one faculty member. “This year, we were able to attend this one-of-a-kind training. I would say that it was very useful … just as much as all our prior Amrita FDPs have been.”
We recall here Mr. N. K. Sinha’s words. As Additional Secretary, MHRD, he oversees the National Mission on Education via Information and Communication Technology that provides the funding for this initiative. “Our goal is to improve the quality of teachers and make higher education accessible to everyone.”
It certainly seems as if that is beginning to happen.